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Words Wild as an Acre of Snakes

Ken Weaver's glossary of Lone Star State expletives and euphemisms is fugging worth searching for

By Richard von Busack

IT'S OBVIOUS why Texas Crude, Ken Weaver's seminal work on Long Star State slang, is out of print (it was published in 1984 by Dutton), and likely to stay that way. First, the rights to the illustrations by Robert Crumb would probably cost too much to repurchase. Second, the book is fairly--no, make that completely--obscene. Blue with profanity. The language in Texas Crude would knock the buzzards off a tallow truck. If you deleted the foul language with hyphens, you'd have no damn book at all.

Weaver was an oil-field roughneck, which added salt to his vocabulary. He was also a member (along with Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg) of that infamous 1960s agit-porno band the Fugs, best known for the classic anthems "Kill for Peace" and "Coca-Cola Douche." The Fugs came as close to naming themselves "The Fucks" as the era would allow. ("Fug" was the homonymic substitute for the F-word that Norman Mailer used in The Naked and the Dead.)

Times have changed. Now there's a band called Fuck getting national attention. Gone are the days when a Los Angeles elementary-school principal would personally drive a student back to his home for writing the word "dick" on a piece of paper. (That scary experience cleaned up my fuckin' language once and for all.)

WEAVER'S SHORT glossary isn't just about the thrill of not-very-forbidden-anymore words, as much as it is about arranging them into picturesque images to describe human stupidity, reluctant machinery and bad weather.

Who among us, while trying hopelessly to execute a task, hasn't felt "like a monkey trying to fuck a football"? Who hasn't sighted some unfortunate "as ugly as a cancer-eyed cow"? Who hasn't awoken the morning after a night "as wild as an acre of snakes," during which one was "drunk as a waltzing pissant" with a hangover that made one feel "like I was pulled backwards through a knothole"?

But Weaver's selection of oil-patch terminology and barroom threats is even more pungent. They're so vivid they make Technicolor itself seem pale. Texas Crude isn't just underrated, it's underraided. Why aren't more of these expressions filched for the movies?

I'd like to see a scene in which some fool takes on a whole bar with the cry "You big sonsabitches line up, and you little sonsabitches bunch up!" I'd love to see the sheriff shaking his head over the body of Leatherface's latest victim: "Lord God, he's been opened up from asshole to appetite! He looks just like a red canoe!"

Texas Crude serves as an aid for those who have never been closer to the real Texas than the American Airlines lounge at the Dallas­Fort Worth airport. All the Texans I know are as well-bred and soft-spoken as Hoosiers. The expatriates sort of flinch when you ask them where they're from--as if California didn't boast some of the most fire-engine rednecks in the country!

Still, TV, radio and a steady polishing by dollar bills have toned down the inventive regional neologisms in Texas Crude, and I fear that this kind of purple language is fading away. So Weaver was in the right place at the right time to collect these expressions, and the compiling of them may be their last roundup.

Texas Crude is out of print but not forgot. Copies surface at comic-book conventions (at a hefty markup, thanks to the Cult of Crumb). Used-book shoppers also sometimes uncover the volume, a find that makes the discoverer "as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine."

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From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of Metro.

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