I just learned from Jacket Copy that “Menifee school district in Riverside County has removed the 10th edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary from all school shelves after a parent complained about a student running across “oral sex” in its pages.”
It’s thanks to dirty dictionaries like that one that I decided to become a writer.
I was combing the giant, black-leather bound dictionary in my elementary school library when I came across some choice Latin words that forever blew my mind. (As it were.) This was Catholic school in San Diego where the girls were forced to wear short, thigh-baring skirts while the boys had to wear skin-tight, penis-proclaiming corduroy.
And the kids from Mexico were punished for speaking Spanish. (And I was punished for stealing communion wine.)
A nun who used to work in the military was the chief librarian and she wasn’t afraid to employ the ruler to chastise the tips of little boy’s fingers.
One time she caught me at the dictionary with my finger literally on a highly taboo c-word. It was one of those moments that I imagined would happen exactly the way it did happen. And I was sent, with burning fingers to explain myself to the principal.
I told her I wanted to be a poet so I needed to know more words.
Surprisingly, she seemed to accept that — but I still got a D in behavior. Later she read one of my poems that used “fucking” as an adjective in it and said that, despite the heinous content, it had merit, even style.
I decided then if I were ever to write a book, which I’m trying to do now, that it would be chock full of oral sex, every conceivable form of it, which my book is now, and so much oral sex, in fact stains its pages that I wonder if maybe I’ve gone too far.
I was only eleven years old when I told the nun I wanted to write. I would have to wait more years than I’d care to admit before knowing, really knowing what those dirty words meant.
But at least I had the words and could put them on the page in suggestive ways.
And it was all thanks to that filthy dictionary.