#71: The Slippery Preposition


A friend of mine posted this quote
from a guy named Karl Pilkington:
“We’ve had the stone age, and we’ve
had the iron age, now we’re in the
pissing about stage.” I liked it,
both literally and figuratively.
But it got me thinking about how
I was supposed to read that lovely
preposition. When I find out
that Karl Pilkington is English,
well then, the question is settled
for me. Pissing about has its
American equivalent, perhaps,
in the phrase “farting around,”
which I use and my eight year old
son uses all of the time to describe
those moments when whatever
activity one is engaged with is just
kind of squishy and tentative, no
real commitment, just farting around.
But if you’re not familiar with
the idiom, you might be confused.
You might think, by pissing about,
Pilkington means we’re all just
sitting around complaining about
something all the time, pissing about
our jobs, our unhappy sex lives,
our imminent doom, individually
and collectively. Likewise, you might
think a person is actually farting around
which is silly because logistically
nearly impossible in a literal way, as if
someone was moving really fast in circuit
in order to achieve such an effect,
less impossible though when you think
about the way flatulence can move the air
and manage to travel around any number
of things in its wafting.  This is uncomfortable
subject matter for me, as I am a person
who typically is completely disinterested
in all manner of bathroom humor.  It’s not
about that, after all, but about the slippery
nature of the preposition, that most useful
and handy of grammatical constructions,
without which, again, we would not know
our head from our ass, collectively speaking.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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