TV Critic

No Pussyfooting Around the 'P' Word, Even for Donald Trump

With the yellow-haired monster mouthing it on the open mike, it was all too clear that the healthiest candidate was not talking about a kitten, posing a Hamletian conundrum for newspapers that want to be read by families, children included.

A man in a penis costume stands outside Trump Tower where U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lives in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., October 8, 2016.
Mike Segar, Reuters

There is no use pussyfooting around the five-letter P word, which had –in Donald's’ big mouth - finally lost it virginal ambivalence that had hitherto endowed it with innuendability; yes, I know that is not a word, as I’m just coining it to denote a quality that makes a word useful when you wish to engage in a double entendre.

You will say, and rightly so, that the infamous latest (as of this writing) Trump tape was not strictly “TV,” even if you have seen bits and snippets of it again (and again and again) while watching the TV newscasts, and it had erased in your short term memory the clip in which Hillary kept collapsing. 

The three minute tape had its world premiere – in its audio-visual and foul mouthed verbal form – on a traditionally print-related platform, of the much esteemed Washington Post, with its “make-or-brake” presidential reputation.

The tape had been laying dormant in the NBC network's vault, having been recorded on its bus that transported the star of NBCs’ “The Apprentice”, the Donald, to the lot where another NBC program, “Access Hollywood,” was being filmed (yet another example of incestuous programming, of one program promoting another on the same network.)

It had surfaced there five full days before it had made the web, and then TV, but the network's lawyers had been taking their time vetting it. Somebody in NBC is most probably quoting Shakespeare’s line about killing all the lawyers.

Anyway, with the yellow-haired monster mouthing it on the open mike, calling a spade a spade (ok, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but this time it was all too clear that the healthiest candidate was not talking about a kitten) he presented a Hamletian conundrum for newspapers that want to be read by families, children included.

“Pussy or not pussy, that is the question / whether it is nobler in the mind / to bear the slings and arrows of outraged readers / or take arms against a sea of angry critics,/ and by opposing end them.”

Alas, my paraphrase implies the eventuality of killing the critics, and me being a critic, I desist of course from the urge to kill critics. Instead, allow me to expound a bit the “innuendability” (ah, there is the rub) of that P word.

In its most innocent meaning – a cat, in its nursery and colloquial usage – it was first used (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), in 1699, in T. D’Urfey Choice Collection of New Songs 7, to wit: “As Fleet as my Feet could convey me I sped to Johnny who many times Pussey had fed”;

However, that very same quotation is used by the OED to attest to the same word's usage in the sense of “the female genitals, the vulva, or vagina,” and that was the meaning the pale carrot top had in mind, or rather in hand in his (dirty) mind’s eye, on that tape. 

The quotation that sort of binds the two somewhat conflicting – the one hairy, purring and asking one without too many words to pet it, and the other, in the full glory of its feline femininity  - meanings of the word precedes D’Urfey’s collection by more than a century.

In the sense of “(colloquial) a girl or woman exhibiting characteristics associated with a cat, esp. sweetness or amiability”, was first printed in 1583 in P. Stubbes work entitled “Anatomical Abuses”: “You shall haue euery sawcy boy to catch vp a woman & marie her so he haue his pretie pussy to haggle with, it forceth not.”

Was that the inspiration of the saucy presidential candidate when he assumed that the pussy is up for grabs, or rather gropes? Didn’t he read the caveat at the end “it forceth not”. I guess that his need not to seem pusillanimous was stronger than him.

In our enlightened and adult days of TV watching, the P word usually got away unbeeped at, due precisely to its innuendability, even in events when it was clear that it was used in its unspeakable denotation.

For instance, in that TV sketch I’ve mentioned recently, with three female TV stars at the height of their rating-getting power celebrating the end of their “fuckability” recognizing Amy Schumer (all sweetness and amiability, with a measure of sauciness on her TV show “Inside Amy Schumer”) as “the girl who talks about her pussy on TV.”.What she had managed to do for the “pussy” on TV was undone by the man with the most suitable temperament to be well, himself.

All that makes one miss the good old days when Republicans cared more than anything about “family values,” and it makes me make a point here about TV series and its followers (and I mean mainly myself, your serial viewer).

Once a series gets into its stride, lets say after four or five seasons, it stops being a TV program I have to remember to tune into once a week. For me it becomes a family of sorts, which lives its life, at its pace, in a parallel universe to the one I inhabit. Once in a while I check on it, like calling a distant cousin, watch an episode and bring myself up to speed about what has been happening in the characters' lives. It works well with “live” series, and even better with reruns of series long defunct.

And that allows me to remember, fondly, the BBC series “Are You Being Served,” in which Captain Peacock, Mr. Humphreys and Mrs. Slocomb, (to name but a few of that graceful and unruly group of co-workers) on the gentlemen and ladies garments floor at Grace Brothers lived their life for about 70 episodes, bickering with each other, and the customers, from 1973.

That fond memory is especially pertinent here, as Mrs. Slocomb has a multi colored coiffure – sometimes yellow like Donald's, and sometime purple like Benjamin's – and also a pussy, which gets wet, or the hair on it stands on end. It sounds saucy, as those lines are in the script precisely due to their innuendability, as to what Mrs. Slocomb refers to, and there are no two ways about that, it's her kitten, and not her pussy. And the problem with a kitten is that – Ogden Nash told us long ago – it grows up to be a cat.

It just so happened that in 2016 BBC had decided to “revive” the series, in its original setting, but with different actors (old actors don’t fade away; they die) resembling the original cast. My appetite was whetted, but then it turned out that they produced only one episode, which aired in August, which had the “revival” series resurrecting Grace Brothers for just a short period of “clinical life”, the opposite of “clinical death.”

But I do not lose hope. The original pilot of “Are You Being Served” was aired in September 1972, as a filler between live broadcasts from the Munich Olympics, where the sports arena had morphed into killing fields.

The series itself followed a couple of months later, so maybe there is yet a future life left for Mrs. Slocomb and her pussy. Otherwise that word will remain soiled by the man who does not pussyfoot around when it comes to putting his foot in his mouth.