This is a word that says who the a**hole is who’s responsible. I don’t find it a pleasant word – in fact, I took an instant dislike to it when I first heard it in my youth. (I was not surprised to hear CBC’s Rich Terfry declare a dislike of it as well today.) It’s the word that beheaded your bonus. It has the obvious echo of anus, which, aside from being Latin for what everyone knows it means, is also a different Latin word meaning “old woman” – perhaps like the old woman who wags her finger and says “Oooooh! Own up!” This isn’t a broad word like blame or a panicker like fault (as in “It’s not my fault!” and with its echoes of halt and fall); it’s a prissy word, made for saying with a turd under the nose, and it comes complete with the Lain us ending to remind you that it’s an important word, come entirely unchanged from the mouths of the great Roman patricians. And it’s physically indexical and sonically iconic: the mouth starts with the pucker of disapprobation (as if booing) and then withdraws through a quick nasal tap of the tongue to the sustainable final hiss. The word as written could be rotated 180 degrees and look the same, except that where there’s o at one end there’s s at the other, like someone popped someone’s balloon. Oh, and whose fault was that? Hm! Don’t put the blame on us. Those tut-tutters think they own us.
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