Flash Fiction: Epithets

Another Friday, and again Chuck Wendig has thrown down the gauntlet.  This week’s challenge:

Go to Your Favorite Music Player. Dig out your digital music collection.

Maybe this is iTunes or Spotify, or use Pandora if you’d rather go that way.

Hit SHUFFLE, then “Play.”

Translation: pull up a random song.

The title to this song is the title to your story.

Use the song for inspiration, too, if you feel so inclined.

My iPod must have known what was up, because I hit the shuffle button and up came the Paul and Storm song “Epithets.”  Target length was 1000 words, but I shot for 500.  The story is after the break.


DL Thurston

“We need to talk about your lesson plan.”

“What about it?”

“I’ve had several complaints from parents about assignments you’ve sent home.  I’ve looked at some of your exercises, and I have reservations.  Are you teaching children to curse?”

“Of course not.”

“Well then—“

“I’m teaching them how to curse correctly.”

“Would you care to explain just why?”

“It’s about competitive edge.”

“In cursing?”

“Education is failing these children.  I saw it first on YouTube.  The comments being left on videos was a disgrace.  The spelling is atrocious, the f-word is being overused to the point of meaninglessness, and there was a clear lack of understanding about the culture roots and significances of the n-word and c-word.”

“So you devised these worksheets—“

“To teach the children when to use the correct invective.  So that students can properly understand when someone is being an asshole, a douchbag, or just a dick.  This is a distinction that is being lost, and the English language is poorer for it.”

“And this has what to do with competitive edge?”

“Everything!  The United States used to be one of the world leaders in the use of incendiary language.  Oh, certainly, never to standards of the Brits, they invented the language after all.  Now, we get people going onto websites for major papers of record and declaring ‘your Hitler.’  Not ‘you are,’ mind you.  ‘Your.’  As if everyone has their own personal Hitler.”

“See, that would be appropriate, a worksheet about your and you’re.  That’s what we should be teaching these students.”

“Don’t you see?  It goes so much beyond that.  It’s always Hitler.  Hitler, Hitler, Hitler.“

“Well.  He was Hitler, after all.”

“You, too?  Are you aware that in Japan schoolchildren as young as eight are capable of ranking people they disagree with on a sliding scale that includes no fewer than fifteen historical monsters, and by the time they graduate that number increases to nearly four hundred?  At the collegiate level they are typically capable of differentiating whether someone they disagree with is like Gadaffi or Mubarak with a stunning level of accuracy, and can even accurately defend whether someone is more like Saddam or Uday Hussein. That’s no mean feat.”

“If you want, I can discuss this with our History teachers, but I don’t think your class is the proper place for any of this.  The other English teachers are having their classes read Doyle and discuss the themes.  I suggest you do the same.”


“Let me give you an English lesson.  When I say ‘I suggest you do the same,’ it isn’t a suggestion.  It’s an order.  I don’t want to have any more reports of these kinds of worksheets or lessons going on in your class.  Do I make myself clear?”

“What about the spelling bee I planned for tomorrow.  The children have been looking forward to it.”

“Especially the spelling bee tomorrow.”

“You, sir, are worse than Gaius Verres.”

“I can live with that.”

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  1. avatar

    #1 by Ivy on March 2, 2012 - 6:45 pm

    I love the humor and pop culture in this story, and that it’s so perfectly complete in that 500 word space. Nice job.

  2. avatar

    #2 by Suzie on March 4, 2012 - 5:48 pm

    Love this! Acidic and funny :)

  3. avatar

    #3 by Melissa on March 5, 2012 - 9:28 pm

    Hahahaha! That is hilarious! I love this. I totally agree that America has somehow fallen behind in area of insulting people. Hmmm…maybe a class like this is necessary.

  4. avatar

    #4 by Jim Franklin on March 7, 2012 - 9:17 am

    Nicely done, as a brit myself I can say we do take pride in our incendiary language. Well, that and grumbling.

    Very well done.

  5. avatar

    #5 by oldestgenxer on March 8, 2012 - 9:22 pm

    Especially brilliant (and not in the British sense) because I recently read about this:

  6. avatar

    #6 by Emily on March 9, 2012 - 6:41 pm

    the inability of our insults to mean anything may be the biggest challenge facing the coming generaion.

  7. avatar

    #7 by C.B. on March 9, 2012 - 9:18 pm

    Nicely done! A great use of the ludicrous.

  8. avatar

    #8 by Susie Lindau (@SusieLindau) on March 10, 2012 - 11:23 am

    This is excellent! I just read it to my husband and we laughed all the way through.
    I have been writing flash fiction on Fridays, but may want to stick my toe in the obvious deep waters of Chuck Wending group.

  9. avatar

    #9 by Julia Whitmore on March 10, 2012 - 1:45 pm

    Ha! Brings back memories of the time my friend, an elementary school teacher, tried to demonstrate how words only have power if we give them power, by repeatedly using the F word. She is no longer an English teacher.

    Looked up Gaius Verres. Sounds like a politician for our times.

  10. avatar

    #10 by Louise Sorensen on March 11, 2012 - 9:26 am

    I agree completely that curse words have lost their meaning through over- and misuse.
    Great story!

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