The Filthiest Song of 1937, by a Lot
While preparing last week’s report “In Defense of Cussing,” we stumbled upon a 1937 song by Lucille Bogan that contained the first swear word ever recorded. Judging from Ms. Bogan’s photo, we assumed her vernacular would have been similar to that used in, say, Gone with the Wind—which, in 1939, became the first major film to employ the word “damn.” We were fantastically wrong.
“I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb. I got somethin’ between my legs that’ll make a dead man come…”
Decades later, of course, the latter half of this line would be borrowed by both Tom Waits (“Pasties and a G-String”) and the Rolling Stones (“Start Me Up”).
Even for the most proper lady or gentleman, we’re of the opinion that there exists an acceptable time and place for the employment of vulgarity. For Ms. Bogan—who is undeniably a lady of the most righteous sort—that time and place was the sex-infused bowels of African-American juke joints throughout the American South in the 1920s and 1930s, where “Shave ’Em Dry” is set.
In the spirit of maintaining workplace decency, we’ll offer the lyrics first and leave it to you to decide whether now’s the most appropriate time to, y’know, “Shave ’Em Dry.”
We’re confident you’ll never look at bell snappers the same way again…
I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb
I got somethin’ between my legs that’ll make a dead man come
Say I fucked all night, and all the night before, baby
And I feel just like I wanna fuck some more
And I would fuck you, baby, honey, I’d make you cry
Now your nuts hang down like a damn bell sapper
And your dick stands up like a steeple
Your goddamn asshole stands open like a church door
And the crabs walk in like people
- — C. Brian Smith