One Big-Bottomed Babe
USADeepSouth http://usadeepsouth.ms11.net/fall07.html has just sent its fall issue rolling down that old information highway. Hidden among the good stuff is the following account of how I got to the bottom of a writing challenge. (The rest of the offerings are MUCH better, trust me.)
Getting to the Bottom of Things
So you want to be a rich, famous writer? Well, I’m clueless about the first two. But if you want to be a good writer, having good friends can be a big plus. Here's just one example.
In “Bob Wills Is Still the King” the late Waylon Jennings sang, “Well, the honky-tonks in Texas were my natural second-home.”
When it comes to the internet, I feel the same way about the “Front Porch” forum at USADeepSouth. This past weekend, several Porchers not involved in a certain soiree on Caddo Lake, pitched in to help me get to the bottom of a delicate situation.
It all started last week when Robert Flynn, a noted Texas author (twelve books, including seven novels) and professor emeritus at Trinity University, was kind enough to go over the opening section of my "We Danced to Ray Charles" novel. Among his many excellent suggestions and helpful thoughts, was one concerning my use of "bottom" in the following paragraph.
(before note: The time and place is a dance in a small southern town during the summer of 1968. The characters are college age.)
"He watched as she made her way to the cloakroom. The sight of Bebe's near-legendary bottom (***NOT EROTIC***) swaying in a seductive rhythm was always arousing. Over the last eight years, he'd observed that wonder of nature many times. Far too often after another rejection. This time he felt no mixed emotions. Tonight, she would walk back to him." (***GOOD***)
(after note: before anyone asks, no, the last of the paragraph, which just happens to include that kind comment by Mr. Flynn, has nothing to do with erotic substitutes for “bottom.” And your point is?)
In search of sage wisdom, counsel and advice, I went before my fellow Porchers and tried to explain the situation. My summation to the Porch was as follows:
There’s always a chance Mr. Flynn might be wrong about the word's connotation in today's society. There is, however, a much better chance he's right. The problem is, neither of us could think of any better word for, “bottom.”.
So, what do you think of using "bottom" in that scene? Is it erotic? Should it be erotic? Can you think of some mo' better synonyms?
My cry for help resulted in less teasing than I'd expected, probably because certain "goat ropers" (note: members who live in Texas) were otherwise occupied on or about that lake, but also some good advice.
I think TUSH would be good, as you can't put ASS, right? How about derriere? BOOTIE??? How about rear-end?????
How about 'fanny' or 'posterior'?
IMHO,in the context cited, either ass, or butt would probably be more gender appropriate and probably more erotic than bottom. Even in the buckle of the bible belt, a young man of 20-something would no more think or say bottom than he would derriere. Many times in my travels along the byways I have heard the phrases, "a world-class ass" and "a legendary butt". While neither word seems particularly erotic, they are more risque than bottom and used in your context somewhat allude to erotic behavior...sort of like teenagers telling dirty jokes hoping to break the ice for more intimate adventures.
Being a mannerly southern boy, I responded:
Thanks to Pam, Lonnye Sue, and Newt for the suggestions. The dicey thing with any non-contemporary story is coming up with terms that are appropriate for the time but don't jar on the ears of modern readers. (Remember when "gay" didn't refer to male homosexuals?) I've been squeamish about using, "ass." Still, with both Pam and Newt suggesting it as a possibility, it's now moving up on the charts.
Ye Ed (Beth) stopped chasing grandkids long enough to opine that:
Regarding the "bottom" question, I lean toward "rear" or "ass." I think
At some point, Delta Dawn speculated on the differences between the, uh, “bottoms” possessed by Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latiffa, but failed to come up with any new suggestion.
All that, plus input from my wife-unit, lead to this Monday morning missive:
Please forgive me, but I've just gotta use this line before the thread drifts off down the great info highway.
We could be getting to the bottom of this thing, so to speak.
Now back to bottoms, I mean, business, Pam and others, including the wife-unit, mentioned "derriere" as a possibility. At no additional charge, Roberta let me know she didn't care much for "near-legendary" either.
My worries about that term were similar to Old Newt’s, that it was out of synch with the character and setting. But then it occurred to me that: 1. “He” (Mark) is a college guy and, 2. a romantic and, 3. “She” (Bebe) is Cajun-French. That said, how does this revision strike you? (changes are in bold)
He watched as Bebe made her way to the cloakroom. The sight of that celebrated Cajun derriere swaying in a seductive rhythm was always arousing. Is there more, less, or about the same "erotic" factor as in the original:
He watched as she made her way to the cloakroom. The sight of her near-legenday bottom swaying in a seductive rhythm was always arousing.
Whatever the final version, I do appreciate all the feedback. And before you ask, no, I never thought I'd ever be asking the Porch for advice on this particular subject--but I'm glad I did.
ps: Since he was responsible for starting all this fuss in the first place, I communicated the glad tiding of great joy to Robert Flynn along with a link to this article. He replied:
It's very nice of you to mention me, Bill. Thanks. I think you got it right with Cajun derriere. It sounds natural to me. Bob
Labels: bottom, synonyms, thesaurus, word choice, writing