The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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The Blasphemy Contest

April 14th, 2008 · No Comments

Blasphemy is a wacky bit of homo sapiana; it requires a deft two-step of belief and disbelief.  Without belief, there’s no point to it; without disbelief, no taste for it.  This bittersweet combo is well-suited to the Italian palate.

Few languages, apparently, are as fertile in blasphemy.  One of the preferred formulas is the yoking of a sacred term to a scabrous: Porco Madonna (pig Madonna), Dio boia (God hangman).  Sometimes the recipe is more rococo: Dio Faust links God to the archetypical Satanist.

In 1965, a blasphemy contest was held in Florence.  The first prize was awarded to the elegant expression Dio Dio — for this assumes that the first Dio is sacred, and the second nasty.

Neither religion nor blasphemy floats my personal boat — unmoored as it is in the unchartable waters of indifference.  But the richness and economy of Dio Dio are pure pleasure.  How much more meaning and humanity can be packed into six letters?

(I refer the reader to volumes 1 and 2 of “Maledicta,” edited by Reinhold Aman; and to “Florentine Locutions,” by Kevin Beary, 1984.)

(Posted by Doug Skinner) 

Tags: Diversions

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