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Full of Grunt

The Deep End: Cutting through the crap of Mitt’s favorite expletive.



“[Mitt] Romney is more likely to say, ‘Oh, grunt’ when he is miffed about something.” [“Life With Romney: Gee Whiz Rules,” Aug. 19, The Boston Globe]

The grunt is really hitting the fan over at Romney campaign headquarters, after the premature release of Holy Grunt! The Mitt Romney Guide on What to Say When You’re Really Cheesed Off But Are Not Allowed to Use Swear Words Like Fuck and Shit.

Team Romney spokesman Spence Smoot said he hasn’t seen the Great White Varmint Hunter so cheesed off about anything since the time back in Olympic days when he reportedly dropped the F-bomb on a hapless parking volunteer up in Park City. The event garnered national attention, not because Mitt said a bad word, but because he denied using it. And howls of laughter echoed across our land, from California to the New York island, when Mitt made matters worse by swearing on The Book of Mormon that he had never, ever used the F-word, neither in the pre-existence nor here on Earth on this, the American continent.

As unbelievable as it might seem, I know of a surety that Mitt hasn’t, in fact, ever used a swear word of any kind. When Mitt and I were serving our mission in Paris, there were plenty of occasions when a well-chosen swear word would have hit the spot. But Elder Romney, as I called him in those halcyon days, never succumbed to the temptation to tell some obnoxious Frenchman to go fuck himself.

Even on those casual boys-will-be-boys occasions when the rest of us missionaries would announce the need to take a shit, Romney would decorously inform us that he was “going to drop the kids off at the pool.” When some of the other elders kidded my junior companion about availing himself of such a quaint locution, he attempted to prove that he was one of the guys by saying, “I need to take a grunt.” But, by the way he made a funny shape with his lips and hesitated before saying, “grunt,” you could tell he was uncomfortable with the surrogate vulgarism, perhaps because in that particular context, the onomatopoeic associations of the word came grunting to the fore.

On the great majority of occasions, however, “grunt” was an immensely versatile surrogate for the common excremental expletive. For a while, Romney experimented with alternative expletives. He was “pleased as punch,” as he liked to say, to have happened across some old-fashioned expletives that he exclaimed with his trademark enthusiasm.

Instead of the vulgar “Bullshit!” Mitt would bellow “Balderdash!” or “Buncombe!” or “Hokum!” or “Malarkey!” But, after a few weeks, he was mortified to learn that Balderdash and Buncombe were great Nephite warriors in the Book of Mormon, and that Malarkey was the finest preacher in all of Zarahemlah. And even though Hokum was a Lamanite who heckled Jesus when he made a stop among the Nephites before ascending to the Celestial Kingdom, Romney couldn’t in good conscience continue to take even Hokum’s name in vain.

So, back to grunt went Romney, and the surrogate expletive became so popular that not only our fellow missionaries but also recent converts began using it. The elders would kid Mitt about his “grunt-eating grin,” or remark that because of some minor infraction they were now on the mission president’s “grunt-list.”

I look back with great fondness on our late night “grunt sessions” when we would have spirited debates about the Plan of Salvation, coming to Earth to get a body and how you might recognize your family in the Celestial Kingdom if everyone was 25 years old as our missionary president revealed to us. You could deliver a devastating blow to a tenuous assertion by exclaiming, “You don’t know grunt!” And, you could often totally shut someone up with a sneering, “You gotta be grunting me.”

As you can tell from the aforementioned grunt quips, Romney’s new book is full of helpful expressions. On page 106, you will find some of Mitt’s favorite gruntisms, including “Grunt or get off the pot,” “He went ape-grunt,” “She thinks she’s hot grunt,” and “I drank so much at the fireside, I got totally grunt-faced.”

Finally, for those so inclined, there is a scholarly appendix with learned disquisitions by leading philologists on the etymology of “grunt.” At one time, it was thought the word had Indo-European roots, but overwhelming evidence now points to its origin as a Reformed Egyptian blessing.

D.P. Sorensen writes satire for City Weekly.