by Larry Brody
NASA Perseverance Mars rover has crud obstructing its rock sample system
The headline above, from cnet.com, is my favorite post/article heading of the year so far.
When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Mad, which in those days was a comic book not a magazine, and which frequently used the word “crud,” or more often “cruddy,” to mean something was crummy or lousy or just plain subpar.
I loved “crud” because as far as I knew, it was a made-up word used only in the comic, and there was something about using a “d” instead of an “m” that lent it great power. To me, something cruddy was infinitely yuckier than any crummy ever could be.
So imagine my surprise when, as a genuine, professional writer of television shows for adults I discovered that network censors wouldn’t let one of my characters say something was cruddy in a script because “this network does not approve of the usage of a slang word for smegma by any character under any circumstance.”
I was twenty-something at the time I got this note and had never even heard of “smegma” (aka “the thick, white, cheesy substance that collects under the foreskin of the penis“) before – except as the name of an icky character in, you guessed it, an old issue of Mad – so you can imagine my surprise.
Naturally, I felt quite indignant about the network’s reaction and even more so when the producer of the show told me to accept the note, change the word to “crummy” and get back to writing the next episode.
Which I did, of course. But since then I’ve kept an eye open for the dreaded crud and smegma in the wild forest of written and filmed media, and as far as I can recall have never seen nor heard either of those words – until now.
It is with a very wide and happy smile that I salute Cnet and writer Amanda Kooser for bringing the wonderfulness of crud, smegma, and cheesy foreskins to New Media, especially during a time when the sainted New York Times is up in arms about a certain French political figure using the phrase “piss off.”
And I’m equally pleased to salute Mad and its then editor and primary writer, the late Harvey Kurtzman, for being the wonderful disruptive force it was while molding the sensibilities of thousands of kids and, especially, moi.