Tuesday, September 25, 2007

tuesday's word: muscle

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glenn bishop

muss ul

body tissue whose contractions cause movement + acceleration

metaphor for all forms of power, force, + strength

in males, commonly accepted as the main index of sexual virility + often fetishized through voyeurism, ‘muscle worship,’ ‘erotic massage,’ + ‘body building’

diet, exercise, genetics, age, + health affect the shape + condition of muscles

latin ‘musculus’ – ‘little mouse’

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synonyms: beef, boulder, brawn, bulk, flesh, gun, gunboat, gundam, mass, meat, might, physique, pipe, protoplasm, python, sinew, tendon, thew, tit

specialized synonyms: abs, cut, glutes, lats, pumped, ripped, shredded, sixpack, washboard

muscular christianity—this late victorian movement, advocated by charles kingsley + thomas hughes, promoted the spiritual value of sports + exercise for men, to subject the body to the spirit, + to strengthen it for protecting the weak, standing up for righteous causes, + subjugating nature (both human nature + colonial wildernesses).

the movement prompted the international popularization of scouting + the ymca, + the resurgence of the olympic games.

the muscular male body thus became emblematic of wholesomeness, cleanliness, + victorian morality—‘straight’ in both posture + virtue, vs. the slouching ‘decadence’ of aesthetes + dandies.

. . . . .

ed. you’re fond of swimming?

sloane. i like a plunge now + then.

ed. bodybuilding?

sloane. we had a nice little gym at the orphanage. put me in all the teams they did. relays …

ed looks interested.

… soccer …

ed nods.

… pole vault, … long distance …

ed opens his mouth.

… 100 yards, discus, putting the shot …
ed rubs his hands together.

yes, yes. i’m an all rounder. a great all rounder. in anything you care to mention. even in life.

ed lifts up a warning finger.

… yes i like a good workout now + then.

ed. i used to do a lot of that at one time. with my mate … we used to do all what you just said. (pause.) we were young. innocent too. (shrugs. pats his pocket. takes out a packet of cigarettes. smokes.) all over now. (pause.) developing your muscles, eh? + character. (pause.) … well, well, well. (breathless.) a little bodybuilder are you? i bet you are … (slowly.) … do you … (shy.) exercise regular?

sloane. as clockwork.

ed. good, good. stripped?

sloane. fully.

ed. complete. (striding to the window.) how invigorating.

sloane. + i box. i’m a bit of a boxer.

ed. ever done any wrestling?

sloane. on occasions.

ed. so, so.

sloane. i’ve got a full chest. narrow hips. my biceps are—

ed. do you wear leather … next to the skin? leather jeans, say? without … aah …

sloane. pants?

ed. (laughs) get away! (pause) the question is are you clean living? you may as well know i set great store by morals. too much of this casual bunking up nowadays. too many lads being ruined by birds.

--excerpt from entertaining mr. sloane, by joe orton, 1964

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