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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shakespeare and Joyce Predated Britney

(NSFW language follows, so be warned, ye prudes)

Via Slate, an examination of the deep-rooted literary tradition that prefigures "If You Seek Amy," Britney Spears' controversial new song that, when its title is spoken aloud, spells out an entirely different meaning.

The Irish literary god does in fact appear to be the first person to have used this phrase; in Ulysses, Joyce included a bit of doggerel sung by the Prison Gate Girls:

If you see kay
Tell him he may
See you in tea
Tell him from me.

In the third line, Joyce manages to encode cunt as well. Take that, Britney!

Joyce isn't, however, the only great writer to encode dirty words in his work. Hundreds of years earlier, none other than English literary god William Shakespeare used a similar trick. In Twelfth Night, Olivia's butler Malvolio receives a letter written by Maria but in Olivia's handwriting; analyzing the script, Malvolio says, "By my life this is my lady's hand. These be her very C's, her U's and her T's and thus makes she her great P's." With the and sounding like N, Shakespeare not only spells out cunt, but gets pee in there as well.

And he didn't need a news anchor, or even a town crier, to explain it.

Any Twelfth Night reference is guaranteed to win me over. Yellow stockings!
But seriously, it's always good to point out that "high" literature is, in fact, not that high, that Shakespeare wrote for the pit as well as the balcony and that Joyce was banned as pornographic, and that above all, Britney Spears is a golden leaf on a tall, verdant and flowering literary tree.


  1. Britney Spears is a golden leaf on a tall, verdant and flowering literary tree.

    I must say that that's the highest praise I've seen heaped on Britney of late - or is there a message hidden in those words? ;>)

  2. In true ironic fashion, I mean not what I say :) (though I do support Britney's personal success, her literary merit shall remain un,commented upon, save in a jesting manner)

  3. For some reason my highschool teacher never shared that particular bit of Shakespeare with us when we did Twelfth Night. But it's good to see She's The Man wasn't that far off the mark when they had the tampon-up-the-nose gag.