Sod -- How Dirty Is It?

January 24, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

I was taken aback when I noticed this license plate on the car in front of me.


I’ve posted before about an off-color vanity plate that sneaked through the NY DMV. That one was in French. But this is English – albeit British English.

I had thought that sod was a fairly offensive word. I had heard that it was short for sodomize, and I had heard phrases where it was interchangeable with fuck in meaning if not strength. “Sod all” to mean nothing; “sod off,” or “sod that.”

I sent the photo to a native informant, my colleague Faye Allard, born and raised in Walthamstow, East London, who natively informed me that on a scale of one to ten, sod would be about a 3. Maybe the DMV is more linguistically aware than I am.

Googling around, I discovered that there’s a Bjork song called “Sod Off.” Then, in a letter published a few days ago in the Times (UK), a woman wrote, “My runner's high has sod-all to do with endorphins.” And a Guardian interview with newscaster Jon Snow (“the moral anchor”) begins with Snow looking at his bicycle tire and exclaiming, “Sod it. I’ve got a puncture.”

So my sod-off shotgun misfired. Still, Faye got a kick out of the shot of the license plate.

3 comments:

Joss said...

My first thought on seeing this was that the driver of this urban 4x4 was making a rather self aware and cynical comment against climate science and the green zeitgeist. Although perhaps they were thinking more along your lines...

AJ said...

A quick look online turned up

1. A section of grass-covered surface soil held together by matted roots; turf.
2. The ground, especially when covered with grass.

To be honest, that is exactly what I thought when I saw the word sod...grass. In fact, I know of a sod farm. I lived in Rochester NY for almost 4 years, in Batavia, which is 1/2 way between Rochester and Buffalo on the Thruway, there is the Batavia Sod Farm.

To be fair, the same online source goes on to say:

1. A sodomite.
2. A person regarded as obnoxious or contemptible.
3. A fellow; a guy: "Poor sod, he almost got lucky for once" (Jack Higgins).

So the sentence "poor sod he got sod in front" could very well make sense.

Faye said...

Woohoo. I've made the big time! Do you think I can make a living of being a native informer?!

I'd share the rest of my English offensive word scale on here, but my mum might read it so I better hold off.