Confessions of a Word Nerd: The Big Bang Theory and a High School Flashback

Recently I’ve begun watching The Big Bang Theory on TBS with my roommates. Last night, I was working on To Catch a Wolf (the sequel to Three Seventeen), and I could hear The Big Bang Theory on the TV in the background.  I knew that Penny, Bernadette and Amy were having a sleepover at Penny’s apartment and that they were playing Truth or Dare rather unsuccessfully (due to Amy’s lack of experience and social skills), when suddenly I heard Amy say:

Bernadette dared me to tell a dirty story. “The Miller’s Tale” by Chaucer is the dirtiest story I know. It would have been hidden in sock drawers if people in the 14th century had worn socks.

(See clip below.)

Being an English major, I knew exactly what Amy Farrah Fowler was talking about.

As much as I hate to think that I have similarities with Amy (and Sheldon), I must admit that sometimes I have knowledge, and I don’t realize that dispensing it at a certain time or with a certain audience is socially awkward.

Take today for example. I was shopping with a friend of mine and her toddler.  Because we were going to be browsing the store, we decided to take the stroller so that the toddler wouldn’t have to walk all over the place and get tired.  When the toddler was strapped in, my friend said, “Let’s roll! . . .or stroll! . . . or whatever.” To which I added, “We could also perambulate!” My friend, used to the perils of hanging out with a logophile, merely blinked and said, “That sounds like a Kerri word.”

As you can see, it makes sense that I burst out laughing when Amy called “The Miller’s Tale” the “dirtiest story” she knew because even though modern people tend to think of the long-dead authors of the English classics as stuffy and dignified, Amy was right.  Chaucer (and Shakespeare, for that matter) wrote things that his contemporaries  would consider “bawdy” or raunchy.  I mean, the man coined the term “nether lips” for goodness’ sakes, which brings to mind another story, but I digress.

I am actually quite aware of just how much Chaucer liked using double entendres and other scandalous subject matter and not just because I like Medieval Lit. When I was a senior in high school, I was assigned to dress up as Robyn, The Drunken Miller and “tell” “The Miller’s Tale” to my honors English class during our Canterbury Tales unit.  Basically, “The Miller’s Tale” involves a carpenter, his wife and some college students who want to have extramarital affairs with her. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that in a comedy of mistakes, butts literally get kissed . . .and burned, gas is passed in people’s faces, and the poor carpenter ends up falling off a roof in a washtub and breaking his arm.

You think going to high school is awkward already? Try doing it after telling nasty a tale like that to twenty-five of your teenaged classmates!

So, yes, Amy. As socially inappropriate as your response to Bernadette’s dare was, you were absolutely correct. “The Miller’s Tale” is dirty enough for the sock drawer!


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