It’s a little shameful to admit, but when I first heard of “bum fights”, my mind immediately sprung to a well-lit bedroom, two attractive young ladies looking at each other over their shoulders with lustful disdain, ready to have at each other with their voluptuous heinies. It sounded absolutely delightful.
It may have been the general aversion to such a word as “bum” by the company I kept during my formative years, but other than being used to describe:a) a lazy person:
“Get your lazy bum ass off that sofa!”
b) an adjective modifier:
“Get your lazy ass bum off that sofa!”
c) a state of emotional deflation:
“Don’t talk to me like that, it really bums me out.”
d) a request to be given something with no expectation of reciprocation:
“I’ll talk to you any way I like ’til you stop bumming weed off me which, by the way, is all roached.”
e) an expressed recognition of a failed or worsening situation:
…well, you’re not supposed to call people of no fixed address that. That is the only foul version of that word.
Panhandling is done for many different reasons so I try to judge each book by it’s cover. If the person looks really destitute, I won’t miss a quarter. But there are others who make it a bit harder to part with my nickels.
This morning, for example, I passed a fellow under the subway tracks who I recognized as an area local. Aside from not being able to figure out if people were dropping imaginary money into his cup, or if he was taking sips of imaginary coffee, or if both were real and he was just drinking change, I couldn’t help but notice his clothes.
His shoes were sparklingly new, as were his bright white slacks and a gorgeous scarf tossed carelessly around his neck. Yes, he had an ensemble. Meanwhile, I was walking by in deep need of new shoes and a winter jacket that finally allows me to use the word threadbare. It’s a good word. Lotsa uses.
No, my money wasn’t going into that coffee.
As I stepped on the escalator to the platform, the word “bum” floated through my consciousness and I caught myself feeling a bit embarrassed. But then, with majestic bravado, the manly part of my brain walked on over, swooped that little lady off her feet and told her everything would be alright. After all, he really was trying to “bum” money off me. If the need were great, it would be “begging”, “panhandling”, or “soliciting”. If the need doesn’t seem that great, it’s “bumming”, and the person performing that action is a “bum”.
If we take some of the generalized pejorative connotations out of the word, it sounds a bit more reasonable. In fact, I’m in favour of adding a little weight on the cheeky side of the definition because I believe those kinds of “bum fights” would make the world a better place.
Though down, be not thee out.