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Daily Archives: September 14, 2010

APP—Bodily fluids do not exist . . .

The APP in the title does not stand for an application for your phone or your computer or any other of the flood of digital gadgets on the market. It stands for A Previous Posting. I originally posted this brilliant essay on the use and misuse of certain words in June of 2009 in response to a request from one of my daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia. The same daughter just commented on a recent posting and asked me if I would write something on the use of the word bodily, so now you know why I dragged it all the way here from fifteen months ago. I posted it specifically for her, but I’ll cheerfully share it with you.

Bodily fluids do not exist

A certain phrase is frequently—nay, incessantly—used on television and radio stations, in face-to-face conversations, in magazine articles, books, newspapers, pamphlets—in every element and circumstance in which English is spoken and written, we hear and read this phrase—bodily fluids.

A pox on the multitude of unlearned speakers—a pox, I say, on those that use the term bodily fluids.

Bodily fluids do not exist—there is no such thing.

Listen up:

The human body does not contain any bodily fluids, nor do the bodies of any other organisms contain bodily fluids—not the lower orders of animals, whether bipeds, quadrupeds or no-peds, not mammals, not ruminates or non-ruminants, not bees, birds, flies, fleas, ticks, termites, aardvarks, arachnids, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans—not one zoological organism that exists among our planet’s fauna—nothing that flies, walks, runs, climbs, crawls or slithers, whether on land, in the air or in the world’s vast oceans—not one contains bodily fluids.

Not one.

However, all contain body fluids, substances which are vital to life, including those that remain in the body at all times unless spilled in accidents, or deliberately spilled in altercations, up to and including death. There are, of course, specific body fluids that are expelled naturally through normal body functions—perspiration and tears are a couple which come to mind, but there are others.

Why, you may ask, would I say there is no such thing as bodily fluids? Well, just in case you do ask, I will answer in advance. Bodily is an adverb. Adverbs are usually formed by adding ly to a verb, and the new word is intended to take the action of the verb that precedes it (it usually, but not necessarily, follows the verb in the sentence).

An example would be, “He spoke softly.” He is the subject, spoke is the verb, and soft is the object of the verb, the word which takes the action of the verb, with ly added to show how he spoke—softly.

Please note that body is not a verb—it is a noun, and therefore proper English does not authorize the suffix required to transform it into an adverb. Body can stand as the object of a verb, as in “He caressed her body gently.” Her body is the object of the verb caressed, and the adverb gently tells us how he caressed it—that’s gentle with the e dropped and the y added.

But I digress—on with the posting.

Example of bodily’s proper use:

“The bum was bodily ejected from the club by the bouncer.”

This tells the reader or the listener that the bouncer (subject) ejected (verb) the bum (object) bodily (how he was ejected). Not only did the bouncer eject the bum’s hat, shoes, underwear and outer clothing—he ejected his entire body including everything he was wearing—by ejecting the bum’s body, he ejected him bodily.

Example of body fluids proper use :

On arriving at the crime scene the CSI investigators collected items intended for DNA testing—included in their collection were traces of  semen, sweat, spittle, urine and feces (those CSI people are very thorough). That which they collected were traces of body fluids, not bodily fluids (judging by the above, this may well have been a sex-related crime scene).

And now, finally, the conclusion of this posting:

Nobel prize winners, doctors of medicine, doctors of letters, ambassadors, presidents (oh, yeah!), senators, congressmen and most egregious of all, newspaper columnists and virtually every talking head and commentator and journalist on television—all, almost without exception, refer to body fluids as bodily fluids—the misuse is so universally voiced that some doubt exists (mine) as to whether the proper term will ever be used. I fear that, similar to the word nuclear, the improper use of bodily as an adjective has corrupted our language and is here to stay.

Consider our penultima president (that’s the next-to-last president, the one immediately prior to the current occupant of the White House). He frequently had need to use the word nuclear, and he consistently pronounced it new-key-ler. Affected (and infected) by his eight years on television, approximately half the English-speaking world (my estimate) now pronounces the word new-key-ler. I predict that our current president, simply from exposure to television and talking heads, commentators and roving whatevers, even with his ivy-league education, may soon endorse that mispronouncement and make it mandatory by issuing a presidential edict—in that event, the word would probably appear on his teleprompter as new-key-ler.

A pox on the multitude of unlearned who use the term bodily fluids:

Bodily fluids do not exist. There is no such thing. Fluid in the body is body fluid.

A pox on the multitude of unlearned who say new-key-ler:

The word is spelled nuclear. It should be pronounced nuclear.

That’s my story and my complaint, and I’m sticking to both!

 

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My first port director—my friend and my mentor . . .

I began my career with U.S. Customs as a GS-7 trainee at the port of Progreso, Texas and I was upgraded to the GS-9 journeyman position after one year. During that year I learned more from one officer at the port than from all the others combined. Not that they didn’t help me learn the ins and outs of the job—they were very helpful, but the port director and I became a team, both professionally and personally. Almost from the beginning we were like brothers, respectful of each other and each always looking out for the other’s back.

As a measure of how well the port director taught me, I was awarded an in-grade pay increase in my second year and another in my third year, both based on my duty performance, particularly on my arrest and seizure record. An in-grade pay increase is a pay raise given for outstanding performance, and is in addition to the normal longevity raises given to federal employees based purely on successful duty performances. In-grade pay increases are the gifts that keep on giving!

Some ten years older than I, the port director took me under his wing like a mother hen protects a chick—figuratively, of course. He placed me on the right path for success in my new profession and set me straight when I strayed from that path. He raised hell when I made mistakes, and he lauded me when I managed to do something right, such as making seizures and accurately documenting our various Customs activities. I also was brash enough to submit several suggestions that I felt would improve port operations, and upper headquarters felt impelled to implement my suggestions and provide remuneration for my ideas. How about that!

His most recent assignment was at the port of Eagle Pass, almost 300 miles upriver from Progreso. In the latter part of 1971 Progreso became a separate port from the port of Hidalgo, and he was promoted to the position of port director for the new port. His name was Paul, and he died at Christmas time in 1973. His cancer disease was diagnosed in mid-1972 and a scant eighteen months later he was dead.

Paul, my first port director and supervisor in Customs—my friend and my mentor—was buried in Brownsville, Texas some fifty miles distant from Progreso. I was unavoidably delayed at the port and the casket was closed when I arrived at the funeral home. The funeral director offered to open the casket for my viewing but I declined the offer. I figured that Paul had once again been promoted and was already on the way to his next assignment, that shining port in the hereafter, and I was reluctant to slow him down.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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A spider tattoo—a large spider . . .

On Monday, December 20, 1971 I reported for work as a United States Customs inspector at the international bridge at Progreso, Texas just across the Rio Grande River from the small town of Las Flores, Mexico, also known as Nuevo Progreso—as opposed to old Progreso, an even smaller town on the U.S. side of the river. The image at right shows the old bridge—a larger four-lane bridge now serves the public at Progreso.

I reported for work wearing civilian garb—official uniforms would come later, purchased at a clothing store in Brownsville, an international city at the southern tip of Texas, a city that combined with the city of Matamoros formed a significant metropolitan complex.

Following a welcome briefing by the U.S. Customs port director and introductions to fellow Customs officers and officers with U.S. Immigration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I was assigned to work with the Customs officer that was checking incoming traffic. In those days Progreso had only one inbound lane, and the officer on duty there checked pedestrian traffic as well as vehicles arriving from Mexico. Vehicles were referred for secondary inspection as necessary, and pedestrians were referred to the offices of Agriculture, Immigration and Customs as circumstances dictated.

The long-time inspector I was working with—let’s call him Leo for the purpose of this posting—maintained a continuous dialogue with me, explaining all the ins and outs of the proper questioning techniques and various other requirements of a job that was completely foreign to me—no pun intended. An officer assigned to that position would work for one hour and then would be replaced, either by an Immigration officer or an inspector from the Agriculture office.

Just before our hour on the incoming lane was up, Leo referred a pedestrian to the office for a secondary inspection. He said he wanted to show me something associated with the man he referred for a personal search. We asked another inspector to take the line and we escorted the person to a room at the rear of the Customs office, a small area that provided privacy for strip searches and also boasted a barred cell for detention of suspects.

This suspect, dressed in sneakers, a T-shirt and slacks preceded us into the room, then turned and dropped his trousers as we closed the door behind us. He wore no undergarments and smilingly asked if he should “turn around and bend over.” The man was a long-time heroin addict and therefore was very familiar with personal searches. Leo replied in the negative, and asked him several questions concerning his drug habit.

When those trousers dropped I knew immediately why Leo had referred the man for a personal search. He had conducted numerous strip searches of the man in the past, and his sole reason for this search was so I could see the addict’s sole tattoo.

Yep, that was the only reason, and I saw the tattoo almost instantly as his trousers dropped to the floor. It was a tattoo of a large spider, a full-grown spider, a spider with all its limbs and antennae fully visible, a spider instantly identifiable as a spider, perched menacingly on the exposed glans of the suspect’s flaccid penis. Sorry, no penis pics in this posting—only a spider.

At this point I must apologize for the PG-14 rating I have given this story. I have a tale to tell, and I am striving desperately to maintain that rating and not let the story descend—or ascend as the case may be—into an X-rated tale. I also strove desperately during the inspection to restrict my imagination concerning the spider’s measurements should its owner become excited for one reason or another—unsuccessfully, of course—my imagination ran rampant—in fact it still does!

That’s it—that was my introduction to the process of conducting strip searches on our border with Mexico. Such searches were required because many seizures and arrests were made from strip searches. The order for a suspect to “turn around and bend over” sometimes showed a shiny substance in the anal area, indicating the use of vaseline or some other lubricant that may have been used to promote the insertion of illegal items such as pellets filled with heroin or cocaine. The contraband was first wrapped in aluminum foil, then packed into the reservoir tip of a condom. In some seizures those packets numbered one hundred and more.

Questioning of the person and search of personal articles would often show that the shiny substance was there for other reasons, thus erasing suspicions of smuggling—you can use your imagination to speculate on the nature of those other reasons.

Many such seizures have been made at ports of entry at airports, land border ports and seaports. If a traveler also possessed laxatives  and an item such as Immodium in a pocket or a purse or a suitcase, that traveler, whether male or female, was immediately a strong suspect for narcotics smuggling. Smugglers use the Immodium to restrict bowel movements until, and at the proper time, the laxatives  can be used to promote bowel movements to excrete the contraband.

Hey, it’s a nasty business, not only for the law enforcement officer but also for the smugglers themselves. Some have died because of such methods of concealment, both male and female smugglers—others have survived, but were severely damaged physically by the botched attempt to enter with the narcotics.

And as for how many people have successfully entered our country through airports, seaports and land border ports with contraband concealed in their bodies, and how many continue the practice and will continue to escape detection?

Quien sabe?

Who knows?

It’s anyone’s guess.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement

 

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