copyright © 2004 Jeff Goode

The Sanctity of Definition
by Jeff Goode
copyright © 2004

          (places a large dictionary on the table)

This is the Oxford English Dictionary.
It is the definitive definer of definitions for the entire English language.
This is the new one. Copyright circle-C 2003.
Hot off the presses.
The definition of marriage is in this book.

But to be fair, the definition of Spam filter is in there, too.
Also homophobia, Lesbianism, power bar, hobbit.

Those words are in there, because this book, like the language itself,
grows and changes with the advances in technology and culture.

So, naturally, over time, the definitions in this book have become tainted with the social "norms" of the Clinton administration, the gay agenda, the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement.

You've got rap and hip hop in there.
Raves and ecstasy, and sexual harassment and date rape.
          (weighing the oxymorons:)
Pedophile... priests.
Marital... rape.
I mean, come on! You call that a dictionary?

          (takes out an old brown dictionary)

This is the dictionary I had when I was a little kid.
It’s a Webster’s.
I got it from my Dad.
It was published in 1963. The year I was born.

I suppose some people would say the definitions in this book are old and out dated.
But I like to think of them as "traditional". "Family-oriented".
Nah, I'm kidding, they're old and out-dated.

But I keep it around because looking in here always takes me back.
It's a glimpse back on a time when... "Nigger" meant:

          (looking it up:)

          "A negro.
          A member of any dark-skinned people."

And "fuck"...

          (looks it up, doesn't find it)

Well, that word is just too offensive to be in a dictionary.
What if the kids got ahold of it?

I like to look in here to find out what words originally meant.
Maybe not originally, originally - because that would be Aramaic.
But before my lifetime, at least.
It gives you a perspective on how much society has changed in one generation.
And how far we've come.

There are no hobbits in this book.
Oh, they existed.
But they weren’t considered a proper word until much later.
Recently, in fact.

But this is before hyperspace and phasers. And snuff films.
This is from a time when "ain’t" ain't a word.
And "faggot" was a bundle of sticks, and that's it.

You won’t find "gay" in here.
Well, you will, but it will mean:
"Merry, lively. Given to social pleasures."

In those days, gays were called "inverts", if you talked about them at all.
You could look up "sexual intercourse" in a dictionary,
it’d just give you the straight definition and that's it.
Nothing about condoms, and lubricants, and hot man-on-man calisthenics.

I could look up, for example… "wedding" …and it would say:

          "The act or action of getting married.
          The ceremony or procedure by which two people are joined in matrimony."

Wow. That really takes me back. Two people.

Because, y'know, when I was a kid – you used to hear that all the time:

Any discussion of sex, or marriage, or "Where do babies come from?" always started like this:

          (as Father:)
          Well, Jeff, it’s, uh… Where's your mother? Gayle!
                     (more hemming and hawing)
          You see, it's like this...
          When two people love each other very much…

I think we’ve all heard that.
"When two people love each other very much... yadda yadda yadda, babies and marriage and houses."

It was only much later,
RECENTLY, in fact, when SOME people started to go:

          Well, I'm two people.
          And I love my faggot boyfriend very much...

That other people started to go:

          Oh, uh, well, um… Gayle! Well, no, you see it's like this:
          The definition of marriage is, and always has been:
          that when two people –
          ONE of whom is a man, and the other is a woman
          OR one of whom is a woman and the other is a man.

          Or MORE than two people if one of them is a man and the others are women and all of them are orthodox Mormons.           OR one or more of them are women and the OTHER one is a man and just the man is an orthodox Mormon - because they generally vote Republican and we want their votes, I don't think we need a constitutional amendment about POLYGAMY. Let the states decide!

          And when those two people - or more -
          Love each other very much...
          But not in a filthy way.
          Not in a suggestive or sexually graphic way.
          But in a chaste and virginal way, with not a lot of eye contact.
          OR in a reluctant, arranged marriage sort of way
          And they decide – or their parents decide for them
          To be joined in holy matrimony --
          by a recognized church from our list of approved religions.
          OR in Las Vegas. Or on a ship at sea.

          THAT is how we have always defined marriage,
          and we have always used those exact words.

I mean when you look up "WIFE" and it says,

          "Wife. A married woman."

Hmm. But it doesn’t say who she’s married to.

It becomes pretty clear that the only ones who are trying to REDEFINE marriage
Are the same people who tried to redefine it back in the '60s, so black men couldn’t marry white girls.

          (abruptly changes the subject)

True story! Different subject. Maybe the same subject. You decide.
Couple years ago, I was hired to create a historical reenactment of a royal wedding ceremony from the 16th Century.
So I went to the library because I really wanted to get all the traditions and customs exactly right, just like they've been performed for hundreds of years.

And the research took WEEKS.
Because there’s just SO much information about
WEDDINGS and TRADITIONS and the 1500s.
But you know what there WASN’T?

There was NO traditional wedding ceremony from the 1500s.
Because it doesn't go back that far.
It didn’t exist back then.
All of our modern "traditions" and "customs" and "ancient rituals of marriage" - the white dress, and the big cake, and the sacred vows, and the birdseed, and the honeymoon in the Bahamas.
Everything we think of as a traditional wedding.
Dates back only 50 or 100 years at the most.

TRADITIONALLY, marriage is nothing more than a complicated exchange of livestock.

          (as Bridegroom:)
          I give you two pigs and a cow for that one.
          (as Father-In-Law:)
          Ah, for her sister, maybe, but this one she's a virgin. Very clean. Three pigs.
          (as Bridegroom:)
          All right, I tell you what. Because I like you. Three pigs.
          But... you throw in the sister.

But the MOST shocking thing…

That I learned from researching about the traditions of marriage.
Was that during the Renaissance,
Weddings were held on the doorsteps of the church.
Just outside the front door.
BECAUSE the priest of the church would never have allowed them inside with that shit!
Because the wedding ceremony was considered filthy. Obscene.

There was kissing. And all sorts of veiled language that strongly implied that this couple might be planning to go out and have SEX at some point in the future. And from the look in the groom's eye, the not-so-distant future.
There were all kinds of traditions involving ripping the bride’s clothing, and stripping her garters, and symbolically or even literally brutalizing her hymen.

There was no sanctity here.
Marriage was—
And has always been --
A lewd, suggestive, sensual, bawdy, provocative, carnal celebration.

It's only very recently that we've tried to CHANGE the traditional definition of marriage by scribbling "Sanctity Of" in the margins.

Because, y'know, I’m 40 years old.
And I never in my life heard the phrase, "Sanctity of Marriage" before last year.
I’ve heard of holy matrimony.
And sacred vows.
But the Sanctity of Marriage? That’s brand new.
          (points at old dictionary)
You won't find it in here. This dictionary is older than the sanctity of marriage.
          (points at new dictionary)
But then so is this one.
          (takes out a newspaper from September 12th, 2001)
In fact, this newspaper is older than the sanctity of marriage.

So if anyone tries to tell you
That there IS such a thing as the sanctity of marriage,
and they didn’t just make it up a couple months ago.
And that there's a DEFINITION of marriage somewhere that has always been.
AND that it’s always been between a man and a woman, specifically and exclusively.
And that that’s the way the founding father’s wanted it.

To those people, who’ve clearly never read one of these:
          (holds up the dictionary)
I just want to say one thing.
And it’s from a book that’s older than both of these dictionaries.
And older than the ceremony of marriage itself.

          (takes out a Bible)

"Thou shalt not lie."

          (throws the Bible down like a gauntlet)


First performed at No Shame Los Angeles on March 12, 2004 by Jeff Goode

[Back to Workshop] Reading room