I have had an urge lately to talk tough. I keep on the tip of my tongue several tough-guy phrases. Here is one: “You talking to me?” I plan to say this with the same verve as Robert De Niro in the movie Taxi Driver. Donald Trump used essentially the same line recently in a hostile reaction to a journalist’s question.
Another tough-guy line I have ready is: “You want a piece of me?” I don’t know who first asked that question, but I would wager it was a tough guy.
Dirty Harry, played by Clint Eastwood, had a way with tough-guy talk. My favorite line of his: “Do you [feel lucky], punk?” I would say that only if I held a gun loaded with humongous bullets.
I am more likely to utter a classic statement of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo. If someone asks me who I am, I will say: “I am your worst nightmare.” I have a feeling I would imitate Stallone’s voice. I am unsure whether sounding like Stallone would make me seem tough or not.
I would like to dress like a tough guy too, but I don’t know what to wear. Jeans and a cowboy hat?
In certain areas of the U.S. I could legally walk round town carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle. If I fixed a bayonet on that, no one would mess with me. However, Australia is too civilised for that sort of behaviour.
My urge to be a tough guy started when I watched a documentary about one of my heroes, boxer Muhammad Ali. He hit fast, and he talked tough.
One opposing boxer kept calling Ali by his prior name, Cassius Clay. When Ali fought him, Ali would hit him hard and yell, through his mouthpiece, “What’s my name?”
I am looking for chances to talk tough, but I have a problem: The people I encounter are quite pleasant. Another problem: My talking tough might lead someone to thrash me. I do not “float like a butterfly” or “sting like a bee.” I am not Muhammad Ali.
Psychologists call Ali’s influence on me observational learning. Or, more simply, we can call it monkey see, monkey do. I tend to copy the behaviour of people I like and admire. I bet you do too.
I may need to watch the movie Gandhi. Then I will be peaceful and go for long walks.
[Photo of the writer, John Malouff, by Anthony Wood]