Wednesday, May 26, 2010


When I was a kid, I never even said damn it. That's not a surprise. There was almost no cussing in my house. It certainly wasn't on television (not that we had free access to that), and of course there was no YouTube or other cyber source to provide us with models.

Note that I switched from I to we. That happens when I think about my childhood. I imagine that when I was a kid, I felt more connected to others, more a part of a group – my four siblings and two parents – so that my experience always felt like a shared experience, even when it wasn't. I've also noticed that I easily say we "used to" do things. We used to play Capture the Flag at Chasteks in the dusk. We used to play Hide and Seek with the whole neighborhood. We used to go swimming at Silver Lake.

Well, I know we did those things, but I'm not convinced, now, that we did them often. I remember the games as having been played only when we were pretty small, and that they were played with big kids who, in reality, probably didn't let us play with them much at all.

Still, my sister and I used to have to share a pair of skates. I think we were brilliant (or was it Mom?) because instead of one girl skating with two skates half the time, we each had one skate all the time. We'd push and coast, push and coast, like a kid on a scooter, but not.

But back to swearing. Yes. That's what this blog is about. What did you think it was?

About once a year, my dad, who was a hothead, would roar, "Jesus Christ Almighty!" He sounded like the very God Whose name he was taking in vain. That evoked silence all round. Once he said, "Poop!" and we little kids giggled ourselves silly. Mom said damn several times a year, which is not bad for a working mother with five kids, I'd say.

Well, and the kudos don't really go to her. It was the times, I fear, and perhaps place. I never even read The F-Word until I was in my twenties, reading Vonnegut. I certainly hadn't heard it from anyone's mouth.

But the more I type, the more I think my family might have been freakish. Perhaps we were cleaner than others (or more repressed?), but the era certainly had something to do with it.

I've got a Friend on Facebook (hence the properly nouned "friend") whom I know to be a sweet, gentle young woman. She belongs to a group on Facebook named Pull Up Your F**king Pants You Look Like An Idiot. I was appalled when I saw that. I imagined her saying those words, which she would never do.

But of course, she merely joined the group; she didn't name it. A child named it, else there'd be some punctuation between Pants and You.

This morning, I read another Facebook entry that disturbed me. It's from a fourteen-year-old I know personally (unlike some Facebook Friends, I'm amazed to report), who's a well-behaved kid. He's handsome and bright and plays the French horn, for god's sake. (The actual instrument has been changed to protect his identity but not his innocence.) Here's what he wrote around midnight: "2 more goddam mother f**king days".

Well, even though it's incomplete, I'd like to have had a period at the end of the sentence. The number should have been spelled out: Two. If I thought "goddam" was truncated for the purpose of a slight bit of reverence or at least misdirection, that would be cool, but I think it was done out of ignorance. The really upsetting part, of course, is – how can he not know that "mother f**king" is one word?

In the end, I think we should legalize swear words. It seems that the UK has done it. Even chubby gray-haired ladies (ahem) holding cloth bags full of cabbages, standing under black umbrellas, say fooken. Ah, maybe that's what we should do. Let's curse with accents! I have long been a fan of shite.

I have a Colombian friend who liberally sprinkles his conversation with, er, fooken and motherfooken. I assume that on some level, he knows those are bad swear words, but I should think it's easy to swear in another language. It's like you're not quite guilty, since it's really not your language. I have a Polish friend who would never say pizza because it sounded too much like, um, female genitalia in Polish. Well now.

If there were no swearing – since it would all be acceptable – that would be one less thing to watch out for. We wouldn't have to think about who's hearing us (like our uncle's stupid friend who's always nosing around on Facebook!). No one would ever have to hear that ridiculous argument that people who swear a lot are simply showing off their lack of vocabulary. No. They're displaying the miracle of muscle memory, if you ask me, the amazing strength of habit.

I say let's swear with accents or in languages other than English, and get on with our lives. Che cazzo, y'know?


Anonymous said...

fooken ey!

Anonymous said...

I remember you laughing as a "Mother's" trucker drove by. You said you laughed because mother and trucker rhyme. I believed you, of course.

I doubt you were twenty....

Fun fun fun

Anonymous said...

#$!@ ^&%$@#!@*&%$ #@!! aaahh, much better now.

Augusta said...

Good God Barbara. You should be sindicated. I make up some swear words. People just think I'm weird, which is ok with me.

Spyracha! (word verification to leave this comment.)

Anonymous said...

Holy moly, FB has taken over.

psychLines said...

we're human commit mistakes...
nice posts

Bones said...

I made to the age of 20 without cursing. I'm currently still 20 but somehow in the last few months I've turned into a complete and utter potty mouth. It's eff that and eff this all the effing time. I don't know what quite what happened. It seems like I went from one day being embarrassed by colloquial language to speaking nothing but curse words the next. It's funny to think about how these things work out, lots of words that would have been considering improper in the past have squirreled their way into modern dictionaries.
- anyways, interesting post!

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Stories Inc. said...

Those cats are so cute!

And if you want some swear words in different tongues, here are some in Dutch...


And I think something along the lines of 'Honore' in Japanese would qualify (it's actually 'you', but in a very negative meaning, almost an insult)