Curse Of The Open Mouth

Swear Word

Well, bleep me.

Bleep bleeping bleepity bleep bleeping bleep bleep-bleep bleeping bleeped bleeping bleep it.*

Cursing is . . . problematic for me.

As both a writer and someone who prides himself on having a rational mind, I know that so-called curse words (more properly referred to as profanity) aren’t special. They have no power beyond what we as a society invest in them.** Saying profanity — even words like bleepbleeper — won’t cause physical harm to you or to the person hearing you.

However, those words can cause you harm if you say them in the wrong place or at the wrong time. It’s the whole “no power beyond what we as a society invest in them” part of this that gets people into trouble with profanity.

Growing up, people of my generation hardly ever heard any sort of profanity when we were younger. Most parents tried hard to curb their language around the young kids. The three television channels certainly wouldn’t allow cursing (Consider the face that Lucy and Ricky TV slept in separate beds and couldn’t say Lucy was pregnant when she was, in fact, pregnant.) and the terrestrial radio (which was all there was) wasn’t going to risk its license by broadcasting profanity.well-frak-me.jpg

The only way to hear this sort of thing without the swearing person being present in the room was if one of your friends managed to purchase a Richard Pryor record and let you listen in on it. I’m telling you folks, those Pryor records were a revelation.

The world, the nation and the culture springing from both all have changed over the intervening years. More television channels, more radio stations, more entertainment options overall. All of which has led to much more cursing. Just about everywhere.

And, yet, we’re still in a position where saying the wrong word at the wrong time or in the wrong place can get you fired, or held back, or jailed.

That didn’t matter to me, though. I was in college, away from my parents and surrounded by my peers. I could pepper my speech with conversational enhancers as much as I liked. And I did. Often. Loudly. Everywhere.

Which made for an interesting situation when I began participating in the overpopulation of the Earth. Even more so when I became the primary caregiver, the stay-at-home dude, in our house.

I didn’t want to be the one who cursed all the time around my kids and then had them use those same words in the wrong place, wrong time or in front of the wrong person. And they would. Of course they would. It was inevitable

In only one of many sacrifices for my kids, I stopped cursing. Period. Ever. Not in front of the kids. Not in front of, well, anyone.1 And the thing of it is this: It was easy.

So easy that I came to the conclusion that profanity is the first refuge of the uncreative. Of course, that’s assuming that profanity isn’t acceptable where you are. See, cursing is an easy way to forcefully express yourself.

You’ve got to work at it if you want to achieve the same force without cursing. I find it to be more rewarding (and funnier) to be profane without actually using profanity. As my kids got older and began to be exposed to profanity from other sources (and not just their mom dropping the more-than-occasional F-bomb), they’d complain when I told them to moderate their language. Everybody curses, they’d say. Don’t be such a prude, they’d say. There’s nothing wrong with those words, they’d tell me.

And the thing of it is, I couldn’t disagree. However, I’m not the person in charge.2 There are people who determine if you are hired, promoted or given a raise who don’t like to hear profanity and who believe that people who use it are unintelligent or rude.

Because of that, it’s better to moderate your language until you’re sure that you’re in a place where it can’t hurt you. To do that, kids have to first learn to not-curse — ever — until they get old enough and mature enough3 to be able to understand when it’s okay.

bad-words-curse.pngWhen they do curse (which isn’t often), I don’t yell at the kids, but I do remind them about the necessity of practicing moderating their language, so they don’t slip at an inopportune time and offer suggestions for alternate words.

It’s a rootin’ tootin’ golly’s darning good time, if I say so myself. And I do.

Footnotes & Errata

*  Brought to you by the fine Charlotte Parent Magazine censors. Really. I type in a curse word and it comes out as bleep. Strange. Really bleeping strange. And in cursive to boot.
** In high school, my community soccer team kept getting red card penalties for cursing loudly and often. My mom, who was our coach because none of the dads wanted to coach a sissy sport like soccer, didn’t yell at us. Instead, she convinced us curse words didn’t have any inherent power, so why not substitute, say, golfcarts for bleepbleeper? And it worked. We’d yell crickets or golfcarts or, when we were especially irked, champagne corks, and the other team would stare open-mouthed at us. We’d keep playing and once even scored during this period of befuddlement.
1 Strangely, once I got into the habit of not cursing, I started to find that my characters in whatever story I was writing stopped cursing as well.
2 Not yet, anyway. Seriously, when do I get elected dictator for life of the world?
3 Which, except in rare cases, never happens at the same time.