“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”
— George Washington
I don’t swear too much.
I can still vividly recall a lecture I received from my Mum, who overheard me as a kid tell another young fellow to have relations with himself during an argument over ownership of Hot Wheels cars, or something along those lines.
“Don’t use language like that,” she said. “It’s not classy.”
After a sporting event, her post-game analysis often wasn’t about the play itself.
“That other team sure used some foul language,” she’d say. “That little No. 12 sure had a mouth on him.”
Now, if I’m conversing with a very select group of buddies, I may produce a steady torrent of unmentionable words that would make a weathered sailor blush.
The golf course and/or hockey rink may elicit a few nasty words and I’ll mutter the odd salty phrase when driving. But that’s about it.
I can count on one hand the amount of times I ever heard my parents swear, and it was never one of the “biggies”, it was just your basic (“bovine excrement”), mostly after I’d exasperated the (droppings) out of them with my feeble excuses for not doing household chores.
Taking my cue from them, I made a point of not cursing in front of my own son.
The first time he heard an unprintable word from me, he was about six.
I was in the living room, in my boxer briefs, watching TV (oddly, some of my most memorable anecdotes involve me dashing out of the house in my underpants…).
My son and his mom had just gone outside to take our dog Aiko (a 125-pound wolf-husky cross) for a stroll.
I heard some growling, barking and a yelp, followed by a scream.
I sprinted (in my mind I was Ben Johnson; speed-wise more like an agitated sloth) outside in full-on gonch mode, to find a pair of other giant dogs attacking Aiko. These dogs were owned by a complete (insert your own favourite descriptive cuss word here), who routinely had them get loose, wreak havoc and get taken away by the authorities. He would simply buy two more each time this happened.
At any rate, I began yelling and grabbing at the other pooches, who miraculously backed off without taking any of my fingers with them.
Their (insert another of your favourite descriptive cuss words here) owner saw the tail end of this and began yelling at me to leave his little angels alone.
I responded, telling him to keep his (fornicating) dogs on his own (copulating) property or I would come down there and (do unsavoury things to him).
He said something to the effect of “bring it on, undies man” so I quickly went inside, slipped on some shorts and went down to have a measured chat. He was remarkably capitulatory, so we were able to sort things out in genteel fashion.
When I got home, my son was still wide-eyed. Was he traumatized at watching his beloved dog get attacked, with his mother screaming at the top of her lungs?
“Daddy. You said a swear word!”
“I love British cursing – the cadence of it, the joy in the sound of the words, and the vulgarity of it.”
— Christopher Moore
I once worked with a young lad who was the living embodiment of the Stifler character in the American Pie movies – a not-stop cursing machine.
“What’s up (12-letter word)?” was a common greeting for everyone, male or female.
“Later (procreating 12-letter word),” meant goodbye.
But it was so genuine, no one ever really took offence.
How about you folks out there?
Can you curse a blue streak, or is it verboten? Are there certain situations where you’ll let fly, or is it just a non-starter? Does it irritate you if someone is swearing away in a restaurant full of kids – or on a bus full of older ladies? Do you care if songs are full of expletives? Have you made up your own words or phrases to use in place of the naughty stuff?
Is it actually a matter of “class” – or do we make too big a deal out of mere words?
Philip Wolf is a regional editor for Black Press. He can be reached at philip.wolf@black press.ca or on Twitter @philipwolf13