I heard a very interesting conversation on The Diane Rehm Show this morning. Her guest was Robert Lane Greene, author of "You Are What You Speak", about the new acceptable standards of grammar and usage. There are few things I love more than word-nerdiness, and this show allowed me to get my full geek on. I like knowing the rules, even if I sometimes ignore them. In between the conversation on the lack of a good gender neutral pronoun and the value of regional vernacular, they devoted a whole 10 seconds to one of my favorite subjects:
The naughty words.
I rarely curse in front of my children. Only in times of extreme duress. My standard line to them is that people who use curse words are not intelligent enough to find other words to use. That is bullshit, obviously. I tend not to curse out loud much at all. But when I write...oh, when I write! My internal monologue reveals me to be what I truly am: a potty mouth. I am one dirty birdy.
Let's face it - there are situations where nothing but a dirty word will do. Would it sound the same if you said 'Your butt is grass!', or 'Have intercourse with you and the horse your rode in on!', or 'Darn you to the underworld, you son of a biscuit eater!'? There is no style in that. No panache in biscuit eaters. There is power in a carefully dropped f-bomb that does not exist when you yell "OH, FUDGE!".
When I was in third grade, we lived off of Drumheller Road. There was something deliciously evil about sneaking up to the sign and covering the DRUM- and the -ER. In my 8 year old mind, it made me positively badass. My parents were the King and Queen of Swear Words, and 'hell' was the least of what I was hearing at home. But having that secret word on the street sign made me feel part of a grown up world.
Katie came home one day last year (her third grade year) with the news that her friend S- had been using bad words. We braced ourselves for it -
The 'S' word. (I'm familiar with that one.)
The 'C' word. (Jiminy Christmas! THE C WORD! Even I don't use the C word!)
The 'F' word. (Of course. The granddaddy of them all.)
I asked her to spell them out -
I'm so relieved - true swear words would undoubtedly lose some of their luster if they were coming out of my precious child's mouth! But now I'm afraid I'm doing her a disservice by not saying 'shit' enough in front of her. Is she going to be the only kid in middle school who thinks she's getting away with foul language when she says 'fart'? My friend D- and her husband sat down with their oldest before she went into 6th grade and told her all the words they thought she might hear. You tell me what is more traumatic - hearing your friend say 'asshole', or watching your mother try to keep a straight face while she says 'cock'.
For a good long while, I'll contain my fondness for the four letter words to the company of adults. So, if you hear something colorful come out of my childrens' mouths: They got it from their father.
2 weeks ago