Essays: Cursing

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judi_smallA few years ago, I was standing in the kitchen with my parents as they told me a horrifying story involving some cruelty that had been done to one of my cousins. It was one of those stories that makes you think, for a second, that the world should just collapse in on itself, that’s how disgusting and awful the human race is- charged with emotion, I asked a question that happened to have the word “fuck” in it. Immediately, my parents forgot how cruel and unjust the world can be and instead lambasted me for using “that kind of language,” which I thought was ridiculous considering the circumstances. Sometimes, you just need to drop that word, you just have to.

Does it surprise you to learn how much I swear? Because I swear a lot. A lot, a lot. I love swearing. We all have a hangover rebellion from our youth, don’t we? Something we hold on to and continue to do, despite now being all “growed up” and knowing better? I may not smoke but I do curse.

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Sometimes, this is problematic. My roommate in LA and I were probably bad influences on each other in the language department. The first time I went home to NY after a particularly long stint in LA, I remember sitting on the plane, biting my tongue, reminding myself that I cannot swear at home, cannot cannot cannot. My sister once swore at a fancy restaurant when we went up to Boston to visit her in college and my father still brings it up occasionally. “Your sister has a potty mouth,” he’d say, shaking his head. Those words look so hilarious in print, especially since if he knew how I talked amongst my friends, he’d have a coronary on the spot.


The other day, I was on the phone with former roommate from LA and I swore on the phone, not unusual. Except I was on the sidewalk and school had just let out across the street. So, yeah, I swore in front of a group of second-graders. Sorry, second-graders. I guess it could’ve been worse. I could’ve followed it up by blowing cigarette smoke in their faces or something.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about quitting (traumatizing a group of eight-year-olds will do that to you). I’ve been thinking it’d be funny to substitute old-timey expressions for my f-bombs and s-kickers. Like “that’s bananas!” and “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” and “Jumpin’ Jehosphat!” It would definitely add to my charm, I think. Another checkmark in the Eccentrics Guide to Life. I could do what I always do and consult the Leader of Our Tribe, Auntie Mame. When it comes time for an expletitive, I can knock back a drink instead. This would mean I always carry around a pitcher of martinis. Might be a bit too eccentric. Could traumatize eight-year-olds as well.


And then I think- should I bother? It’s not damaging to my health, it doesn’t involve shaving years off the end of my life. It’s not like I’m screaming the words out the window at unsuspecting pedestrians. Sure, Emily Post would disapprove and it’s not exactly how a young lady properly behaves but we all have to have an outlet, don’t we? Something just a little bit unhealthy that keeps us healthy? I love words, I adore words and finding the right word? Nothing is better or more satisfying than when you find the word that truly encapsulates what you feel. Like “serendipity.” Or “that guy is such a tool.”

So, maybe the answer is not to quit cold turkey but save my swearing for when it is absolutely necessary. As in “this post is really fucking long, isn’t it?”

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4 Responses to Essays: Cursing

  1. I came to the same dilemma a while ago – I did the cut back thing and I think not only does it lead to less “oops -sorry kids – dont repeat that” moments, but it makes it THAT much more effect when you do let it fly. It adds oomph and a touch of tension release when you drop the f*bomb to a situation. That being said… give me a few beers and I swear like a sailor regardless of the situation. Mental note – no drinking around kids. 🙂

  2. kari says:

    I much agree! Some times no other word will do — the trick, as already stated, is applying it correctly, as with any word.

    Also, by all accounts Julie Andrews is an epic curser, which is really all the encouragement I need.

  3. Cones says:

    I’m not so concerned with swear words, as I am with their ever increasing presence in the dwindling nature of our collectively spoken vocabulary.

    See that? I could have never put that sentence together orally. Couldn’t do it. If I had to articulate that sentence out loud, it would have betrayed my San Fernando Valley girl heritage: “We swear way too f–king much, and I think we’re like totally limiting our language by only using swear words.”

    I worry that my affinity for the variations of the F word compromises my depth and variety of expression.

  4. bealtown says:

    Well, I’m all in favor of you cleaning up your language, Judi. Actually, I just wanted to say that it’s admirable that you even notice that you’re swearing. That, and offer you two more replacement words courtesy of my granddad: murder and thunder. For example, “The thunder it is!” and [getting out of chair after hours in front of television] “Oh murder!”

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