Monday, July 13, 2009

potty mouth

I swear. I swear a LOT. Apparently nice young ladies don't cuss. Of course, I haven't really ever been a nice young lady. Which isn't to say that I have a tattoo that reads "Gangsta" or any other tattoo, for that matter. But I was never in Junior League or even good at doing my hair up real nice, so "nice young lady" seems like a stretch.

But I do cuss a lot, and someone who I generally don't turn to for self-improvement feedback has commented on it so many times that I'm becoming aware of it. Also, children keep being near me, so everyone feels I'm tainting their minds. I'm not sure the F word is really the secret to tainting the mind of a child these days (surely the dancing they see in music videos, and indeed, learn in kiddie dance classes, more than implies the meaning of the F word). But, apparently swearing like a sailor is just not de rigeur around these impressionable young ones.

So, I'm going to stop. I'll say Crikey and Frickity Frack and Fudge and For the Love of Pete or Cheese or Poptarts. Because somehow saying "Oh, for the love of all things cheesy" is somewhat less offensive than "What the F?" Resolved. I will no longer say F- that F'er. Done.

But that makes me think - why do we care so much? Clearly FRICKITY FRACK!!! is an equal expression of outright anger. So, it isn't a show of emotion that we care about. In fact, it seems that idle swearing without emotion is really the bigger problem. Slipping in a "I had no idea what the F that kid was doing" is the insipid type of swearing we should avoid, apparently. Instead, I should say "I had no idea what in tarnation that kid was doing." I can do that, but what's the point? 

I'm sure when I hear my wee babe say "Mommy, what the crap?" I'll be pretty cut up about it all. As an adult, I am utterly indifferent unless people get very graphic. I don't think about the meaning, I just say the word, so if someone starts using the word in a literal, crude sense, it bothers me.  

Social norms are there for a reason. So, I'll try to comply. But, can someone explain me why?


Capt. BS said...

I can't really explain it as much as I can confirm that some people have very strong feelings about casual swearing, and that most of these people have children (usually close by). I never heard my parents swear for the first 18 years of my life, and they were very adamant about keeping it (and me, by extension) that way, to the point where the day I decided (for whatever reason) to let loose hundreds of F-bombs on my 5th grade classmates and the teacher called home, I was grounded indefinitely. Were my parents completely deluded in thinking that they could shield me from learning how to cuss up a storm? Absolutely. But did these restrictions subconsciously condition me to take a more positive, optimistic view of the world by limiting the number of motherfuckers and sons of bitches in my life? Hmmmm, I'll get back to you on that one.

At any rate, when I was at Fenway yesterday for a Sunday afternoon game (which, in contrast to Friday and Saturday night games that are all but beerfests for Boston's 20-somethings, are decided family affairs), I was in the middle of explaining how Dice-K was on the DL not because of injury but because he kept fucking up his starts, I became aware of the kids sitting a couple rows in front of me and realized that they could probably hear my voice, and that at any moment their father could walk up and kick my ass [were it not for my five other friends, some of which have ninja skills] just because I'd chosen an R-rated figure of speech to indicate my displeasure at a particular pitcher's performance. As I shared this reflective thought with one of my [ninjafied] friends, he confirmed that, indeed, one of his more emotional friends had acutally been kicked out of a game for his especially vocal [drunken] swearing.

But yes, I think that, especially with the current generation, the original meanings of the swear words have fallen by the wayside, and all they retain is their secondary purpose as an emotional amplifier (e.g., "Get over here!" versus "Get the fuck over here!" or "That's awesome!" versus "That's fuckin' awesome!"). Generally speaking, by common association of usage, they "darken" the sentences in which they appear, and strip away pretenses of innocence... so, for parents who are keen upon letting their children be children as long as they can, you can see where they might object.

Jonathan said...

Swear like a sailor in front of kids and they will think it's adult and therefore cool. Completely cut out the swearing and they will think it's forbidden and therefore cool.

The only way out is to swear occasionally. Say, on the beach with 30+ years of flab hanging out, turn to the kids, rub both hands from boobies to hips, declare "I'm so f***ing hot" and do a little booty dance.

If that doesn't turn them off swearing and MTV for life, I don't know what will.