Friday, August 22, 2008

And so I may not need to clean up my profane act after all

I recently began to wonder if I should work on being less profane. It would be a true and utter struggle for someone who drops the F-word as casually and often as I seem to.

Apparently when I was three or four, my grandmother - my dad's mom - was telling my mother about how Catholic they were, and how they never swore, and basically, how all around holy they were.

And to Betty's complete and utter horror, I, sitting under the table, said, "Oh Jesus Christ." In the same tone exasperated tone Betty would use when, oh, the back floor of the car fell out, or something.

At least I had a better mouth in English than I did in Hindi.

But back to today's profanity situation.

It started with a random article in a magazine someone left in the lobby of my building. I think it was Self. This woman used the F-word at a company picnic, and her husband criticized her, saying it made her sound crass. She chronicled her path to eliminating profanity from her vocabulary.

I didn't find it all that interesting, I must admit, so I can't remember if she was entirely successful or just mostly. She had tips like coming up with substitute words - Fudge! - in lieu of swear words. Say them out loud. Even if people think you're a little nutty!


So I must admit that while I was reading the article I was all, "Ohferfuckssake, like I'm really going to be all 'Ding dang!' in lieu of 'Damn!'"

And then, days later, I was at the San Diego zoo. Which, if you've never been, and even if you generally avoid zoos like the plague because they make you so sad, is actually really, really cool.

While there I got an incredibly irritating email from a colleague. I made the mistake of reading it on my new BlackBerry.

"God fucking dammit! She's such a see you next Tuesday!"

The C-word is one I almost never say. Really, probably only Nick hears me say it. And it's only when I'm really, really furious with someone. In which case I am prone to referring to the loathed person as a "bitch-faced see you next Tuesday," which makes him laugh. He'd like to know what bitch-faced looks like.

Also, I don't use motherf***er. I will say "em-er eff-er" when necessary. But I simply can't say the whole word.

So. The fucking dammits. And the zoo. Where, one of my companions later pointed out, there are many, many children.

She thought about pointing that out while we were there, but then just left it. She has a foul mouth, but she's a mom, so she censors around kids. I hadn't given it a drop of thought since last summer, clearly.

This, coupled with the "just say fudge!" article really made me wonder if I should clean up my act.

I asked Nick if he thought I should cut down on the profanity, and he said, "Years ago I got set up with this beautiful woman. She was gorgeous and really nice. I was excited. And then, on our first date, she was telling me about something that made her really angry. She said she was 'mad as heckfire!' about it."


"Yes. And I never asked her out again. Because I just couldn't be with someone who said 'heckfire.' Who the fuck is 'mad as heckfire' when they're really mad?"

"People in Alabama?"


  1. heckfire? never heard of that one!

    no reason to censor yourself now. but, say, when you have kids and your driving around and someone cuts you off and you exclaim, "shit!" only to have it repeated from the back seat, well maybe then.

    but until then, why not? enjoy it while you can! i miss swearing.

  2. You know, I have wondered how people just quit swearing, and I suppose hearing it repeated by your kid would be a great impetus to make you stop. I have tried to cut down, but something will annoy me and a strong of expletives will come out.

  3. Well, I learned how to swear from my mom. So, I don't know. I don't think I'd be incredibly bothered to hear MY kids repeating something I'd said, but I'd feel bad about someone else's.

    And? Those Orbit commercials are pretty entertaining.

    But I think the best argument for not swearing, is to think of far more biting and creative things to say about someone. Imagine how effective it would be if you had a whole lexicon of custom epithets at your disposal... :o)

  4. Well, I've just discovered the many and varied usages for "sucks ass" so I can't really say, but I will offer this - most kids I know do learn to swear from their parents. Just ask them.

  5. Are you reading my fucking mind?
    I was just talking about this with the husband. We both have the WORST mouths ever and "I" have decided we need to work on that before Baby Curser is born, while he hasn't commited either way.
    I've been throwing around "for Pete's sake" or "for the love of Pete" but I'm torn, the kid will meet someone named Pete one day- are they going to associate Pete with negative things?
    I think I should just cut down to saying damn and hell and leave it at that.

  6. I have a mouth like a truckdriver, and "motherfucker" is truly one of my favorite epithets. I can't imagine cutting it out of my vocabulary. I tone it down in front of the baby, and avoid being crude in professional situations, but other than that, I let 'er rip.

  7. I like to say fuck.

    Have you ever seen that movie, a Christmas Story, where Ralphie says his father "works in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master."

    That is how I think of us. You know...we're artists. Working in our medium of choice.

  8. i cut out the profanity once. it only took a couple of months and it was all gone. i started with substitute words but then just eliminated them. i would stop myself from swearing instead of saying "fudge & crackers!"
    then i started hanging out with a group of girls that used swears in their casual southern manner and before i knew it i was cussin' again. unfortunately i lack the sophisticated southern charm that makes it acceptable so i DO just sounds crass. i've been meaning to cut them out lately, i really need to. i don't even hear myself saying it anymore... until i let it slip when i talk to my mom. she'll basically hang up on me or tell me how unatractive i sound which helps me acknowledge it.

    you should start some sort of blogger challenge to cut the swears out. i'd totally do it because i am competitive : )

  9. i'm intrigued by the fact that you won't use motherfucker but you will use the c-word. (you can tell by the structure of that last sentence, i'm sure, that my sentiments actually fall in the exact opposite way :) ) different strokes different folks, of course, but if you don't mind me asking - why one and not the other?

  10. Jessica - Maybe I wouldn't be so bothered's hard to tell. I should just try some custom epithets out to see how it feels. Much as I love words, I ought to be able to do it and enjoy it!

    DCup - There are just so many things that suck ass around - THAT would be very hard to cut out!

    Mary - Hahahaha! Yes, I'm reading your fucking mind. :) I think damn and hell would be OK.

    Wendy - I suppose I could aim for toning down in front of kids. You point out somehting I hadn't thought of, which is that I don't run around the office swearing like a sailor - so it's not like I can't censor in particular situations.

    Slightly Disorganized - Hahahaha! We're profanity artists. Although I wouldn't be able to claim I've elevated it to an art. My profanity is pretty pedestrian.

    notosjenny - I think I've always hung out with people with terrible mouths. In high school my best friend's parents didn't care if she said "fuck" at home, and I suppose that's when I got pretty casual about it. My dad gets upset with my language but Betty just giggles. I might be more inclined if she told me I sounded crass. As for a blogger challenge, I will have to think about how that might be structured...

    kate.d. - I think because the word mother makes me think of my mom. And it's really hard to add fucker to that. Plus the C-word is just so bluntly brutal sounding, which is somehow satisfying to me when I'm violently angry at someone. But I couldn't imagine saying it to someone's face, ever.

  11. I fall into the category of people who sound completely silly when a curse word comes out of their mouth. I just don't have that aire of coolness required. Consider yourself lucky and keep it flowing :)

  12. I struggle with this myself. It is just in my nature to let a string of expletives fly. Every time I try to curb it, I just come up with even MORE disgusting ways to say thing...worse than swears. it is a talent.

  13. Have you seen the movie "Spy Kids?" Ok, dumb question.

    Anyways, they say "Shi...take mushrooms" all the time. It's hilarious, and now my kids say "shitake mushrooms" - not because we say "shit" or anything...believe me...but it's because of that movie!!!

    Our word of choice is either some phrase with the word "ass" in it - like sucks ass, kicks ass, big ass, etc. as well as god dammit. Our propensity for the use of god dammit was made quite apparent when my daughter's preschool teacher (when my daughter was 2) - approached me about her habit for using "god dammit" in class. Oh yeah, that was fun.

    xoxo, MPD

  14. Awesome, if my inlaws give me the stink eye I'll tell them Lisa from Lemon Gloria decided Damn and Hell were OK (what> they don't know who Lisa from Lemon Gloria is? HEATHENS!) :)

  15. Please don't change....I appreciate that I can use my horrific language around you and it never phases you (because you might be worse)....and trust me, I am praying that FUCK is not in my kids vocab before age 2 but if it is I am sure that I will laugh!!!

  16. I learned to cuss at work. Everyone at work swears, and its natural for me to do the same. My boyfriend doesn't swear often, so I'm conscious of it around him. He's asked me about it before ("You say you cuss a lot, but I never hear you cuss.") but I'd like to cuss less so I'm glad I'm with him. Of course, I watch my mouth when I'm around kids and my parents and friends of the family. No cussing there. I dunno...I think it depends on the person and situation.

  17. I have been on both sides of this fence, myself. Sometimes I feel like I should clean it up and stop relying upon so much profanity, and then other days, I realize that it's my thoughts, my words and my choice. I try to be cognizant of where I am and who might hear me...if my young neices/nephews are around, I tone it down, but I agree completely with Nick: who in the fuck says heckfire when they are really pissed?

  18. Mary - I know I don't know you or your relatives, but the thought of them giving you the stink eye makes me laugh out loud. I hope it doesn't happen.

    David - Well, as you know, it's pretty unlikely. And imagining the little peanut saying "fuck" is actually really, really amusing.

    raven-smiles - Yah, being with someone with a better mouth than me would definitely have an impact. Nick, however, is never going to lead me in a less profane direction.

    Ryane - I think you nail it - what really matters is the situation and who is around you. I've just decided that my self-amusement goal is to insert heckfire into at least one conversation a day for the next week. If I'm late to meet, I'll be all, "Oh, heckfire! I'm sorry!"

  19. Second the Orbitz commercials! At work, every other sentence is "what the french toast?!" Sometimes we also use "kiss a fat baby." Don't know where it comes from, just know it all keeps us working.

  20. I guess improving what you say in front of kids can't hurt, but my feelings on replacing "fuck" with "fudge" is that it then basically becomes a swear word, so why not use the real one instead? Fuck has so much more power to make you feel better after saying it, so fudge should just remain a tasty treat.

  21. oh you never completely stop. you just hide it behind closed doors. we've gotten to the point where marion gets time outs for bad words so if we say them in front of her, we also get time outs. no fun!

  22. The best example of movie language-editing I have ever seen was for the third Die Hard movie. It's Samuel L. Jackson, so you know the mf-bombs are dropping like crazy. So rather than blank it out or throw in something like "flick you" or the like, they went funny. Now, if you watch that movie on TBS or something, you will hear grown men refer to each other as agriculturalists.


    Sam Jackson calling Bruce Willis a stupid melonfarmer is quite possibly some of the best comedy you'll find on network television. Granted, that may not say much about the quality of network comedy, but still.

  23. I choose to live my life colorfully; if a 3 year old hears it along the way, I'm sorry, but it was gonna happen eventually. Now at least his mother can blame that bitch-faced see you next tuesday from the airport when he says it in front of HIS gramma.

  24. I am loving the fact that he never asked her out again because she said "heckfire"! HAHAHA

    I used to have a co-worker who said "monkeys" instead of curse words (he was a Jehovah's Witness), and I just said to him, "How can that POSSIBLY be more satisfying than saying damnit or shit? MONKEYS????"

  25. 1. I love the San Diego Zoo! Pandas!
    2. I've often thought about trying to cut down on the swearing. But then I realize that I'd be such a fucking boring person. So I don't.


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