TSTThis is a story my Mom told me when I was in high school.  We were always a one car family, so when she needed the car, she’d drive Dad to work then pick him up at quitting time.  She’d sometimes find herself talking to my Dad’s co-workers while he finished up a job.  One day, she happened to mention how pleased she was that he never swore at home.   Their response?  Frank?  Never swear?  You’ve got to be kidding.  I had never heard Dad use anything stronger than hell or damn … or, under dire circumstances, a Jesus H. Christ, which always elicited THAT Look from Mom.  But as was the case with many men back then … he had a different vocabulary among other men than in public.  There were, of course, men who used those words no matter who was around.  Mom knew where they all lived and strongly suggested I avoid those places.  I still managed to pick up a few choice curse words, though … and followed in the hallowed tradition of using them with the guys but never in front of the girls.  And never at home.  I had friends who had their mouths washed out with soap or pepper sauce on the tongue for swearing.  Dad was more direct … a quick backhand got the point across.

Times have certainly changed.  I don’t have to be out among the peeps for long to hear people … men and women … boys and girls … using words that would have gotten me grounded.  Certain inappropriate words have propagated tofucla public usage … SHIT HAPPENS bumper stickers and FUCLA T-shirts at UCSC-UCLA football games.  It’s pretty common to hear an entire basketball crowd chanting, Bullshit, bullshit after a bad referee’s call.   Movies use virtually any word, sometimes in profusion … The Wolf of Wall Street used a word that used to be the apex of cursing 569 times and TV is rapidly catching up.   Sports talk guys on the radio use low grade curse words like pissed off and ass with regularity.   Me?  I seem squarely caught between generations.   In a business meeting full of men I engage a substantially more colorful vocabulary than when women are present.  Certain words that once were banned have slipped into my everyday vocabulary … if I drop something and it breaks, I’m likely to say, Shit.  Wrong me severely, and I might say, Screw you … and on a bad day, I might upgrade that.  I don’t swear in front of children and I hate to hear people swearing indiscriminately in public.  I try not to take the Lord’s name … any of the Lord’s names … in vain.  I’m a Situational Swearer, a Conditional Curser.   I think books and theater and films are better when they use realistic street language but if they go beyond a certain point, I’ll say, That’s excessive or unnecessary.

So here it is, Top Sites Tuesday #249 and I’m ruminating about Curses. Consider this paragraph Thought Number One.  Why are perfectly good words considered curses? Of course, certain words like hell and damn are so regarded because Go to Hell and Damn You are actually curses … of the worst bitchsort, if you are religiously inclined.   I once asked my Dad, Why is son-of-a-bitch a bad word, Dad?  It’s because it’s saying someone’s mother is a dog, he said.  In an era of Mama Jokes, shouldn’t it be removed from the curse list?  Maybe not … although dogs are more popular than ever, calling a woman a bitch can still be risky (even though a woman having a bad day may describe herself as bitchy).   Why is shit a curse word but feces … and poo-poo, for that matter … not?   Why are nicknames for body part taboo, particularly nicknames for certain female body parts?  What makes certain curse words worse than others?  Why do some words come into common usage while others remain verboten?

I was in Target the other day and passed a Mom shopping for shoes with her little girl.  Mom held up a cute pair of pink Converse and little Heather responded, Those suck, Mom, holding up a pair of silver glittery high-tops.  I like these.  Mom didn’t even blink.  You suck … this sucksso-and-so sucks has become a routine part of our vocabulary, perhaps more that any other formerly inappropriate phrase.  I have to admit, I use it regularly and I hardly flinched when little Heather used it either.  I found an article on by Seth Stevenson titled Suck It Up that defends the word sucks as a nearly perfect statement of dislike bordering on abhorrence.  I agree.  But then the article goes on to suggest that You Suck was never REALLY a curse word, that it’s derived from other less sexual origins than I recall.  No less a source than the Urban Dictionary says, The early Jazz musicians would say that a guy could really “Blow” if he had a good sound when playing the horn. If he couldn’t play very well then they would say that he was “Sucking” on that horn. That’s where the term “Suck” as being something bad came from.  He plays that horn so poorly that he must be sucking on it.   He doesn’t blow, he sucks.  Seriously?   I never said, You suck in front of my Dad … or my Mom … and it wasn’t because they didn’t like jazz.  We all knew what it meant and that the sucking didn’t involve a trumpet.  Of course ten-year-old Heather doesn’t know that but some day, she’ll figure it out.  Which leads to Thought Number Two: That’s exactly what gives the phrase that edge we need sometimes.  And for the most part, that’s why we curse in the first place.  And why, if we overdo it, it loses its power in our language.

That’s what I think.  How about you?  And whether you agree or not, please push my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #249.

Come Join Top Sites Tuesday and be #1 on BlogDumps!

The purpose of this Meme is to encourage
Networking between bloggers to have fun while doing it!
Make sure to visit all the other participants and leave comments.

Explore posts in the same categories: curmudgeonly rants

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

5 Comments on “Curses”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I rarely swear around anyone that isn’t a very close friend or relative but then am pretty fond of certain words when telling a story to my “close knit groupies”. I was taking about the HOA president’s snotty letter to me last week and I composed a fake letter that will NEVER get sent that is full of expletives…and I think it is quite funny. My close friends have seen my “letter that I would of liked to have sent” but didn’t.

    I am rarely offended by anyone’s language short of them using it to swear at me. If words are used in a comedic sense, I tend to find it funny.

    You are right about the evolution of swear words. Words like suck or any connotation of the name Jesus would of gotten me in big trouble as a kid. Even the word GOSH was considered swearing in our house. My grandmother thought it was a derivative of the word God. I am sure she gasps audibly in heaven every time I say F….


    PS I finally got my post up but we are still the only two over at TTFT.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Mostly, I’m unoffended, too, but people using extreme language in public places bother me. And there are still certain words I just don’t use.

      Regarding TFTT, I think Wolf and Trina would just as soon give it up but you and I keep showing up.

  2. charlie Says:

    I know we did are share of swearing when we were growing up but I have to admit that I cringe today when I here young girls and boys using the worst language like it’s nothing. I guess it was the way we were brought up.

  3. jenihill Says:

    Growing up, I rarely heard any cuss words at home. My Grandfather -a very soft-spoken man -would occasionally toss out a “Damn” but that elicited some very black looks from my Grandma. His favorite expressions were usually “Goodness Agnes” or “Dag-nab-it” My Mom, being younger of course, and more socially liberated would every now and again say “Shit” but those were usually expressed under her breathe and out of earshot of either of my grandparents. My Mom’s two older brothers had a couple more words they uttered from time to time – an occasional “Hell” or, if really upset maybe even “Son of a bitch” and my younger uncle was a non-cussing person -probably did it silently and in secret since his career was that of a school teacher. In high school, the worst word I ever said then was “Shit” and then, I would say it in Swedish so no one knew what it was I was saying! But by the time I was between 18 and 19, after almost a year of employment in a cigar factory, it was amazing how my vocabulary expanded (albeit it mainly of bad words.) But one word didn’t enter my language until I was about 31-32 (unless it was used in a joke and really made the joke relevant) and that was a four-letter gem starting with “F”. By that time in my life, having been married to my ex-husband for 3-4 years then, and hearing him use that word in almost every conversation, it began to infiltrate my vocabulary -usually in extreme anger. I once mentioned to the minister we had back then about how difficult it had been for me to use that word the first time but once expressed, how easily it came into my mind -and my mouth voiced it then off and on. Today, my vocabulary can often be VERY colorful although there are some people who are old acquaintances and/or very good friends who are extremely clean speakers and I do try to curb my bad words when in their presence, at least for the most part or at the very least, of the really bad words. My kids all do their fair share of cussing but the oldest has some words that even I find very offensive and I ask her “You eat with that mouth?” Most of her choicest words involve names for various female body parts and for whatever reason, I still can’t bring myself to use them! Funny, isn’t it though which words come easy to speak and others create a bit of a quandry -even in little old ladies who are darned near 70 years of age!

  4. Trina Says:

    I’m a carpenter and a sailor, my vocabulary is very colorful on a good day. I do try to watch my mouth around kids and definitely around customers but I’m terrible at it. When little man was little, it was me who he copied when he said “Yeah Bitch” with snazzy attitude (I’m not proud of it)

    I do hate when people take words too seriously, Bitch is a good example of that. Many women would be offended for being called that, I on the other hand, have always laughed it off. It’s just a word and there’s no reason for any word to have that much power over your behavior.

    The f-bomb is everyone’s favorite “I’m mad take me seriously” word. Really, you just prove that you lost control of your anger by using different words than you would normally use.

    Great thoughts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: