Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Caution: The Following Text Contains Lots of Baddie Words

Back in the bright and sunny days of high school, I was in Forensics. My particular favourite individual events were Poetry, Duet Acting, Mime and Duet Improv. Our team travelled all over the state competing in tournaments, and we were pretty damn good. Oh, okay, I'll drop the modesty, we were awesome. Like, any time we didn't win FIRST place at a tournament, we were PISSED. We took this shiz frickin' seriously.

If the tournament was a local one, we'd now and again get a supportive parent coming along to watch us compete. One such time, my dear mother came to watch Zac and I do Improv. Zac and I were pretty good at Improv, not the top best, but we could usually manage to get to the Finals, though we didn't often win the trophy. That day, and the details are hazy, we must have really screwed up, because all I remember was this: Me storming out of the performing room with Zac at my heels, my mom in the back, and spitting furiously, 'We really FUCKED that up.'

Then I recall my whole world going cold as I realized my mom just heard me drop the f-bomb. Hard. Like Nagasaki hard. And cussing in my household - well, let's just say it was akin to losing my vocabularic virginity. In front of my mom.

She said nothing, but the tension was so dense I needed headlights to find the next round through it. Mom said nothing until the next morning after I'd thought it had all blown over, or maybe even she'd never heard it at all. Then she said with the same unnerving calm of a doctor phoning to tell you the results of your brain scan, 'I'm disappointed that you used such language.'

Kill. Me. Now. No really, I'd have rather she beat me with her hair dryer than use the D word on me.

Me and my friends winning trophies NOT on that day.

I had an interesting discussion going on over on my Facebook page. I asked if parents of teens swear in front of their kids and/or do they allow their kids to swear in front of them. The question was inspired by a post on Moms Who Drink and Swear's Facebook page. All these people were talking about how they 'cuss like a sailor' but don't dare allow their kids to swear. Many of them admitted to swearing directly in front of their kids but still put the Hell No to them returning the favour. So naturally I wanted to know if this was how all Potty Mouths felt on the subject.

In my most humble opinion, words are just words. And it's not the word itself that matters, it's the way it is used and the way it is received. I think swear words have a perfectly legitimate place in the lexicon and often drive a point home more sharply than many of its fellow adjectives/verbs/nouns. If I'd have growled, 'We really MESSED that up', well, my point would not really have gotten across. We didn't just mess up, we FUCKED up. Big difference.

Yet how it is taken by others is important to me. I really care about how others feel, and I try to respect everyone's beliefs and opinions. I don't see the point in offending people just for the sake of offending them. Or because I am 'free' to say whatever I want to say, despite how it may affect others. I think that mindset is insensitive, and truly the last thing I'd ever want anyone to call me is insensitive. I am usually surrounded by people who do not appreciate harsh language, and out of sensitivity to them, I refrain from using it. In general, I swear very little. Scott and I don't swear in front of our kids - yet - because we don't wish to hear them start swearing - yet. I don't often swear on my blog either, out of respect for my motherly readers (mom, step-mom, mother-in-law). My internal dialogue, however? Is pretty much a constant stream of fucks, shites, buggers, bloody hells, arses, bitches and tossers. I do draw the line though at the c-word (shiver) and the other f-word (ack!). Words referring to milady's undercarriage, if you get my drift.

Will I swear in front of my kids and allow them to swear in front of me? Yeah, I probably will. But like anything else, I expect them to understand its context and when and where it is acceptable to swear. (In front of Granny? No. Church? Please refrain. At the football player who could kick your ass? Best keep it to yourself.) I'd also prefer they not use it simply as a filler word between every other word, as some are wont to do. There is a whole rich language out there for us to use - try some descriptive nouns first, if you can, to fully illustrate your point. When all else fails, THEN cuss the shit out of that bitch.

I'd also prefer they not swear AT me. Just as I do not intend to ever swear AT them, I'd expect the same respect. We may fight now and then, and choice words may at times flow, but really, what's the big deal? Which is worse to say, 'This is total bullshit!' or 'You're a complete waste of space!' One has the 'bad' word in it, but the other actually hurts. Scott and I have been known to throw choice words at each other in heated moments, but we forgive each other, and I'm guessing we'll forgive our potty-mouthed angels should it come to that too.

One final thought... who decides what words are 'profanity' to begin with? I laugh about it, because what is a sweary word in the US is not necessarily a sweary word in the UK, and vice versa. What constitutes a bad word anyway? One of my best friends is from Slovakia. She uses the f-word a lot, because to her, it doesn't sound like a bad word. Same with me and the word 'bugger'. It's cute, right? 'Ass' and 'shit' are quite inappropriate in the US but 'arse' and 'shite' are euphemisms. But in the UK, 'arse' and 'shite' are pretty bad, but ass and shit are euphemisms. And then I've found this, a site where people can submit bad words. Of the submissions, along with lovely little slurs like 'assclown' and 'homodumbshit' (who says that?), are 'anus' and 'vagina'. Uh, what? How are those bad words? They are biological, scientific names for body parts, you assclown. I'm quite sure the prude who submitted those words would die of heart failure if they heard my daughters refer to their vulvas or my son to his penis. Hey, Puritan, those aren't bad words!! Save your shock for racial slurs and gay bashing.

I'll end with my favourite swear-word story. On the subject of words being bad in one culture but not another, I'll never forget the day my college French professor shut the door and announced we'd be learning French swear words. She taught us merde, casse-toi, salaud and chienne. Then a girl who was from Trinidad and Tobago raised her hand and asked, 'How do you say, Grab your mother's c*nt??'

The class, previously roaring in laughter, came to an abrupt, uncomfortable silence. The teacher was speechless. The poor girl had no idea what she'd done wrong. It was single-handedly the most awkward moment of my entire life.

My hits for this post ought to be off the charts.

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