I am a swear word aficionado.
I wasn’t always like this. When I was eleven, my mother made me chew Ivory Soap for yelling “damn” when my brother ran over my foot with his bicycle. This was referred to “cleaning your mouth out with soap” around my house, as in, “watch that filthy language, or I’ll clean your mouth out with soap.”
** Note to parents, this is an especially potent and memorable punishment if your child has braces**
The whole soap incident may sound a little Billy Bob Thornton, but it was highly effective and reasonably non-traumatic.
My tendency to swear was dormant for many years, curbed by the flashbacks of the solitary incident of soap stuck in my teeth, all through the rest of school, and until I went to college. Then, I got my first job in advertising.
I worked in the Creative department, staffed almost entirely with guys. I was “a girl that could hang.” The guys swore, I swore.
It wasn’t intentional. It just sort of seeped into my vocabulary. And now, it won’t go away.
I once worked for a Creative Director who thought it was just fine if his 8 year-old used the F-word. He was a writer, and claimed that he wanted his son to have use of a full vocabulary, and sometimes “Frick” just won’t do the trick.
I secretly agreed with him. (Although I’m certainly not planning on letting MY eight year old use anything BUT frick until he’s graduated from college.) I have young children, so I do my best to use “dork”, “shoot” and “gol-dern” when another word would be more apropos, but less appropriate.
And yet, I can see the wisdom in giving swear words a rightful place in our language. Like cayenne pepper: you don’t want to use too much, and it’s not really a good fit for pancakes or peaches, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need to spice things up a bit.
Swear words: Are they a necessary and useful part of the full complement of our language, or just the junk food of speech?