The conversation usually goes like this:
Friend: Wow. Did you hear the way so-and-so cursed me out back there? That was pretty bad.
Me: Yeah he sounded pissed.
Friend: Nobody’s ever spoken to me like that in my life, and I think I’m sort of sensitive to it since I don’t like to curse.
Me: I know what you mean – I don’t ever swear.
Friend: Yeah, I never swear either.
Me: No, I mean, I can count the number of swears I’ve said out loud in my entire life on one hand.
Friend: Yeah me… Wait what? Oh… What…? wow.
A post Dan put up about swearing has been on my mind for several months now. I was recently reminded of it when the topic of swearing on blogs came up here. I like learning about why swears are considered swears, because I don’t swear, but I don’t know why.
It feels awkward that I know this about myself, or that I have such an internal track record. I recognize that the words I have grown to count as swears are somewhat arbitrary (the ones I can think of start with f, a, s, h, b, and sometimes d). Avoiding these words can be hard; I remember dreading English classes where we read books out loud, because there was always a possibility that I would have to either break my streak or feign a coma. Somehow I manage to avoid typing these words explicitly (though copy/pasting them feels OK), but I admit that it feels strange when I type words like assist, as if I have to type them really quickly without pausing in the middle.
The silly part is that, like the children and teens we’re ostensibly trying to protect by censoring these words, I think swears all the time. Beyond that, I have no problem hearing them! They can often be best way to express yourself, and I sometimes find myself wishing I could use them (I can use them of course, but I’ve built up a mental hurdle about it). In the past few years I’ve resorted to using the cheat-words that often serve as swear replacements (e.g. “That’s freaking awesome”).
I’m not sure when I created this rule for myself. Obviously swearing was always discouraged at home and school. I do have one memory from my childhood of my younger brother telling my mother that I had said a swear (when I had not actually done so) and getting punished for it. The injustice of the situation was so infuriating, because not only had I not committed the crime in question — I had never sworn at all!
Occasionally I think I should just go into a room an swear my lungs out, just to get over the hurdle. I honestly don’t know why I haven’t done that.
[For completeness, most of the situations where I swore came at times when I was inadvertently (as in, without thinking) parroting something that someone near me said.]