This Post May Contain Strong Language (But it Probably Does Not)

25 Feb

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.]


Posted by on February 25, 2008 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


Tags: , , , ,

6 responses to “This Post May Contain Strong Language (But it Probably Does Not)

  1. Dan

    February 25, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    You know, we all censor ourselves around certain groups of people. I rarely swear around my parents, unless I’m quoting something where the swear has particular effect or relevance. But I think there’s an interesting rite of passage when certain people feel you’re of an age when they can start swearing around you.

    I have a cousin who’s about ten years older than me or so. She went to college in Boston, and so she babysat for me when I was growing up. A couple of years ago, she was in town visiting with her husband and daughter, and as she and a couple of my other cousins were on our way somewhere (sans children), she was describing her frustrations of being a parent: “I say, ‘drink the milk, honey’ and she says ‘Why?’ And sometimes you just want to be like: ‘drink the motherf*cking milk.'”

    I think my eyes almost bugged out of my head; not because I wasn’t plenty familiar with the obscenity, but just because I’d never have expected to hear it coming out of her mouth. But I find it kind of, well, heartwarming actually, that I’m considered at that level of familiarity now.

    Also, I’ll add that I’m flattered that that post was interesting enough that you’re still thinking about it three months later.

  2. halfawake

    February 25, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I like the idea of the “rite of passage” of swearing. Your story exemplifies that well.

    Thinking about my family right now, I realize that I’ve heard my parents swear plenty, but I don’t think my brother swears around me. Maybe he’s got a similar complex as me? Or maybe I’m just still not in his ‘swearing comfort zone’?

  3. JasonT

    March 1, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I think not swearing gives swears a little too much power.

    I think swearing a ton makes you sound kind of boorish and low-brow (lower class, maybe?) to others.

    Maybe start small … like by reading a book aloud.

  4. halfawake

    March 1, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Yeah. That’s what sort of bothers me a little about it (giving them too much power). I think I may try your suggestion of reading a book out loud tho. I pay better attention (to the book) when I do that anyways.


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