A few weeks ago I was in the locker room at the YMCA psyching myself up for an intense workout and listening to several preteen boys showing off. One boy kept saying, “What the fhhhhhh?!!” but never completed the word, apparently not yet audacious enough to cuss in a locker room. Oh, but junior high is coming; he’ll soon muster up the courage like Ralphie in The Christmas Story when he beat up Farkus.
Another boy responded to the one’s What the fhhhhh?!! with the reproof, “You shouldn’t take God’s name in vain.” I was at once surprised at his boldness to bring Jesus into the situation. That boy may one day be a pastor, since pastors never cuss and always judge others for doing so. (Wow, my cynicism has leapt to the second paragraph from its usual place a few hundred words in.)
A different boy … it could have been another boy—I don’t know, all their shrill voices sounded the same. (It’s strange to hear high-pitched attempts at cuss words, like hearing a woman swear. It’s just not right. Like Nadia on the Cooking Channel’s Bitchin’ Kitchen, though she’s more of an alto.) Anyway, this other boy invalidated the reprimander, arguing, “He didn’t say anything about Jesus, so how could he take his name in vain?” The boy had a point. A smart boy. Maybe someday he’ll be a blogger.
This got me wondering, as did a conversation with some friends (the same ones who pretend the ATM runs out of cash so they don’t have to give at church), on what constitutes a swear word. Cuss, swear, potty talk. Whatever you call it. You know what I’m talking about.
Personally, since I’m a writer (or at least I’m trying to be one), I strive to use more descriptive verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, instead of the same ambiguous ones some people overuse. (Did you notice that? I could have said, “I try to use …” but since I just used trying, I thought I should try a different word like strive.) I’m not put off that much by people who cuss, although their reduced vocabulary limits my respect for them. They should certainly make use of a thesaurus app like I do.
I don’t swear much myself, at least not out loud. I swear a lot in my mind when I’m practicing guitar. Musicians tend to cuss a lot, mostly at ourselves because we’re perfectionists. When we flub notes, we’re pretty much like John McEnroe questioning a linesman.
I remember a recital in college where a musician cussed onstage during his solo performance. He was some sort of horn player and forgot that sound travels through the mouthpiece and eventually out the bell. His was basically a bullhorn broadcasting his frustration with himself.
How about you? What do you think about swearing?