Wednesday Waffling

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows how I stand on cursing. Or they should - there's a small chance that they think I'm against cursing and just have really poor impulse control, and, well, I guess that wouldn't be the craziest thing to presume, but.... wait, I'm getting off track.

There are people who seem to think that cursing is one of the worst things you can do - up there with stealing and burning down orphanages and nun-beating. There are people on Goodreads who lament getting into a book and starting to enjoy it and then encountering 'the f word' on page forty-eight and having to stop reading, and wishing they hadn't wasted all that time getting engaged with something they couldn't possibly finish because.... what? Reading the word 'hell' or 'shit' would keep them from sleeping, or cause them to go out and rob a convenience store? I'm genuinely interested in what their line of reasoning is. Okay, you disagree with the use of 'foul' language. That would really keep you from finishing a book that you've been enjoying so far? I'm not saying you're wrong and I'm right, I just... don't get it.

The thing that people who don't swear don't seem to get about those of us who do is that we're not being all that transgressive, because we don't actually think we're doing anything wrong. Swearing isn't against the law. There are certain words that, for whatever reason, our society has deemed 'dirty' or 'unseemly', and for this reason they draw attention to themselves. When I use them, I want attention drawn to something - either in a negative way, i.e. whatever I'm talking about has made me angry, or in a humorous way, i.e. using a 'curse' is supposed to make whatever I'm talking about more funny. I tend to veer more towards using curse words humorously, or if I'm angry about a situation, because directing them at an actual person seems too hostile. This is the first part of my waffly feelings about swearing.

The second part is about when I'm walking into the community centre with my kids on our way to the library and the kids from the attached school are standing at the door smoking and swearing every second word. This does kind of bother me. It doesn't surprise me, of course, but it bothers me. When I swear, I am always mindful of my audience. This will likely come in time for the teen-agers, of course, but I like what my friend Collette told her son - that she knows he will swear when he's with his friends and has no objection to that, but that he should be aware that if adults hear him swearing it will be considered disrespectful and they may assume certain things about him that aren't true.

However, not swearing sometimes seems to me to be a way of drawing attention to yourself just as much as swearing would. One of my friends on Facebook is friends with a woman who is vocally religious and quite self-righteous, and at one point she made a joke and then speculated that she would now be considered a 'smart behind'.

Really? REALLY? I'm too lazy to look up the reference, but I believe it was an Andrew Greeley book, where the main character is in the seminary but home for the summer and trying to teach a girl he used to date how to water ski. He says something like "try to get the, uh, lower part of your body straighter" and she rages "it's not a sin to say 'ass' you stupid prude!"


I won't go out of my way to swear around you if it's something that bothers you. But it's not like second-hand smoke - it won't actually make you sick. It won't even cause you to swear. I strive constantly for greater purity of thought and deed. But I'm quite happy making judicious use of dirty words.


Alicia said…
LOL nun-beating! Love it. I have a friend who doesn't say 'certain' swear words. I'm not really sure what's she's so scared of. And the closing of a book reminds me of my Mom. Although, I don't think she would actually close the book, but when reviewing it she would make sure to mention her uneasiness with the word 'fuck' on page 56.
Magpie said…
I fuckin' love you. Oh wait, what?
Mary Lynn said…
At work today, a friend of mine was asking me for advice on blogging and social media, and I realized partway along that all of a sudden the word "fuck" had leapt into my vocabulary. Usually I try to avoid swearing much at work, but I guess because I was talking about a non-work topic my potty-mouth emerged from where it hides during workhours.

Also, the "pardon my french" cartoon made me laugh.

Also, nun-beating always makes me think of a Bloom County. In one strip Opus the penguin called into some talk show to say that penguin lust is a beautiful and natural thing and anyone who doesn't think so is an old prude. The talk show host replied, "that's fine but today's topic is nun-beating."

I haven't leafed through my Bloom County books in years. Why do I still know that?!?
Pam said…
Antother fuckin' awesome post.
Mary Lynn said…
I'm fairly sure none of the people commenting here cussed before we started reading your blog. Nice fucking influence, Allison!
Princess Sarah said…
I think the judicious use of dirty words makes everything more interesting! Dirty words only become boring when they are used as adjective, noun and verb in every sentence. Sprinkled lightly through an average day, it's just like verbal seasoning. Also: Smart Behind made me laugh so loud my co-workers may now be planning an intervention!
Trisha Causley said…
Nuns just make me feel awkward in general, and I'm not even Catholic. What is that?

What I love is explaining to the kids why "Jesus Christ" is sometimes a swearword to people, depending on how you say it. (Although, it's pretty hard not to laugh when your four year old screams out "Jesus Crap Smokes" on the playground.)
Interesting. I just gave an interview to CBC radio on the topic of swearing around my kids. Turns out that I swear around them. Turns out that I sort of have a problem with that but not enough to stop. So. Yeah, I wouldn't stop reading a book because of swearing, and I'll call myself a smart ass any time.
Finola said…
I swear a LOT in my head, but not too much aloud. People always seem very shocked when I do swear. It's because I look so sweet and innocent, right? Here, I will demonstrate:


clara said…
I don't swear around my kids (yet) (much) because I'm lazy. I'm too lazy to explain what the swear words mean, explain when they can or cannot use them, explain how to spell them, etc. Much easier to just swear online and keep my mouth shut because then I can keep my mouth shut MORE and do less TALKING and I am all about the less talking.

But yeah. I have always been totally annoyed by euphemistic swearing. My mom does it because her father was a strict Baptist preacher. I figured out how to swear anyway.

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