@#%$&!: The Swear-In

 I don’t swear.  My friend, Regina, pointed this out about a year ago.  It might seem to be a morally pretentious statement. I don’t have any religious objections to swearing. I’m not really offended by swear words, although when I hear one in conversation I get that “fingernails on a blackboard” feeling.  I certainly don’t judge those who use them. But going to bed without washing my face, throwing an empty Dorito bag out a car window, swearing – they’re all things I can’t picture myself doing.

So, I’m trying to figure out why I don’t swear. My eighteen-year old daughter doesn’t swear either. We just had a long conversation to try and figure out why we don’t.  The best we could come up with is that, to us, swearing isn’t classy. For me, I think it all stems back to an incident when I was a twerpy prepubescent ten-year old, close to entering junior high and that Invasion of the Body Snatchers period of life.  You know what happens - one of those giant seed pods replaces you while you’re sleeping and you become a disturbing replica of yourself until you’re about eighteen. 

Anyway, I guess my younger brother and I must have been experimenting with swear words which is why we were sitting in the living room with our mother hearing the following incredible instructions:  “You have sixty seconds to shout out all the swear words you can think of,” she calmly informed us.

My brother and I looked dubiously at each other from matching plaid arm chairs thinking this was too good to be true and waited for the catch.

“Go ahead,” she prodded from the burnt-orange tweed couch, an homage to 1970 and earth-tones. “Let’s see how many you can think of.”

“Darn it,” I shouted tentatively.

“Damn,” my brother countered, as our mother folded her arms, settled back into the scratchy couch cushions and checked the second hand on her watch.

“Ass,” I blurted.

“Jesus Christ,” he volleyed back at me.

Our mother tapped her sneakered-toe and and said incredulously, “Is that the best you two have got?”

My brother challenged her with, “Asshole.”

“Dick,” I smugly announced.   

“Hurry up! You’ve only got fifty seconds left,” cautioned our mother.

“Bitch bastard,” retorted my brother.

“Cock,” I crowed.

Then, there was silence.  My brother and I performed a little powerful body language to illustrate how hard we were thinking: chin scratching and excessive blinking followed by averted gazes, until finally, a brainstorm.

“Pecker,” I cried grasping the wooden arms of the muted-tartan chair. My mother practically yawned as she tapped her wristwatch in warning.

Not to be outdone, my brother had an inspiration of his own and blurted out, “Turd!”

Our mother uncrossed her polyester pant-suited legs and announced, “Ten seconds left!”

I was saving my worst swear word for the very end, but my brother piped up with his worst, “Whore,” he announced.

Feeling positively wicked I waited for the last possible second of the ‘Swear-In’ and shrieked, “Tits!”

“Time’s up!” proclaimed our mother.  There was no Ward Cleaver moral lecture delivered to her errant children, probably because by this time we had fallen out of the plaid arm chairs and were rolling around on the rug laughing.  Laughing at ourselves over how dopey we had sounded.  Swear words had kind of lost their thrill when we were allowed to say them.  The shock factor wasn’t so shocking anymore. 

Many people believe that swearing is simply another form of language and expression, but swear words are not chosen for the meaning they convey, rather, for their impact. I don’t agree with the notion that swearing is ‘lazy language,’ but every time I hear four-letter words sprinkled in sentences, my mother’s long-ago words echo in my head, “Is that the best you’ve got!?”



Velya Jancz-Urban


I blog about the humor and beauty in life's ordinary moments and write about them in a frank and conversational style at 'Peep Into My Life'   - www.chicapeeps.com


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