Saturday, October 15, 2011

If you say “f**k” when your shoelace breaks, what do you say when your tire blows on the freeway?

I was raised by a mother for whom OMG means “oh my gosh” and a father who once sent the backseat into a giggling state by calling a coworker a “horse’s rear end.” Their good example didn’t take. I played team sports, served in the military and lived in New Jersey. So I know my way around an expletive.

The same example was not set by the father in the classic “A Christmas Story,” who grownup Ralphie described this way: “He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master.”

I do regret that the best curse words have lost their power to shock. The South Park kids said “shit” 162 times on a recent episode – and that’s basic cable. Keep your ears open as you walk along a city street, shop the mall or sit in a restaurant and count the number of times you hear one of George Carlin’s seven words. Not in mixed company? Forget it. Pardon my French? So passé.

The preschool teacher told the kids that “stupid” was a bad word. That was three years ago. To this day, granddaughter Ava will stare daggers through me if I call a movie stupid, but go right on coloring if I happen to let the f-bomb slip during a ballgame.

The n-word still shocks me. Last winter my son and I attended a Phoenix Suns game and sat near a group of young African American men. Some sat in the row behind us, some in the row in front of us, but they were all together. The n-word word was clearly part of their everyday vocabularies and, yes, I know the “rule” that says minority groups can use certain words to describe themselves but that doesn’t give the rest of us the right to use them. Still, I was glad that my grandchildren weren’t there to hear the casual use of that offensive word.

“I know a really bad word and it starts with an ‘F,’” five-year old granddaughter Sophie recently told her mother. “That’s a very bad word that you must never say,” Amy told her. “In fact that’s the worst bad word of all.” “Oh,” said Sophie, “I thought the worst word was ‘noodlehead.’”

I’ve been trying to curb my swearing around the grandkids, with people I’ve just met and in general. But sometimes it’s pretty darn hard. See Mom? I’m trying!

1 comment:

  1. Funny! I've been around my 14-year-old son and his friends the last few days, and they are so plitically incorrect I can't help but crack up. They know better than to use curse words around me (out of respect), but their ethnic slurs toward each other are at first shocking. They are a mixed group of kids...white, black, Jewish, middle eastern, Indian, etc., and they say it's all in good fun and no one is offended. The one boy, who is black (corrected me when I said African American), said it's all good if the word ends in an "a." I am not sure I like the whole say what you want thing, but these kids get along great, laugh constantly and don't seem at all offended. Maybe it's when we become adults that we get so rigid and easily offended. Truth is, I think it's more about knowing your audience. But, Bill, around the grandkids?! Really? Just kidding! My father, who never swore in front of us when we were kids, is rather loose with his commentary since I've become an adult. And when it comes out in front of the kids, he just says: "They're gonna learn anyway, and it's best they learn from the master." :)