I Swear…

Naively, yet boldly and proudly I exclaimed, first by spelling, then phonetically pronouncing my first f-bomb in the boy’s room at my first grade elementary school. Charlie and Brian both gasped and assured me that I was going to be in big trouble for what I did and that the wrath of Miss Harrington would swiftly come crashing down upon me. I was clueless to what great evil I had performed but even at the age of seven it seemed quite ridiculous to me that I could be in such trouble over a bad word. What exactly is a “bad” word anyways?

The two finks promptly sold out their playmate and I was ordered over to the teacher’s desk – I still remember that she was trying not too laugh as she explained to me that what I said in the boy’s room was a “bad” word and I should never say that again. But I avoided any serious trouble – including the possible death penalty at that age – a call home to the parents. I was proud of my ability to spell and pronounce a seven letter word at age seven – I am now forty-four and cannot pronounce any forty-four letter words – it has been a long downward spiral.

I probably did not swear for at least a week after this but then soon moved towards this colorful style of speaking and have not strayed far from it since. I survived this traumatic experience and quickly developed my repertoire in profanity. Swearing was a way to be cool, hip, funny, adult and subversive. It was also something of a club for young boys as we could not talk like this around adults until we were at least teenagers – it was something like the first right of passage – you fit it in and were part of the clique if you talk dirty.

No one in the history of mankind abhorred bad language more than my mother. My sister and I were not allowed to view PG movies until an embarrassingly late age. “MOM!!! I’m the only kid in the 5th grade that can’t see Jaws!” But she held her ground figuring that she was doing her part in the parental guidance suggested department to build children that were of strong moral fiber. As much as she hated gutter talk (the fact that at age 10 I heard my maternal grandfather use the always offensive c-word at my grandmother made me realize Mom was raised in an alcoholic and profanity laced home) she covered my ass (she would hate that word) one day when I came home from a street hockey game gone bad and I screamed as I walked in “Freddie London is an a-hole!” Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story after he dropped his notorious “oh fudge” I was sure to be executed when Dad got home. Surprisingly Mom sensed how stressed I was and told me to relax until dinner. I am not sure if Dad ever found out about my transgression – I never got punished.

As I aged I have realized that profanity has done wonders to keep the blood pressure down and it allows me the ability to vent without physically harming anyone or myself. I do not buy the argument that it is not classy or proper – although there is a time and a place for everything (are you listening Vice President Biden?), words are words. Yes they can hurt – but if the use of a word is to vent and not to insult another I say “no harm – no foul.” There are worse ways to vent anger – violence, drugs and alcohol or something that I think is even more harmful – bottling your anger inside and remaining silent.

In my adult life I have often mimicked a line from a classic 1970s film The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three where a subway controller states to his colleague after they hire their first female employee “How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?” As a career mid-manager I have often wondered how you can run any type of business or office without swearing. If you plan on staying gainfully profanity cannot direct be directed at an individual, but you can swear at the situation. This practice works wonders for calming my nerves. Fortunately I work with colleagues who feel the same way. Being able to use profanity has saved me from lashing out at staff, colleagues and clients when dealing with the problems and situations that arise during the work day.

I live a clean and sober life – I work hard, have great friends and a terrific family – if I were not an atheist with little spirituality in my life I would have to say “I am blessed” – but I never use phrases like that. I am lucky. The worst thing you can say about my public persona on morality is that I swear a bit. I do not encourage this behavior in my two young sons, but I also will not fly off the handle when it happens – and I am a lot more lenient with what movies I will allow them to watch.

Dirty talk; bathroom talk; potty talk; vile; swearing; filthy mouth; gutter mouth; profane; bad language; colorful language; obscenity; cussing; scatology; vulgar. In a world filled with violence and hatred perhaps we would all be better off if just once a day we closed our office doors and say what Miles (Curtis Armstrong) taught Joel (Tom Cruise) to say in Risky Business – “Every now and then say, what the fuck.”

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3 Responses to “I Swear…”

  1. Maryann Says:

    Yeah….. but, could you play Soundgarden’s Big Dumb Sex in the background during Sunday dinner with your parents and get away with it? ; )

  2. Larry Says:

    Great stuff. I grew up in a house where swearing was not only common, but a ritual. “Pass the fucking mashed potatoes,” etc. I think cussin’ is one of the best ways to relieve stress, and a recent British study illustrated that it helps to swear when you are hurt (bang your finger accidentally on a hammer, etc.). It actually reduces the pain, so the study claims.

    I love to swear, and it’s fun to be around people who are uptight about it. Nothing like getting a rise out of someone that way…

  3. I Swear… (via Symptom of the Universe) « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    […] Naively, yet boldly and proudly I exclaimed, first by spelling, then phonetically pronouncing my first f-bomb in the boy’s room at my first grade elementary school. Charlie and Brian both gasped and assured me that I was going to be in big trouble for what I did and that the wrath of Miss Harrington would swiftly come crashing down upon me. I was clueless to what great evil I had performed but even at the age of seven it seemed quite ridiculous t … Read More […]

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