Grr. After my day I feel more like cussing than writing this blog, but I’ll give it a shot.
I have a few rules about cussing:
- No defamatory cussing unless it is obviously in a teasing manner.
- Cuss in a socially appropriate manner. (e.g. not on this blog or in court, but more hanging out with, um, dockworkers)
- No using words I don’t understand. (cuts down on my swearing in Yiddish. But not completley.)
- No blasphemy.
So if adhering to those, I’ve got no problems cursing. Not that I’m perfect. I break my own rules from time to time.
Hmm, where to go next.
In general, I like cursing. Not that I enjoy hearing it from others who break my rules, but I don’t enforce them on others either. I think that cuss words serve a useful purpose in language. They are among the most impactful exclamations and interjections. While rarely the most precise language to use, they are often an effective shorthand for expressing emotion. Finally in the same vein that all men find farts funny, cursing is often humourous as it breaks societal taboos.
I think you can also play junior cultural anthropologist by listening to how people talk. While it isn’t fair to draw conclusions based on cussing alone, it is an interesting part of the picture.
There is such a broad range of different ways people cuss. From those who won’t even use a non-cuss euphemism ever (like darn!) to those who use the F-word less as an interjection than commas. It just seems interesting to me.
When I was just a little kid, I decided to make a conscious decision not to cuss until I felt I was old enough and knew what I was saying. When I finally got around to swearing at all in grade four (it might have been five) I was the last person in my class to do so. Funny, that seems like I was so young now, but every kid I knew started younger than I.
There were two incidents I remember later on in grade school. The first where I used “damn” in the hallway and got in trouble from the science teacher (M. Laurin) for cussing. My rejoinder was that it couldn’t have been a curse because my parents used it at home (my parents didn’t develop truly foul mouths until I was older). I lost that argument.
The other time I had started to use the word dildo in teasing people. “You’re a dildo! Dildo-head!, etc” I didn’t actually know what it meant. That is until I called my little brother a dildo at the dinner table and had my error explained to me and the word defined over servings of potatoes.
Both incidents really enforced my resolve to not use words unless I knew what they actually meant. Or at least to think before I spoke.
I also often use nonsense words or humourous euphemisms instead of actually curses. Gunky, Jiminy Cricket, groovy, nifty, hoser, son-of-a-gun, etc. I’ve gotta say that even more than curse words I love these nonsense words. I feel I get to achieve the same effect as actually cursing while standing out as somewhat different and unique and quirky myself.
Still, still, if you drop a hammer on your toe a real curse is called for.
Since I tend to use such nonsense words more than actual cussing, I often seem to surprise folks when I do really cuss.
Obeying my little rules and being “true” to my own sensibilities is sometimes a tricky row to hoe. But I don’t think any harm can come from actually trying to pay attention to the words that come out of my mouth.
Now if I could only to the same thing with the thoughts those words express…