You’d never know it to look at me, but I have a ridiculously dirty mouth.
Did you hear that?
It was the sound of everyone who knows me collectively saying, “Duh!”
I know, I know, it’s bad. In fact, I realized I might have a problem when I started watching Dexter and instead of being shocked by how filthy Deb’s mouth is, I thought, “Hey! She talks like me!”
While I take full responsibility for the profanity that I use on a daily basis now, I started extremely young and THAT was my father’s fault. When I was two, I was playing a game and, when I lost, I let out a massive string of profane language.
My mother immediately turned on my father because she knew EXACTLY where I had learned the particular phrase that I used: it was his favorite expression to shout in traffic. And as an impressionable two year old, I thought that was what you were SUPPOSED to say when you were upset.
For a while, at my mother’s urging I’m sure, my dad switched to Yiddish curses when he was upset in traffic so that my brother and I wouldn’t know what he was saying. But that didn’t work either, because when he wouldn’t tell us what words meant, we would turn to his mother, Grandma Selma. Dad always described Grandma Selma as speaking three languages (English, Yiddish, and Romanian), but none of them well. We would ask her what the word meant and she would immediately yell at us for saying whatever the particular word was, then ask where we had heard it. Then she would tell us what it meant.
To this day, ninety-five percent of the Yiddish that I know is the profanity. So if you need to know how to tell an old Jew to go defecate in the ocean or to stick their head someplace where it doesn’t belong, I’m your girl.
My parents never got on the same page about whether profanity was okay in the house. And I don’t think they ever discussed it with each other either. When my brother and I were kids, our dad told us that he didn’t care what kind of language we used, as long as we understood that some people wouldn’t approve of what we said. His example? Don’t tell the principal to go do something that isn’t anatomically possible to himself. (Although when dad gives an example, he skips the euphemisms.)
I love you, dad. Really. You’re awesome.
My mom, on the other hand, pretends to be shocked when I say anything vulgar, especially in public, but to a lesser degree when it’s just the two of us. For example when I referred to someone I don’t like as a feminine hygiene product in front of her one day, she lectured me for about twenty minutes on using appropriate language. Yet two days later, she called the same person the very same feminine hygiene product. I called her out on this hypocrisy and she said that the difference was that I said it in public and she said it over the phone to me. I’m firmly of the belief that there is no one on the planet who hasn’t heard any of the words that I use, but that excuse doesn’t get me anywhere with my mother.
As I’ve gotten older though, my dad has encouraged my cursing more and more, which I find hilarious. I was on the phone with him while driving on 495 one day, when someone cut me off. I let out a resulting string of profanity that would have changed an R-rating to NC-17, telling the driver in great detail what he could go to do himself AND his mother. My mom would have yelled at me. My dad, however, cheered me on. He proudly yelled, “That’s my girl! Give him the finger! Give him the finger!”
Again, dad, I totally love you.
What I don’t understand though is why profanity is such a big deal to some people. Especially because the people who argue against it the most are usually the ones who like to repeat the cliché about sticks and stones breaking bones, but words not having the power to hurt (which is SUCH crap and everyone with half a brain knows it–words can leave far more long-lasting damage than sticks or stones).
Words, in and of themselves, aren’t dirty. I mean, honestly, no one is going to argue that the word “poop” is an inappropriate term for defecation, yet substitute a different four-letter word that means the same thing, and people will go nuts. But I hate to break it to you, a LOT more adults would buy the book Everyone Poops if you changed the word choice. I’m just saying.
At school, I run into problems because, as a teacher, I DEFINITELY cannot curse in class. I would wind up in my principal’s office immediately if I did, and I already get in so much trouble over running the school newspaper that the sofa in his office has a permanent imprint of my butt.
So I HAVE to keep my language under control at school.
In general, I do a really good job of this. I’ve had a few accidental slipups over the years, which tend to make the kids laugh hysterically. But because I just correct them when THEY slip up, (with gems like, “I must have heard you wrong, you said, ‘shoot,’ right?”) instead of turning it into a battle, they usually don’t go running home and say, “Mommy, mommy, guess what Miss Goodman said in class today!” (Thank God I teach high school!)
The biggest problem that I’ve found though has come with my car. With my old car, if I screamed obscenities at someone in traffic, unless they could read lips, what happened in the car stayed in the car. Now that I drive a convertible, when I tell someone to go do something that isn’t anatomically possible to themselves (special thanks to my high school journalism teacher for that particular clean way to express that sentiment), they can hear me.
Which is something I REALLY need to remember when I’m running late on my way to school in the morning and someone causes me to miss a light.
But I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t live in ancient times. I clearly would have suffered the fate of the men who said “Jehovah” in Life of Brian.