Should We Stop Swearing?

In a moment of love and serious overconfidence, I offered to make curtains for my friend, Kimberly. I measured one of what looked like three identical windows in her breakfast nook, only to discover that the impostor middle window was five inches longer than the other two. So entered the first string of expletives.

Then, in a misguided second moment of love and overconfidence, I offered to fix the floodwater curtains. That was two months ago. Poor Kimberly is probably suffering heat stroke every afternoon – so I was rushing to get the damned things done. Enter the second string of expletives.

IMG_4399

Me, resigned to my week of no expletives.

The thread broke at least three times and each time the f*cks flew. Swearing is a bad habit I honed in college and never dropped. I always say I’ll stop, but somehow never do it.

Were there any impressionable children around? No, but my dog, has heard profanity so many times, he now understands swear words. Anytime I’m in the kitchen working and he hears the f-word or sh*t, he knows to come running because I’ve probably dropped something edible.

How pathetic am I that my pet is almost bilingual? He speaks Dog and understands English curse words.

But today, even I was surprised to hear how easily the f-bombs flew from my own lips. And it’s not just me swearing, everyone does it. It’s nothing for me and my friends to let a f#*!k or two fly during a conversation.

Here’s more proof:, Last week a friend sent me a widely circulated story called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F__k.” 181,066 people liked it on Facebook, including me. He uses the f-word 127 times. I thought it was funny, but now I’m wondering if I’m f-word desensitized. Now that the f-word has become daily vernacular, we’ll have to invent some uber curse word for relief like KOOFFENFACHT!

Unfortunately, I’m also a hypocrite because when I hear rap music or hard rock with the f-word, it bothers me. It always sounds so base, coarse and angry.

So, maybe I sound base, coarse and angry too.

My lame excuse is that I learned it from my mom. She swore, but she did it in Italian so, at least, it was melodic. She swore when things broke, when someone made her angry and when I didn’t come after she’d called me 27 times. As you may recall from my “Curse Words Never Sound as Bad in Italian” post, she’d scream “Zoccola, puttana, viene qua!” That means, “Rat, whore, come here!” See how much worse it sounds in English? Swearing in Italian is adorable — English — not so much.

But I digress, and I’m sure my swearing has caused my children to swear too. (I didn’t when they were little, but once they hit about 12, I loosened up.) I know they do, I’ve heard them. They don’t say really awful words around me, but they do swear. Does that mean I’m a bad mother and role model?

Maybe.

But it’s a conundrum because I don’t think it sounds bad when I’m with my friends and we swear. Yet, yesterday when someone was standing behind me at a coffee shop with the f-bombs flying. I have to say, it bothered me.

So, is cursing only bad coming out of the mouths of strangers?

We went from being a society that never swore in the ’40s and ’50s, at least not in public, to a society that doesn’t flinch at a string of seriously bad words. We went from thinking our parents were uptight for never cursing, to becoming hurlers of f-bombs.

Is this better?

We’re not repressed anymore, but was a little repression such a bad thing? I know it’s easier to swear than not to swear, but shouldn’t we work on that? It’s easier to yell at people than hold your temper, but we try not to yell, right? So why is it so OK to swear now?

Yes,  it’s sort of edgy and “badass” to swear, but if we really stop and listen to ourselves, how do we sound? Is this better, or are we just a bunch of crass, foul-mouthed derelicts?

I used to tell my kids that people who swore just weren’t smart enough to think of a better word to use. That may be true, but swearing does let off steam.  According to Reuters,  respectable researchers at Britain’s Keele University have concluded that cussing can make you feel better and lessen pain.

Time Magazine did a story on a book out over a year ago, called “Holy Sh*t! A Brief History of Swearing” by Melissa Mohr.  Mohr said most kids learn to swear before they learn the alphabet, with many knowing at least one swear word by the time they are two.

That doesn’t bode terribly well for us, but does explain my Corgi’s facility with swear words.

Here’s the conclusion of friends and family. Cussing is OK, but only among close friends you know really well.  There has to be that comfort factor, or degree of familiarity among your target audience or it’s inappropriate and shocking. I still feel weird using the f-word around most of my family members.

If you’ve ever taken a chance and sworn, then realized you’ve offended someone, it can be really uncomfortable. It’s almost as bad as being around someone who refuses to stop cursing and accuses you of being uptight because it bothers you.

That just happened this week at a meeting. Someone got up to angrily make a point and used the f-word numerous times. Then someone else asked him to please refrain from using it and he got even angrier and refused. He ended up sounding like a big jerk, and his message was lost in the profanity.

But I think he’s wrong, I don’t think it’s being uptight, I think it shows good manners to be respectful of people’s boundaries. Some things are natural, like close friends letting loose around each other with a few swear words.

It’s natural, and even fun to swear sometimes with our friends, but I think it’s important, polite, and civilized to show some respect around people you don’t know well – like the person in line in front of you at the coffee place. It’s what makes the world a more comfortable place to live and raise our kids.

So, I’m going to try an experiment, which will probably fail miserably because I have the self-control of a honey badger. (They’re one of the worlds 16 most aggressive animals. Who knew?)

I’m going to do my best to try to stop swearing for one week and see if I shrivel and die.  You should try it too and see what happens. I’ll report back on my progress, and hope you will too.

This will either kill me or make me sound slightly classier. At least I’ll be more conscious of my words. If it’s not a big difference, I’ll probably slide back to my wicked honey badger ways when it’s time to blow off some steam — especially if I’m sewing — but never in line at the coffee shop.

23 thoughts on “Should We Stop Swearing?

  1. Pingback: I Could Use Your Help – Can You Nominate Me? | At Fran's Table

  2. It’s been quite a while since i had a chance to read your blog, my brilliant Frenzie — this was such a great piece!
    Thank you.
    i think we’ve let things slide big-time culturally and this extreme casualness when it comes to f-bombs in particular is really kind of sad.
    i found myself agreeing with you all over the place here…..
    (Like you, my “vocabulary” was greatly impacted during undergrad years — by a favorite professor no less!) Not easy to eradicate….sigh.
    Thank you for your words. You make me laugh, you’ve made me cry, and you make me think….
    i just love you.

  3. Oh Frannie – Before you lovingly offered to make curtains for my breakfast nook, I had no breakfast nook curtains.
    None.
    And I really truly wanted some.
    Now I have two beauties, and each morning, as I sip my first cup of coffee, I look over and say to myself, “Kimmers, you are an incredibly fortunate woman to have a friend that adores you so much, she makes you curtains”.
    You are the bee’s knees, and I f@*%ng love and appreciate ALL of your talents!!

    • Well, you deserve nice ones! I still wish you would have let me line them. These two are done, but don’t look too close. I will deliver whenever you are ready to receive them.

  4. Wow – mega comments on this post. Just wanted to say that using f-bomb as an adjective is a lot less foul than using it as a command or an adverb BUT still not ideal. Maybe we should all keep a bar of soap handy for self-cleaning up our act.

    • My best friend’s mom used to make her kids keep a bar of Fels Naptha soap in their mouths if they swore…it was not pretty. So far my tally on the non-swearing front isn’t very good, but I’m becoming more aware of just how often I turn to the default swear word. Can’t say I’m crazy about the taste of soap though, so I will continue to try to shoot and dang it my way through the week.

  5. I swear when I am alone & get upset about something or driving in my car. Love your stories, Fran, so well written and with great humor ! You always make me laugh or think about a point you are making. Cannot wait for your book ! 😊 Cousin JoAnn

  6. OK, this is my take on ‘swearing..’ We heard this in court rooms & court dramas in movies & on TV: ‘Do you >swearswears< this oath & calls on the Supreme Witness to verify the words one speaks. That is 'Swearing.' So anything other than this is NOT 'Swearing' (!) Fran Tunno you should be able to keep you New-Week-Resolution EASILY – unless you have to appear in a courtroom as a witness soon. That's my story and I am sticking to it! (As we say in phone-texting-land = "ROTFLMFAO" = which is a completely different language-form). Are we having fun yet? Your potty-mouth friend, George Mau-pin. French-Latin roots: Maudit (to Curse) & [Fr] pin = Pine-tree/Scotch pine or common pine or Xmas-Tree, Full Blasphemous meaning, in modern English is: God-D****ND-Christmas-Tree. [Bible Sources = Jeremiah 10 v 2-6] Happy New-Week!

  7. I have had a foul mouth since I started waitressing at age 16- and I’m none too proud to say that my kids probably learned ALL of the best swear words from their mother. But I am going to try your experiment, starting tonight. Let’s compare notes next Friday over virtual drinks and we can release a week’s worth of pent-up F bombs!!

    • Monica, I love that idea. Let’s do it! So far, I’ve slipped at least six times today, unless frick counts, but I don’t think it does. Driving makes this much more challenging!

  8. I must admit the story grabs your attention and yes I did read all the way through. I too had become accustomed to a variety of swear words and combinations especially after my 3 tours in Vietnam. It took only the absolutely unintended slip of my tongue in a talk with my Mom and Dad after coming home at the dinner table. The F word jumped out with my verbage as casual as any conversation I ever had. Profoundly embarrassed and apologetic at the same time, my parents simply snickered and said “It’s okay Junior, we know where you’ve been and we both understand”. Henceforth I was extremely careful not to let my conversation roll out unmonitored and was pretty well convinced I actually had a handle on it. Until that is, after marriage and 5 daughters later while repairing something or another while stationed in Germany, I made a poorly aimed swing of my trusty hammer and upon hitting my thumb squarely I let a red and blue swear streak loose and promptly grabbed ice to apply to it. Then later my wife reminded me of our 5 year old coming right along behind me expounding the exact red and blue swear streak I had let go from my mouth. At that point of life, after the mortifiying thought of my corrupting my daughter passed, it became a sticking point not to ever do that again. I must confess that some 45 years later I still let a “damn or oh shit” slip but I have pretty welly eliminated the rest of my GI vocabulary. Thank you for reminding me of our fallibility, our human side, and the love of parents for their kids even when they slip and fall. Great story Ms Fran!

  9. You’ve outdone yourself this time, Fran.
    Absolutely brilliant writing — especially the dog part.
    I swear I laughed my fu. . .
    . . . er
    I exploded in laughter.
    Really, it was a wonderful fucking post.o

  10. The first time I swore I was 26 years old and it was toward the end of a two-year relationship with my boyfriend. I got his full attention because he had never heard an expletive leave my lips. I particularly love/agree with this, Fran: “But it’s a conundrum because I don’t think it sounds bad when I’m with my friends and we swear. Yet, yesterday when someone was standing behind me at a coffee shop with the f-bombs flying. I have to say, it bothered me.” So, I’m game. One week. XOX

    • Well, it’s been about three and a half hours since I decided to stop swearing and just on the phone with you, I lapsed four times! But at least I’m aware of it. Dear God, this will not be easy! Thanks for always reading and responding!

  11. Fran,
    I wrote a long comment today to the related article “Curse Words Never Sound As Bad In Italian”. I loved “Should We Stop Swearing?” That led me to look back to the article you wrote last year. I relate to both stories. Thank you again for both stories and please read my own memories regarding last year’s story.

    Marianne

  12. Fran…I always blame Clarion for my foul mouth, too. Campbell Hall was bad for us. That’s probably why they tore it down. I’ll give this No Swearing thing a try. What the f@# do I have to lose?

  13. I tried that “not swearing” sh*t, Fran, and let me tell you, it’s f*cked. It usually goes out the f$&#%ing window after about 30 seconds behind the wheel of the car. But the best to you! Abso-f#%$&@ing-lutely!

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