Well, I swear…
Seeing The King’s Speech last night has me thinking about swearing this morning. If you’ve caught the movie, you know an array of four-lettereds fills a functional role as King George VI strives to overcome his stuttering. What struck me while watching the film was how the entire audience–and our mean age was probably early 50s–snickered then laughed out loud when those swear words started flowing. Aging grown-ups giggling over the off-color terms that were the sole reason for the film’s R rating.
Swearing was not allowed in the Carl and Arlene Thompson household. My use of God bless America (reprimanded, of course) when conscripted to pull weeds out of the corn seedlings is part of family legend. And I did hear my mom utter bullshit and my dad say crap–but just once, which I now find remarkable considering they were farming and raising four kids.
My own colorful collection grew rapidly in college, as Country Joe and the Fish performed at Woodstock (www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBdeCxJmcAo) and the previously unutterable moved mainstream. It was at that time I chanced to marry a young literature professor (yep, another story) whose go-to word was summbich, but who had a rich lexicon of Texas trash talk to share.
The sheer fact that Kate’s first full sentence was Ah be daw! (which we finally translated I’ll be darned!) and not something stronger reflects the energy her father and I put into monitoring our language prior to her birth. But then she reached preschool, and being a word girl, she began adopting some fresh material. Our parental decision was to share our own view of curse words: They exist. They can add emphasis. But the difference in knowing when to use one and not becoming language lazy is huge. So Kate was allowed to say all the “bad words” she wanted, but only while sitting on the kitchen island stool and only until the one-minute timer rang. Her dad is still stunned how fast little-kid bathroom words became wholly adult breath-takers.
Now, it’s her turn. When Kate and I Skyped this morning, she told me that her work with her daughter on the “b” sound was evidenced yesterday when she said butthead and Lily parroted “b-b-b-b-b.”
Ah, the Queen’s Speech.