Monday, April 24, 2017

COLUMN: Cursing

Sometimes I wish this wasn't a family newspaper.

It's great that our product appeals to all kinds of readers, and we take care to be inclusive to folks of all ages. It's just that sometimes I wish we could publish an adults-only version. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no hurry to tell you intimate stories of my torrid sex life (mostly because that would require me having a torrid sex life.) And I'm well aware of the fact that nothing would kill our subscriber base faster than a nude pictorial of yours truly.

No, I sometimes want an "adults only" column for one reason and one reason only: I like to swear. I know, I know. It's uncouth. It's awful. It's lowbrow and shameful. But sometimes, I just can't help myself.

We're an advanced society, and yet there are words in our language that are taboo and forbidden to use in polite conversation. That's kind of a ridiculous realization. Outside of saying the name "Voldemort" at Hogwarts, the idea of "forbidden words" seems counter-productive.

After all, what's more exciting than something FORBIDDEN? No one would have cared about the lambada had it been called "the fun dance." Instead, some marketing genius dubbed it "the forbidden dance" and a fad was born. I remember my folks coming home from a PTA meeting and telling me that I couldn't listen to Blondie because their music promoted bad virtues. I left that sit-down knowing only one thing: Blondie was suddenly my favorite band of all time. Forbidden is enticing.

Sometimes it's the only thing capable of adequately expressing an emotion. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, saying "ouch" just doesn't cut it. I was home alone the night I broke my ankle, but that didn't stop me from creatively expressing my feelings on the matter to my empty house, the open air, and two very confused cats.

But the more you curse, the more likely those forbidden words start unnecessarily slipping into conversation. When "I'm going to the store" turns into "I'm going to the [expletive] store," you've got yourself a problem. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I slip. I was out with friends once and telling a story that I must have peppered with some salty language. I didn't even realize until one of my friends sheepishly pointed it out, but a table of kids was right behind me. I felt like an odious scumbag. Don't curse, kids. It isn't cool.

It is, however, occasionally very funny. The REAL reason I wish this was a 21+ publication is that I recently bore witness to a couple of the greatest instances of public swearing EVER. I wish I could tell you all about it, but I can't, because I'm a respectable member of society. So I'll just have to tell you SOME of it.

I was waiting in line at a gas station last week, and their night clerk is fantastic. He's a scrawny little guy with a thin command of the English language, but that doesn't stop him from going toe-to-toe with any troublemakers who might come through the door. That night, one such hoodlum wandered in. No sooner had the guy stepped foot inside when the clerk bounded out screaming. "You are banned!" he yelled. "Get out of store, you _____________!"

I wish I could tell you the contents of that blank. Let's just say it was funny enough for me to start choking. Like I said, the clerk wasn't great at English. So when he went to swear, he just spewed out every curse word he knew, in the most non-sensical manner you could imagine. Accidentally, he just created my new favorite insult, comprised almost exclusively of random naughty words assembled together randomly. It was ridiculous, magical, and scary enough for the bad guy to beat a hasty retreat.

Days later, I found myself at another gas station, filling my car at the pump. Another customer had gone into the station to prepay for some gas. The clerk told him to pull around to the pump adjacent to mine, but before he could, another car swept in and started putting the prepaid gas into his own car.

"Hey!" said the poor guy. "I paid for that gas. You need to go to another pump. Do you hear me? Now I have to go inside and straighten this out. All because you're a doodie-head."

(Note: He did NOT say doodie-head. It was something far more colorful.)

When he found himself being ignored by the gas thief, the exasperated guy just stood there (not) yelling "doodie-head" over and over.

"Doodie-head! Doodie-head! Do you know what that is?! That's when your head... is made of doodie!! That's you. You're a doodie-head!"

I don't know if I'd ever heard an insult that required immediate definition. I wish I knew how it played out from there, but I beat feet out of that escalating road rage-a-thon wishing I could somehow figure out a way to write a column about it.

Good thing we're a family friendly paper.

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