Monday, April 07, 2008


To Cuss Or Not To Cuss

I’m a collector of Geezerisms. That would be those odd phrases uttered by the various old codgers I’ve encountered that almost seem to be in another language. Short turns of phrase that to the speaker sum the situations up perfectly, but often make little or no sense to members of a younger generation and occasionally not to anyone. The majority of my collection comes form a plumber I used to work with. Some of his phrases were inherited from a previous, even older batch of codgers and originated so long ago that their meanings were uncertain, even to him. For a frame of reference think of anything that Foghorn Leghorn would say on the old Looney Tunes. (The boy’s about as sharp as a bag of wet mice.)

I mentioned in my “List of 100 Random Things About Me” that I enjoy cussin’ but just for fun. When I’m mad or in the middle of an intense situation, I prefer to say something silly. It usually defuses the situation and gets things back on track. Anybody can drop an emphatic F-Bomb when things go south, but I think it’s a lot classier to say something like, “Tarnation!” Another favorite of mine, especially in church situations is to let fly with a robust, “Sunova!” and just let it tail off. Frequently it just passes, but occasionally some disapproving parishioner sends a scowl my way, or even, “Son of a what?!” To which I coolly reply, “Son of a preacher man!” in a perfectly innocent manner that implies that I’m slightly hurt that they would think I would say something offensive.

I brought this up, because eventually my kids are going to learn how to swear. Quite likely it will be on the bus, where so many of us learned the “Big Seven”. I was in third grade when I picked up the full arsenal from some fifth and sixth graders and proceeded to get myself into all manner of trouble with them. The grownups in my life obviously disapproved, so I simply learned where I could get away with it. It took a long time to get it all sorted out and I still wrestle with some of it.

My wife already told me that she’s willing to let our short people get away with a couple choice words, but only if they really mean it. I’ve had a similar philosophy toward bands on festival stages I’ve worked. One promoter that I worked for realized he had to draw a line somewhere because there were a lot of parents in the crowd when school age bands took the stage. The rule was simple: It’s ok if you swear in a song because that’s your art, but if you cuss on the mic in between songs you’re cut off.

One thing you won’t catch me doing is “taking the Name in vain”. Someone finally explained to me that when you toss off a G.D. or J.C. in anger, you’re calling on the power of God, with no expectation of His action. Insulting really, so I don’t do it anymore. (How many times does somebody have to call your name without wanting anything before you get fed up?) There’s also the biblical concept that you’re polluted not by what goes in your ears, but by what comes out of your mouth. Parents who try to shield their children from bad language are just delaying the inevitable, more important to teach them proper usage. A character in one of the Alien movies who’s a member of a group of religious brothers drops an S-Bomb at one point, and when corrected by one of his mates replies with a growl, “It’s all right to say shit… it ain’t against God”.

While I still have a tendency to let loose with some cussin’ when the company I’m with will not be offended, it’s impossible for my words to escape the ears of the Almighty. Hence the vast arsenal I’ve gathered of odd things to say instead. Just having a few of these in your pocket, despite their seeming stupidity can make you seem more intelligent. Here are a few examples:

Anybody can say, “Tighter than a sunovabitch” but if you come out with, “Tighter than two coats of paint” you’re sure to get a chuckle or at least a smirk.

“Man I’m F***in’ hungry!” is easily replaced with “I’m hungrier’n a tick on a teddy bear”

That’s it for now, I’ll be runnin round like a banty rooster the rest of the day. The driveway’s rougher than a cob and I’ll be sweatin like a butcher by the time I get the place cleaned up. I’ve got a million of ‘em. Send me yours.

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