I believe I am a fairly articulate person. I work with small children and also large children (college students) who use terrible vernacular. I try to show them the error of their ways. I rarely swear. But someone brought it to my attention yesterday that I overuse the word s&#!. I confess: I am quite fond of this word.
Sure, it’s not as colorful or diverse as the “F” word. Still, I feel I am able to convey feelings of intense disdain quite effectively with s&#!. I use it specifically to emphasize how much I don’t care about someone’s opinion or drama (i.e., I really don’t give a s&#! about her boy issues.). I find that it rolls off my tongue more and more easily with practice.
My mother would be mortified at the extent of my usage. I am 31 years old and I still make a conscious effort not to swear around her. I slip up from time to time. The other night, I was cooking while on the phone with her. I spilled something on the counter and cried out, “Damn it!” followed by, “Sorry, Mom!” There was a stunned and confused silence on the other end of the line. She tried to continue talking as if nothing happened. But then I spilled something else. “S$#! Damn it…I mean, sorry!” To this she responds with her typical sound of disapproval. It’s kind of hard to relay in print. Here, I’ll try. It sounds like, Hummmmmm! starting out kind of low and quiet, then goes up at the end, very high-pitched and sharp. There is definitely a specific tone involved. But this time, she also followed it with a chuckle.
She is more forgiving now that I’m in my 30s.
When I was a kid, though, she yelled at me for saying “Oh my god!” or “God, Mom!” She would sweep through the house like a force of nature, crying out, “What you mean, ‘god’? Why you say ‘god’ me?!” while gesturing with her hands in exasperation. So I switched to oh my gosh. And she still didn’t like that, even though I would reiterate and emphasize gosssshhhh. Made no difference to her.
To this day, I have no idea when or where she learned that English curse words were bad. She is a devout Buddhist and tried to instill in me the precepts, including “right speech.” I suppose that’s the root of it.
Lao curse words, on the other hand, are totally off limits to me. I still put that restriction on myself, even now that Mom is more forgiving. I can honestly say, right hand to Gosh, that I have never uttered a Lao curse word in my entire life. The translations are very specific and descriptive of your mother or sister and the relations they have with various animals. I don’t even want to give you an example for literary sake. Just trust me – they are horrifying.
My aunt (on my father’s side), Pa Boun, swears like a sailor. I don’t think she minds me sharing that; she probably thinks it’s hilarious. She has road rage like you wouldn’t believe. Someone cuts her off in traffic and she not only gives them the finger but also follows up with a litany of curses. G-damn you, you muddaf$%! Where the hell you learn to drive? And so on and so on.
We all laugh. I don’t know why it’s funny or why these words are still taboo to me.