Why Cussing Is Okay In My House

Why Cussing Is Okay In My House July 30, 2019
Me piggybacking a koala.

For the sake of our first-time readers, I will repeat myself: I used to live in Australia. I spent 1986 in Adelaide. I was eight years old. I recall meeting Kylie Minogue at the Royal Show, then just a budding star on the riveting Aussie soap, Neighbours. I remember we ate a lot of lamb and mint jelly. To this day, the taste of lamb puts me right back in the dining room of our little spider-infested bungalow in Flagstaff Hill. There are loads of memories of beaches and wineries, road trips and kangaroos. I even got the opportunity to cuddle a koala.

I also recall singing along to songs about farts.

In particular, Mick the Master Farter. In case you didn’t know, he put the art back into farting with his double-jointed arse.

When we moved back to Canada, we had many souvenirs, but none got near as much usage as the cassette tape of Kevin Bloody Wilson, the master musician behind Mick, the Master Farter. For the first couple of years back in the Great White North, the tape collected dust in the back of a drawer in my parents’ closet. Eventually, though, one of us stumbled across it, and we giggled as a family listening to Kev call Santa Claus the c-word.

A couple of days later, I played the tape for a friend, who begged me for a copy. She shared it with another friend who wanted a copy, and before I knew it, I was copying Kevin Bloody Wilson tapes for half of Richmond, BC. It spread like wildfire, and as you can likely predict, I eventually got in trouble. Apparently, other people’s parents weren’t so happy about their kids listening to some crude Australian fella shout about effing on first dates.

This meant, of course, my parents had to have a chat with me. If you knew my mom and Dad, though, you’d know this was just a formality to avoid the wave of growing outrage and to please the pearl-clutching moms and dads in the neighbourhood.

“So, you’ve been pirating Kevin Bloody Wilson tapes, huh?” My Dad asked.

“Mmhmm. Yep.”

“Well, Courtney, some people are upset about that.”

“Mmkay.”

“You know pirating copyrighted material is illegal, right?”

“Yeah, but where else would we be able to get Kev tapes here in Canada, Dad?”

“That’s an excellent point. I tell you what, it should be illegal not to import that album.” He giggled. My Dad’s a giggler.

“That’s true.”

“But anyway, parents are upset because they think the music is rude.”

“So?”

“That’s what I thought, hun.”

“Seems a silly thing to get upset about, a catchy ditty about farts.”

“It is a silly thing to get upset about, pork chop, but you know most parents have a stick up their arse.”

“I do, Dad.”

“So, maybe let’s just share it between the four of us, then, okay?”

“Yeah, pop it in right now!” My mom yells from the kitchen as she’s chopping up some veggies and before we knew it, we were all singing about Mick winning the rugby match with a grass-scorching ripper.

So, that’s where I got my attitude towards swearing from. Pretty blatantly obvious, then, I suppose.

As a person raised in a home like this, it’s never made sense to me why some people get their panties in a knot over specific arrangements of letters. To me, language has always been about intent. Words can and do hurt, but it’s only the intent behind them that causes it. It’s never the word itself. Consider these sentences:

“You look f*cking great!”

“You’re a f*cking jerk!”

Both sentences contain a word that would have the blue-hairs all a-tizzy, right? But only one includes the intent to injure. Even then, tone of voice is required to get what the speaker is truly saying.

And now, a thought experiment. Imagine, if you will, being voraciously hungry. Maybe you’ve been out scuba-diving all day and only snacked on granola bars and ginger tablets. Your hunger is out of control, and all you can think of is shovelling sustenance into your face hole. So, to eat, you find yourself a smorg. Right on the sign, it says, “all you can eat!”. I’ll make them regret they ever said that, you think to yourself and head inside.

With your stomach rumbling, you grab yourself a plate and head to the buffet case all a-glow with the amber haze of heat lamps and the first thing you see is a pile of boiled, overcooked potatoes. Pass. In the next vessel is a mound of peas so overdone they’re grey. Ick. No thanks. A step further and you’re standing in front of cabbage that’s had all of its cabbageness cooked so far out of it, you’d need a wormhole to get it back. The buffet goes on and on like this until you get to a pile of the crunchiest, crispiest looking fried chicken you’ve ever seen. I mean, this chicken is so glorious, you wonder if maybe Jesus himself battered it with god’s love and Emeril bammed it right in the fryer. Flecks of fresh paprika taunt you from within the chicken’s crust as you grab the tongs and your stomach groans so loud, you catch the attention of the server.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, you can’t have that.” He says, snatching the tongs from your hands. “Why don’t you try some of our boiled quinoa and kale, instead?”

To me, the English language is a buffet like this. It’s full of words that will fill a belly, for sure. It’s gonna get the job done. But there’s a precious princess standing between you and the good stuff, the stuff that packs real flavour and texture. For the sake of feigned personal injury, one simply must not touch these words.

In short, people who don’t like it when I swear are saying, “Here you go, dear writer, lover of words and of invoking deep emotion with language, here you go. Have all the words you want. Pile your plate high with every word ever… except, of course, this handful of the most powerful ones. Those are off-limits because dumb stuff.”

And it is always stupid stuff. The reasons I’ve heard for poo-pooing the art of the cuss are:

1. It means you have a poor vocabulary. Which is, of course, as ridiculous as a Laveyan Satanist praying to god. It’s not that I don’t have the vocabulary to write, “My good man! Thy commode whiffs profusely of excrement.” It’s that “Dude, your can smells like sh*t” is more my style.

2. It’s unnecessary. My favourite take on this comes from the treasured Stephen Fry,

It’s not necessary to have colored socks. It’s not necessary for this cushion to be here. But is anyone going to write in and say, ‘I was shocked to see that cushion there! It really wasn’t necessary’? No. Things not being necessary is what makes life interesting.

3. “But what about the children?” When the delicate little doilies ask me this, I always respond, what about them? What about the children? I can say poop, kaka, excrement, feces and dung to them but somehow the word sh*t, which means precisely the same thing is going to corrupt their little minds and send them reeling through life on a road to drug-fueled self-destruction? Can you demonstrate the correlation here with facts and data, please? No? I didn’t think so, you witless, self-important lummox.

None of these reasons gets us any closer to understanding why we can’t eat the fried chicken. And so, until a good reason is given, my kids are freely able to swear at their leisure. Of course, I tell them to avoid it when in the company of people outside of our family. When my son asked why once, I explained,

“You know, kiddo. I wish I knew. I wish I knew why some people choose to go about their perfectly lovely day, basking in the sun, greeting neighbours and petting puppies and then allow that day to be spoiled after hearing someone utter one of the no-no words. I can’t really explain it to you, little dude, but if I had to guess, I’d say they don’t have enough to do. Their lives are empty and maybe they feel like life is meaningless and so they have to find some way to fill their day and give it meaning.”

I also explain that though the words themselves are harmless, words can still hurt when there is malicious intent behind them.

My kids are 10 and 17. Our policy on swearing has always been this way in our home. They’re pretty solid on the concept of what we mean vs. what we say. They are both kind, polite and lovely kids to be around.

My kids are free to express themselves at home in any way they feel fit, so long as the intent behind the expression is not to hurt. And so, sometimes, we sit down at the table, and the little one says,

“Hey Google, play Mick the Master Farter.”

And we laugh our way through dinner.

What do you think about swearing? Do you think we should avoid using swear words around kids? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Cozmo the Magician

    1st off.. to make people’s lives easier.. If ANY thread is going to need this , this one will:
    How &#8203to &#8203sink &#8203the &#8203CensorShip:

    A)Open &#8203Notepad
    B)type &#8203comment &#8203with &#8203ANY &#8203FUCKING &#8203WORDS &#8203YOU &#8203WANT
    C) &#8203Click &#8203Edit->replace &#8203all
    D) &#8203replace &#8203all &#8203’space’ &#8203with &#8203’SpaceAmpersand#8203′
    E) &#8203Edit->Select &#8203all, &#8203Copy &#8203
    F) &#8203Paste &#8203into &#8203comment &#8203and &#8203NUKE &#8203THE &#8203ASSININE &#8203NANNYBOT

  • Cozmo the Magician

    on the one hand… &#8203OK, &#8203I &#8203think &#8203if &#8203someone &#8203is &#8203old &#8203enough &#8203to &#8203know &#8203what &#8203a &#8203word &#8203really &#8203means. &#8203 &#8203And &#8203can &#8203use &#8203it &#8203properly* &#8203(more &#8203on &#8203that), &#8203and &#8203ESPECIALLY &#8203if &#8203they &#8203can &#8203FUCKING &#8203SPELL &#8203IT &#8203correctly, &#8203then &#8203let &#8203them &#8203rock &#8203on. &#8203 &#8203On &#8203the &#8203other &#8203hand, &#8203of &#8203course &#8203children &#8203should &#8203learn &#8203that &#8203many &#8203many &#8203people &#8203will &#8203find &#8203certain &#8203words &#8203offensive &#8203so &#8203there &#8203will &#8203likely &#8203be &#8203consequences &#8203depending &#8203on &#8203when/where &#8203use &#8203them. &#8203 &#8203But, &#8203on &#8203the &#8203gripping &#8203hand… &#8203FUCK &#8203THE &#8203SNOWFLAKE &#8203language &#8203police. &#8203 &#8203And &#8203I &#8203hope &#8203patheos &#8203eventually &#8203shoves &#8203a &#8203mega &#8203virus &#8203up &#8203the &#8203ass &#8203of &#8203this &#8203nannybot.

    *ie &#8203in &#8203a &#8203way &#8203that &#8203works &#8203grammatically &#8203enough &#8203that &#8203the &#8203other &#8203person &#8203understands. &#8203 &#8203IIRC &#8203George &#8203Carlin &#8203had &#8203a &#8203lot &#8203of &#8203fun &#8203with &#8203the &#8203MANY &#8203uses &#8203of &#8203the &#8203word &#8203FUCK. &#8203 &#8203’Fuck &#8203man, &#8203that &#8203is &#8203stupid!’ &#8203 &#8203’Whole &#8203fuck! &#8203 &#8203That &#8203is &#8203awesome’ &#8203 &#8203’I &#8203can’t &#8203fucking &#8203believe &#8203what &#8203Trump &#8203tweeted &#8203THIS &#8203morning’ &#8203’And &#8203yet &#8203ANOTHER &#8203fucking &#8203catholic &#8203prick &#8203has &#8203been &#8203found &#8203guilty &#8203of &#8203fucking &#8203kids’

  • My mom was old-fashioned, the wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap type.

    For me, I’m nonchalant on swearing. I actually used to work in construction. I can think of no rational reason to avoid swearing around kids, and most of the taboos around swear words seem like arbitrary rules to me. (The taboo around the N-word has a good reason: it is tied to racism against black people and used to put them down. Like you said, there is no reason why the s-word should be taboo but synonyms are fine.)

    Another reason I don’t believe in avoiding swear words around kids is that those words are common in adult language, so why tell kids not to use them only to have them use them when they grow up. I also think banning those words arounds kids trains them to be naive; that’s how I felt when I heard a carpenter use the f-word with every other word. Also, kids *are* gonna hear those words eventually. Why try to stop the inevitable?

    Also, other languages have swear words as well; however, swearing doesn’t translate literally. Some things are more offensive in one language than in another. For example, in Dutch, the strongest swear words refer to diseases, and the more 69deadly it historically was or currently is, the stronger the term. In English, disease references aren’t even considered swearing.

    Also, one trend I noticed: swear words tend to reference socially taboo topics or break taboos. In many societies, dissing mama is taboo, and the strongest swear words in those languages involve mama, such that literally translate as “your mother’s c***”, which English speakers just don’t say. In Spanish, one expression literally means, “F*** your mother!” In English, we tend to leave folks’ mothers out of it, even when 69cussing them out.

  • guerillasurgeon

    Kids are quite capable of learning when and when not to swear. And if you disapprove of swearing they will simply not do it in front of you – until they decide on a bit of defiance. Never cared about it very much myself, and my son swears a lot less than I do. I have a friend who had/has four daughters – he swore constantly, and I remember going for a walk with them one day in the bush and one of them telling him she thought it was a bit juvenile. Had to laugh at that.

  • Obligatory Carlin:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqvLTJfYnik

    Growing up, yes, some words were off-limits. “Bad” words. Three guesses how long that lasted after I discovered George Carlin.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    “…me and my house, we shall serve the CUSS…”

    😉

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Would you believe I heard this off an LP I was able to check out of the town library? VERY cool librarian running the place.

  • I found it on CD at our local library.

  • se habla espol

    Cos, your recipe for censorbot evasion would be better were you to do it right. Unless you have some sort of unmentioned macro that replaces “SpaceAmpersand” with ‘ &’, it won’t work as written. To make it work, change point D) to

    D) replace all ‘space’ with ‘ &#8203’.

    It might look better with <code> tags:
    D) replace all ' ' (that’s a space) with ' &#8203' to make the spaces show up better.
    Of course, in your explanation, you have to spell & as &amp;.

  • Heardling

    LOL!! So well done Co! Laughed all the way thru it!!!

  • Traci Winter McLaughlin

    We swear around our children, and allow them to swear at home because it has allowed them to learn self control & restraint for when they’re with others. I’d rather they be familiar with the words, and learn when it’s okay to use them than to have them get in trouble because they don’t know any different. We also teach them that it’s not just the words you say, but how you say them and the reverse of that as well.

  • Thanks, Mom!

  • Yep, I find that telling a kid that a word is off-limits gives that word more appeal. If, anytime they utter it, you react with shock and anger, they then understand it to have the power to shock and anger. if, on the other hand, you teach them when and how to use the word and about the intent behind what you say, they tend to just see it as another word not unlike all the others.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I heard it off LP my MOM had bought and played (:

  • Fraser

    you have far too much time on your hands…. 🙂

  • Heather C.

    Thank you for this! I felt the same way raising my son. And he turned out ok. Just got his bachelor’s degree and is growing into a pretty reasonable adult.

  • persephone

    Our rule was always that they could certainly swear at home, but school and other places would not approve, and why. We may have used the stick up the ar69se example.

  • bekar

    I love it! Wish I’d been raised that way. I’ve no intention of having children, but if I did, I’d do about the same as you, except with an extra “Super don’t say those words around grandma and grandpa, because it’ll really pi$s them off”. Or around the sensor ship…

  • Weslee Hancock

    i don’t care about the swearing i want the fried chicken

  • serafina

    …and there’s nothing self important or lummox-y about your article…no…..

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    YOUR KIND don’t deal well with *nuance*, do all y’all?

  • serafina

    “YOUR KIND”??? Sorry, I’m sure you didn’t intend to stereotype, could you explain what you mean? Or did I miss the “nuance”?

  • Rennyrij

    The operational word, I think, is INTENT. One of the other words that is important is RESPECT. Our society has built up a tradition of showing respect to others by “watching our language”, especially in polite company. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Flaring off with these “unacceptable” words, is received by the listener as showing that the speaker doesn’t care about the listener’s sensibilities, and that the speaker’s feelings are much more important than those of the person being spoken to, or in their company. One of the things that happens is a reduction in respect for that speaker, by those spoken to (or near). “He doesn’t care, why should I care about him or his opinions?” George Carlin missed the boat in his rant about “seven words”. He was more interested in his own liberty of speech, than he was in other peoples’ sense of propriety. And he lost the whole value of using certain words sparingly, because when you salt & pepper your language constantly with such words, you not only alienate those who’ve been brought up differently, those words begin to lose whatever strength or impact they had. Most of those words are used in order to put some emphasis, some punch, into the message. When overused, the hearer’s brain says, “oh, well, ill-breeding is all too common”, and may miss the whole message that the speaker was trying to put across! SO. DO you want to be heard? Keep the expletives and epithets out. There are plenty of words that can tell your story, without resorting to “common vulgarity” (which is a redundancy).

  • serafina

    How many times can I upvote this!!!!

  • Shari

    I heard him do this in person on a date with my ex. 1972 or 73 at a junior college. It was wonderful.

  • blondein_tokyo

    But the truth is, I don’t care about your sensibilities. I don’t care about your sensibilities in the same way I do t care about your religion. If ideas are illogical, unreasoned, or if I think they’re just plain silly, then why would I respect them?

    And I could turn this around on you: why should I be forced to adhere to *your* sensibilities? What makes you think they should apply to me? How arrogant – especially in view of the fact that “sensibilities” are made-up ideas by people who simply want to try and control how other people “ought to” behave.

    Just like I won’t stop wearing mini-skirts because it offends certain people that a 46 year old women doesn’t have the sensibility to “dress her age”, I’m not going to refrain from cursing.

    I guess we won’t be friends, but I’m pretty sure I won’t feel any lack. 🙂

  • blondein_tokyo

    Cursing isn’t inherently abusive, and one can be abusive without cursing.

  • nerdmaestro

    I don’t have kids but my approach to swearing is the same all communication: know your audience. Swearing is slang and therefore it is casual language. Don’t use it in more formal settings. It is also considered “impolite” so don’t use it with an audience that may be casual but everyone is still “acting on their best behavior.” If you want to play it safe don’t swear. If you don’t mind the occasional etiquette faux pas swear freely.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Just like I won’t stop wearing mini-skirts

    TBH, you sound like a bad piece of work.

    And if you “don’t care”, what’s to stop anybody *else* from not caring about what YOU want, right down to denying YOU consent and autonomy?

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    You’re attacking someone as ‘self-important’ when they’re explaining their view and position.

    That makes you an authoritarian follower…that is YOUR KIND.

  • Jim Jones

    Never heard of him. Now found these on the Torrent network:

    Kevin Bloody Wilson – Excess all Areas (2010)

    Kevin Bloody Wilson – 20 Years of Kev with covers

    kevin bloody wilson christmas songs

    Kevin Bloody Wilson (lots of swearing)

    Kevin Bloody Wilson 50 Great tracks

    The Worst Of Kevin Bloody Wilson

    Kevin Bloody Wilson The Worst Of mad4music 320

  • serafina

    The self importance is in the content and tone, not the mere fact that they are explaining. But you’re right. There’s nothing like tossing a few cuss words around to show the world you’ve thrown off the shackles.

  • Hah, fair enough!

  • Cynthia

    Good rule of thumb: If you don’t have anything nice to say…say it in Yiddish.