I received a comment from a lovely lady from Utah asking me to elliminate the bad words in my blog as her children also read blogs she follows. My sister-in-law editor once questioned my language and I responded with the following on "CUSSING" which is part of the yet unpublished "I Used To Be Stupid." I do try and use my cursing for comic value and doubt I can change. Perhaps The Cranky Old Man should be off base to children. I don't think words are evil, the intent of words is what can be hurtful.
When did cursing become an acceptable part of our culture? I remember the movie “Saving Private Ryan”. Reviewers credited the film with its abundant use of “bad words” as finally accurately depicting a war scenario. Seemingly the stress of a brutal war such as WWII would have brought out uncensored language from hungry, sleep deprived, un-showered men, pained from seeing their friends and comrades being shot or blown up. But was this depiction really accurate?The WWII generation I knew never cursed. They did not even call it cursing; bad words were “cussing”. Even the word curse was a curse. I never once heard my father, any of my uncles, or my grandfather use a “bad word”. I never heard a neighbor or teacher use a “bad word”.
My Mom did have a potty mouth. Faced with a minor inconvenience such as a dropped egg she would sometimes exclaim “Hell’s Bells”. We would not even flinch. Something major like a burnt and ruined pot roast would elicit a “Dammit to Hell!” The entire Hagy clan would become scarce over this outburst until we heard the downgraded “Hell’s Bells” when we knew the coast was clear. Other than those rare outbursts I never heard a “cuss” while growing up.
The Lord’s name was never taken in vain. Damn, Dammit, or God Dammit were substituted with Darn, Dang it, Gosh Darn, Gol Darn it, or Dad Burn it. “Jesus Christ”, was “Cheese and Rice”.
All “cussing” was watered down. Shit! Was Shoot! Phooey replaced Fuck and Shucks was a combo. Crap became Crud, Piss was Pee and you stepped in dog doo, doody, poop, or poo. People who you did not like were not assholes, they were horse’s asses, or the even more watered down horse’s patoots. My Dad would never directly call anyone an ass; he would just comment, “You know there are more horse’s asses in this world than there are horses”.
Apparently sailors regularly used “bad” words as I always heard the expression “He curses like a sailor”. I never heard a sailor curse, but I’m guessing they did. I’m not as sure about the soldiers as depicted in today’s movies.
I think the non use of these words was firmly ingrained in this generation and they were avoided by most, even under the greatest stress imaginable. Before this generation would holler “Die you mother fucking German asshole”, they would remember that bar of soap Grandma made them eat when caught saying “Damn you!” and they would revert to, “Phooey on you, you flipping Krout!”
WWII graffiti would confirm the above assertion. I’ve never seen pictures of war torn walls with “Fuck you Hitler” or “Mussolini sucks cock” written on them, only the scrawlings of a man peering over a wall with the caption “Killroy was here”. Pretty nasty stuff don’t cha think?
My high school football coach, Gary Kehler, never cursed. The worst word he ever used was “piddle”. “Hagy that block was piddle”. I never really knew what piddle meant, but when I heard it in conjunction with my name I just nodded my head and ran a lap. He might have once hollered “Dag Blast It”, but that was leveled at our fullback Leroy Gallman, so I ignored it.
Piddle means CRAP you dumb bunny. Now take a lap!
You got it coach.
I believe it was comedians who first pushed the envelope with words. Curse words added punctuation to a story and the shock factor made people laugh. Lenny Bruce was the first to openly use curse words, and he was publicly ostracized and jailed for his use of unacceptable language. Privately his humor was legendary.
George Carlin’s brilliant routine on the seven words you can’t say on television finally opened the floodgates on profanity. A master wordsmith, Carlin brilliantly exposed the hypocrisy of the banning of “shit, piss, fuck, cunt, mother-fucker, cock-sucker, and tit”. His logical dissertations on the use of words were genius.
“You can prick your finger…... but you can’t finger your prick!!"
Once acceptable as humor, profanity seeped into books, movies and cable TV. So common did this speech become in the media, it worked its way into our everyday lexicon. Previously limited to back alleys, seedy bars, or stag parties, profanity is now common on crowded streets, public transportation and cocktail parties. Once never uttered in the presence of a Lady, these words are now often initiated by ladies.
The use of profanity does have a place in humor, and I am in fact guilty of using it in an attempt at humor in my writing, but the world might be better off if we limited these words in our normal everyday life. How many knife stabbings, gun shots or incidents of road rage would be eliminated if “Phooey on you, you big stupid head” replaced, “Fuck you, you fucking asshole!”?
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can cut like a knife! “Ugly,” can hurt. “Fatso” can be painful. “Nigger,” “Faggot,” or “Honkey” can be lethal. “Old fat bald guy,” is also not very nice (trust me).
All words have a time and a place, but they can be used with the intent to hurt. When used to hurt, curse words are the weapons of mass destruction in our verbal arsenal.
God Dammit, did I just write something profound?
Let me read that again………Shit, I think that’s profound!
I’ll read it again in ten years, I’m sure by then it will just be stupid.