21st Century Dad
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Your Circle of Profanity

October 18th, 2009 . by 21st Century Dad

F-Bombs and Other Linguistic Landmines


One of the cutest things a toddler does is repeat something he or she just heard. It’s cute until your precious little one says something that would be bleeped on TV.

Many years ago, an old boss of mine admonished his young son for dropping an F-bomb. It was clear from his response that he disapproved.

“Don’t ever #*&@ing say @#^% again!”

It became a running joke.

In another instance, I witnessed a woman on the bus talking to one of her son’s friends. He showed the woman a picture of her son on his camera phone. The boy was making a hand gesture commonly used on the roads in South Florida. The woman was appalled and liberally peppered her diatribe with F-bombs. She took out her cell phone, called her son, and a colorful lecture ensued. Because of an editorial decision that affects all my writing here on 21st Century Dad, I cannot provide a transcript.

In Frugal Dad’s review of  Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream, by Adam Shepard, he lamented that it contained enough profanity to turn off much of its potential audience. It’s a shame that it would be seen as such a problem. I encounter plenty of profanity, but I don’t pass harsh judgment on people who use it. The author’s intent was to give the book another layer of realism. I don’t consider that gratuitous usage. It was a creative decision made by the author.

One night, Renee and I brought Twilli to a meeting. A guy was wearing a t-shirt that said, “New York F—ing City.” He apologized for displaying profanity around our baby. I replied, “it’s all good, bro. She can’t read yet anyway.”

Who Blinks First

Most of the adults I know are sensible enough to know when and where profanity is inappropriate to use. There are some adults who refrain from it altogether. I have an ex-girlfriend who only managed to say, “fuh!” in a moment of extreme duress.

I am no saint, but I refrain from using profanity in mixed company. I don’t use it in my writing because it forces me to be more creative. I will rarely blink first when talking to someone I just met. But I do keep a mental roster of those who are OK with it, those who are definitely not OK with it, and those who I prefer to stay on the safe side with, but would move into the “safe” column once they blink. Those who blinked first are in what I call my “circle of profanity.” Okay, I never called them that before. I just made it up. The Bible Belt has a buckle shaped like a giant parallelogram. I live inside that parallelogram. I’ve always been careful, and my usual verbal patterns need no modification here.

If you are a user of profanity, you probably self-censor depending on who you’re with or where you are. You feel a sense of relief when it’s OK to refrain from editing. Sometimes we use it to build rapport.

What You Can Do

The easy answer (and the harder thing to do) is not to swear around your children. If you never use profanity, and your child drops an F-bomb, you can always blame an in-law. 🙂

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6 Responses to “Your Circle of Profanity”

  1. comment number 1 by: Corina

    I think I am way too late in refraining from the profanity. My daughter corrects me when I curse, so she is just fine. My son, on the other hand, says “dammit” under his breath when frustrated. Could be worse.

  2. comment number 2 by: D-Man

    I would like to be in your Circle of Profanity. 🙂

  3. comment number 3 by: D-Man

    Oh, dammit, the blink tags didn’t show up or have any effect in my last comment. I was sure it would be enough to make you blink first. 🙂

  4. comment number 4 by: 21st Century Dad

    So far, 2 “users” have commented. Should I start dropping cussing on my blog?

  5. comment number 5 by: Corina

    That is right. I am a “user”. Profanity is my drug of choice.

  6. comment number 6 by: Glen

    My four year old rebuked me the other day for saying “sucks”… apparently it’s not a nice word… good to know.

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