Posted by: laughs4dads | October 11, 2010


When I was growing up, there was a kid in our neighborhood who cursed. Not like the proverbial longshoreman, but he’d blurt out an “f” or “sh” word here and there. (Apologies by the way to the Longshoremen Anti-Defamation League, if there is one. And if there is, they should come up with a name with an acronym that is not pronounced LADLE.)

Anyway, this kid really upset my mother. Well, not the kid exactly, but the kid’s parents, who obviously had very dirty mouths and did not have the common decency to edit their utterings in front of said kid, so that said kid wouldn’t be walking around just begging to have his mouth washed out with Ivory soap. This, of course, all according to my mother.

My mother, meanwhile, used a litany of words starting with “sh” to denote things like, “Oh, my, I just bashed my finger with a hammer,” or “Gee whiz, I forgot to go to that doctor’s appointment.” Sometimes she’d say “Shoot.” Or “shoe.” Or “shivowitz.” Didn’t matter. As long as it had an “sh” and wasn’t that word that normal people say in those situations.

Evidently, there was something about that “sh” sound that was good enough for mom. And, in fact, there does seem to be a natural tendency toward “sh” when something undesirable happens, although I don’t know if that’s human instinct or a trait only of English speaking people. Maybe it’s because it sounds a little like letting off steam. “Sssshhhhh.”

Anyhow, it appears that my mother thought that once I went to college, she was free to curse to her heart’s content. She seemed liberated being able to say the only really good word for those situations, the release of “sh” followed by the punctuation of “it.” She was a much happier person then.

So fast forward a bunch of years, and Casey is born, and she’s picking up words here and there, and I thought, ”I’ll be goshdarned if my lovely daughter is going to be a potty-mouth,” so I was heck-bent not to curse anywhere in her general vicinity.

This pledge lasted exactly as long as it took me to slam my toe into the leg of the coffee table, which is to say, not very long. I simply could not think fast enough, while my toe was in agony, to convert my natural instinct into some harmless “sh” word. I instantly gained new respect for my mother.

For her part, Casey thought that my string of expletives was highly amusing, possibly because I was hopping on one foot while I was uttering it.

Why can’t we call a spade a spade with our kids? Why can’t we say that, yes, the “sh” word is not a nice word, but there are times, like when you step on a loose Lego block with a bare foot, that it is absolutely appropriate. In fact, if it did not exist, somebody would have to invent it. People in Africa, when they step on a loose Lego block, or maybe a poisoned dart, probably say it even though it doesn’t mean anything in their language. According to an anime site, the Japanese say “kuso.” I don’t know if that affords them the same release as our word, but I guess it means I just cursed in Japanese.

As Casey grew older, I don’t know how filthy her conversation was with friends, but she was pretty PG-13 with us. Something would slip out occasionally, and for awhile, Casey would blush a bit, but once it became apparent to her that we didn’t care too much, we were all able to converse like normal, foul-mouthed Americans.

But I didn’t think we’d be unloading any freighters any time soon.


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