When I was a lad, bicycling home from junior high school, which proves me to be of a certain age, I practiced cussing. Emphatically spitting out the saltiest four-letter words individually, separately, serially in combination, and by deconstructing and reconstructing them to come up with truly split infinitives in a wish to be specta-fricking-tacular at something that proved I wasn’t quite as good and harmless a kid as everyone thought, I worked at the tetraphonic vocabulary like a beagle worrying a bone.
Shortly I mastered the four-letter obscenity, and with my equally foul-mouthed pals would toss them in profusion at the slightest provocation. Out of Mountain Dew? Getting dark and need to go home for dinner? Got mud on your shoe? Got a sentence that is too boring to be borne? Just feel like cussing? Anything could be an appropriate reason to start cussing.
In front of adults we would mind our manners. But when only peers were about, a casual observer might have wondered why we all sounded like convicts or Tommy from Goodfellas (which hadn’t been written let alone released yet, so now that I think further this development would have been truly miraculous).
High school faded into college and I moved into an all-male hall in a dormitory, and then the cussing got really serious. With nobody about who would admit to being an adult, we all rebelled and cussed a blue streak together. Taken in sum with our shared attraction to sarcasm and existentialism I am certain we were completely unbearable. Reactions from the young women at the college tended to bear this out. Imagine a gang of sarcastic cussing existentialists who think they’re smarter than you or anyone else, and … well … you don’t have to imagine. Just go here and read.
Eventually I started to wise up. I noticed that when I started cussing people looked at me differently, with less respect. And however inventive I got with cuss-words, they were still only a few words to replace a vast vocabulary much as a cloudy night sky obscures thousands of glittering stars in the firmament. When I got married and had kids I resolved to stop cussing so darn-tootin much. I realized that people instantly treated me with more respect for holding my tongue than they had before. Even when I substituted gibberish for cuss-words I got more respect than when I lost control and polluted the air with bad old habits.
And now, I usually don’t cuss. On occasion, I lose my temper or suffer from moral weakness, and then the verbal vermin come out. I smack myself after, and apologize to all who were near. Is that a sign of developing conservatism? I suppose it might be. Regardless, it’s a positive development.
Try it yourself. Say, “I could cuss a blue streak, but I won’t.”