Circa 1986, my third grade besties and I just couldn’t even anymore at school. Three or four of us often stood on the playground pelting basketballs against the brick wall of the school with all our might. As they bounced, we shouted cuss words at the top of our lungs.
Damn, it felt good. Nine-year-old me knew how good swearing felt, even if she had no idea how ridiculous she and her friends were. But at least she was smart enough to restrict such language to grown-up and tattle-tale free spaces.
Present-day, adult me still loves swearing. My husband and I agree that, in our home, a sporting effort to avoid gratuitous cursing when children are within earshot is good enough. In our view, we can’t protect our children’s ears from every fucking impure syllable, so we prefer to educate them and let them decide for themselves.
That’s why I cannot in good faith adopt fake swear words into my vocabulary. I most certainly am not the perfect example for my kids — I swear unapologetically on worthy occasions — but my kids will grow up understanding how language works in our society, dammit!
8 Reasons Faux Swearing Is Bullshit IMHO
1. One word: Catharsis.
It’s like punching a hole in the wall with words. No drywall to repair or knuckles to bandage. Don’t you feel better after letting off some verbal steam?
2. It’s forbidden fruit.
Most of us grew up “not allowed” to swear, but we did it anyway. What our parents didn’t know didn’t hurt them, did it? Even as adults, we’re not supposed to cuss in certain situations, and as parents — that’s most situations. We always want what we can’t have. That’s why it’s so thrilling to break the rules!
Sometimes all I want is to storm around my house screaming obscenities at no one and about nothing in particular. It’s just bad and fun and it makes me feel very cool. Never mind I am not currently and never have been cool.
3. Swearing does not mean you’re uneducated.
Don’t even try the “cursing is vulgar and shows a lack of education” argument on me. I have more education than I care to list and I still fucking love a colorfully sweary rant now and then. Every day. Several times, every day. Don’t get me wrong, having a good vocabulary and knowing how to “use your words” is extremely important. Kids can learn the SAT words and how to swear like a pro. Real scientists have studied this important topic and found that creative swearing is a sign of intelligence. Basically, I’m smart AF.
4. Profanity is sometimes necessary.
Quaint little words like “fudge” and “dog biscuits” don’t do it for me. When I’m pissed as hell or when I break my damn toe on the bed frame again, I need to say some very bad words. Science also backs me up on this. Swearing helps relieve pain. Real emotions like anger, pain, and fear need and deserve to be expressed honestly and fully. Children not only grasp this concept, they need to see real emotion and expression so they can learn how to deal with it.
5. Everyone knows what you really mean.
Yes, if they’re over the age of four, your kids also know. Personally, I’m too embarrassed to even type such silly words, and I would only ever speak them in the most ironic tones, but the internet is lousy with lists of “kid friendly” fake swear words. I’ll admit to using gentler language as necessary — I’m not a total pirate! Pirates are cool AF, though. But it’s pretty obvious what you really mean when you belt out, “Oh, shiitake mushrooms!”
6. Faux swearing is so sad.
I don’t begrudge anyone for not using profanity or revering it like I do, but whenever I hear unfortunate substitutes, I can’t help thinking it just sounds flaccid. It feels divine to unload all that life-induced baggage once in a while. Still, I fully support the choices of anyone who does not wish to experience the stress-relieving bliss profanity can provide.
7. Pretending to be shocked is too much work.
Sometimes kids are gonna hear bad words no matter how many replacement words you stuff into your vocabulary. When that inevitably happens, and your kid repeats an unsavory word or phrase, no reaction is the best reaction. I don’t purposely curse in front of children, but it has happened and I’m OK with that. That’s life, and kids need to learn what it’s all about. No need to get upset. When a new word pops up in our house, we just explain what it means and encourage our son to remember that context is everything. Swear words are not to be said to adults or outside of our home if at all.
8. Women are penalized, not men.
Stodgy old rules of etiquette would have us believe that decent humans don’t cuss. Only vulgar, uneducated people, read women, would ever lower themselves into the slimy depths of such linguistic poverty. Women are not supposed to swear. It’s “unladylike,” and that is exactly why we should swear, whenever we damn well please and with great gusto.
I’m sure there are lists of perfectly reasonable points explaining why we should all avoid swearing completely, but I guarantee you those reasons will not make you feel half as good as the occasional well-crafted string of expletives.