9 Rules Of Swearing For My Children

by Kathryn Leehane
Originally Published: 
A small boy screaming and swearing

To my sweet, innocent child,

I have heard your furious whispers. I have seen your trembling hands move quickly to hide the scribbled notes. I know—you’re experimenting with some new language.

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Technically, those strong words are called profanities, and they aren’t new at all. They have been around a long time.

Did you know that the Bible mentions vulgarities like “dung” and “piss?” Yep, it does. Dirty words appear all across literature. Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence, Mark Twain, and many other famous authors employed expletives freely and deliberately.

I don’t consider swearing inherently “bad.” Hell, some British researchers published a study stating that cussing can actually relieve pain. Those smart bastards won a Nobel Peace Prize for that report. Personally, I find profanity an effective technique for anger management.

The point being: your mom knows a lot about swear words. They can be used for good or for evil, and you need to respect their power. I’m not telling you that you should swear. (I’m fine if you never pick up the habit.) But if you decide to dabble in the profane, you need to know how to do so. Here are my rules for you.

1. First and foremost, learn what the swear words actually mean.

Look them up in the dictionary or ask me. Each one is an alternative word for something else. Knowing the definition of every curse word is the only way to…

2. Use profanity correctly and in the proper context.

You need to learn when and how to use the right words so you don’t look like an ass. Did you stub your toe? A boisterous “FUCK!” is appropriate, while “Oh dick!” sounds wrong. By the way, it should go without saying…

3. Never swear at school.

NEVER. EVER. Or in front of people you don’t know. Or in front of your grandparents. Except your great-grandmother — she’ll probably laugh and teach you some new expletives. Which leads me to my next point…

4. Know your audience.

Don’t be an asshole and curse intentionally to piss somebody off or to get attention. It’s not nice. Understand that some people get their panties in a bunch if you swear in front of them. When in doubt, keep your damn trap shut. And to become a skilled practitioner…

5. Appreciate the nuances of the language.

There are subtleties worth noting. For example, the meaning of “fuck” changes depending upon what word you use after it: “me,” “you,” “off,” or “it.” These are important distinctions, and you need to master that shit. But please…

6. Don’t overdo it.

A sundae is not delicious if you put too many sprinkles on it. Treat obscenities like sprinkles. They should enhance, not detract from, the message you are sending. Use the words for emphasis. And only occasionally. That way, when you do use them, people know you’re not fucking around. Oh, and, by the way…

7. Don’t let anyone tell you profanity is for the uneducated.

You don’t have to put up with that shit. James Joyce sure didn’t, and neither do I. Sure, I could say, “Please refrain from exhibiting selfish and aggressive behavior in my presence.” But this college-educated woman knows the power and efficiency of saying, “Don’t be a dick.” That being said…

8. There are some words that are so offensive that you ought not utter them.

For instance, let’s try not to piss off any higher power, OK? And C U Next Tuesday? NOT OKAY IN MY HOUSE. That goes for derogatory terms for any race, religion, or sexual orientation as well. For those words, you will be digitally grounded. Like, no phone or Internet for an obscene amount of time. And, Sweetie, even without these words…

9. Don’t be surprised when people are offended by your choice of language.

Hey, you decided to use the words, now you have to stand by that decision. Not everyone is going to like it, but you can shrug off that shit. Some people just don’t have a fucking sense of humor.

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