Momma Don’t ‘llow No Bad Words ‘round Here

When I was a little girl, I was not allowed to cuss.

No bad words in our house.

The question is…what’s a bad word?

Bad words 4Like most kids growing up, if I heard a bad word said by a little boy on the playground—bear in mind this was usually the student who’d flunked a grade or two, or who came from the kind of home where he had to fight to survive—anyway when a “bad” word flew out of his mouth, there was a mass collective sucking in of breath. I sucked in my breath right along with everyone else, and waited for the sky to fall.

And fall it did, usually in the form of a trip to the principal’s office.

But even as a little girl I was a good thinker, and when I thought about it, I found I had a fundamental philosophical problem with the idea of picking out random words and making them ‘bad.”

Now that I’m writing small-town contemporary romance, I’m dealing withbad words 8 the whole question of who uses those words and who doesn’t.

So anyway back to my childhood and the whole cussing thing.

See, when I was a little girl, even on the list of bad words, some words were WAY more “bad” than others.

Hmmm…how to explain….

They fell on a sort of scale, I guess.

For the sake of our discussion, Let’s make it a scale of 1-10. One (1) is just a little troublesome. But a word that was a 10? Yeah. That would send you straight to the darkest corner of hell.

bad-wordsLessee….since we try hard to keep our blog PG-13, I’ll fudge the spellings of some of these.   My childhood list looked something like this—

*Damn—10 Absolutely not allowed. Because that had something fuzzy and abstract to do with cursing God (as in G-D-it, I suppose), even if the Lord’s name was not brought into it at all.  I try not to do this with the Lord’s name even now, and I feel bad when I slip.

*Dang—9   Absolutely not allowed. Because it was a derivation of damn. Just not quite as world-ending bad.

*Darn—8 Yes, that’s right. Darn was an 8 in our house. Because darn was considered a derivation of damn, and damn was…you know…a 10. It was troublesome to me though, because when my cousins came down from Ohio, they said darn all the time. That was not a bad word in their house.

Little Cassondra became confused.Bad words3

How come God would get mad at ME for saying darn, but He didn’t get mad at my cousins? Were their thoughts somehow more pure when they said darn? They were older than I was, but they were boys, so I was guessing that no, their thoughts were not, in fact, more pure.

*Sh*t—7-8, depending on the day. And looky there. I still am not typing the “I” in the middle of that word.

*Shoot—0 this one, though I was told it was, indeed, a derivation of sh*t, for some asinine reason was totally okay. It didn’t even make a ranking of 1. So you were allowed to say “Oh, shoot!” But you’d go to hell for “Oh, sh*t!”

*Crap—5  This was a 5 until my brothers and sister—all college age when I was very small– came home and were using it all the time. It somehow became more acceptable then, even to my mom. Crap dropped to a 2. Maybe a 3 if my mom was in the wrong mood when she heard it said.  Using it was a bit of a….well…a crap shoot.

But see…my cousins from Ohio? They weren’t allowed to say crap at all. In their house, that was a high-level BAD word.

bad words7I remember the first time I said “crap” in front of them. Yep, you got it. There was the collective sucking in of breath.

I was embarrassed, but not sure why. A tough place for a little girl to be, for certain.

*Hell—9  Yeah, this was a bad one, but it was rife with difficult subtleties.

It was a 9, you see, unless you were the preacher and were threatening everyone with the possibility of going there for all eternity.   Or unless you were speaking (reverently of course) about someone you knew, because you were worried that he or she was headed that direction.

Otherwise? You’d go to hell for saying hell.

*Ass—6 This was a really confusing one. I was allowed to say butt, hind-end, behind, bottom, and hiney, but my cousins from Ohio were not. They had to use “Donkey Outlinebucket,” which I thought was silly. None of us, of course, were allowed to say “ass.”

Once again, the preacher could use this one, because of course he was reading it out of scripture. Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

Those Philistines must’ve pissed Samson off something awful.

Oh, looky there! I just used another one!

*piss—5 I could say pee, but not piss. And absolutely not pissed.

*f*ck—14 Yes, it scores 14 on a scale of 1-10. F*ck was the mother of all cuss words, and if you even thought it, you would go straight to hell. It’s so bad that I would never type the u in the middle of the word here on our blog.

Shortly after I’d written my first novel, I was working on the next books in the series and I had plans to try to sell them to Harlequin. But I was told that I could not use the f-bomb if I wrote for that line. I said to a friend, “I’m writing New York undercovers who don’t use the word f*ck.”

He said, “Now THAT is fiction.”

*fart—2 Yup, fart barely made the list of cuss words.

*b*tch—6 Even if we were talking about a female dog, this was a no-no.

*Son of a b*tch—8  Yes, adding an offspring to the b*tch bumped it up to an 8.

*Bastard—7 Yes, this one was worse than b*tch.

*Any slang term for the male or female body parts was an automatic 10.  Some of them I didn’t even learn until I’d left home.  They were just never said, even at school.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I knew people who were not allowed to say poop, but that was okay in my house, and surprisingly enough, even the Ohio cousins, though they had to say bucket, could sometimes say poop.  It might’ve been out of earshot of their mother, though.

Of course one did not EVER take the Lord’s name in vain. You did not use “God” unless you were speaking of Him with respect and reverence.

When I left for college and got to know people from other countries, I found out that the word “bloody” is a sort of curse word in England, or so I understand. As is “buggar” but across the pond, they don’t mind the “f” word muchBad words5 at all.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that what’s a bad word to one person, may be completely benign to another.   I’ve gotten a little amused at the collective sucking in of breath, and I think it’s funny when folks squirm over words just because they don’t like them.

I’ve gotten jaded, I guess.

And yet, I still don’t like some of the slang words for anatomy, and if they’re used in a demeaning way, I really hate it.  I tend to cringe when I see them in books, and often won’t choose to read that series again.  I figure I miss some really good books that way, and I probably need to get over it.

My cousins from Ohio don’t let their kids use the word “stupid,” and that’s one rule I totally agree with.   Bandita Jeanne told me that the rule in her house is, “you can have a stupid moment, or a situation can be stupid, but another person is never referred to as stupid, because that can be so hurtful.” I gave her a high-five for that.

The only “bad” words to me, now, are the ones that hurt or demean other people on purpose.

So back to my small-town contemporary romance. I did a word search in the manuscript so far, and found it liberally sprinkled with my favorite cuss words, all the way from level 1 to level 10. There was even a 14 or two in there.

So now I’ve started to worry. So tell me what you think, Bandits and Buddies.

Please try to keep it PG-13 if you would, by fudging the spelling of the words in the upper level toward the “10” range. *grin*

Did you have a libad words 9st of bad words when you were growing up?

Did your list look anything like mine?

What happened if you said those words?

If you have kids now, are the bad words the same?

Or have they relaxed some?

Do you use words now that you didn’t when you were younger? Or do you still hold to the same standards?

If you’re outside the US, are your “bad” words a lot different from mine?

Have you ever read a novel where the language was too rough for you?

Even if you don’t use certain words, does it bother you if characters in a novel use them?

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Comments

58 Comments

  • flchen1 says:

    Snork! Love your post, Cassondra, and yes indeed, there were LOADS of bad words, and I don’t think I said many of them until I got to college. I did go through a phase where I used lots of bad words, and now have mostly veered back towards not. My kids do sadly know what all the bad words are, but mostly don’t say them (to my knowledge…) I fondly remember the days when they would say, “Oh no! She said the “s” word!” meaning that someone had let a “stupid” carelessly fly 😉

    I do think it can be appropriate for some characters to have say, saltier language than others. And sometimes it’s even fun to read 😉 Perhaps that’s another way of living (swearing?) vicariously 😀

    • Cassondra says:

      Swearing vicariously. Haha! Love it, Flchen1!

      I learned a good many new curse words in college. One young fellow taught me to shoot pool and cuss with the best of them. Perhaps there is some truth to “It starts with a T and it rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.”
      Do you know that song?

      I don’t have kids, so don’t have to navigate those scary waters. It’s funny to me that some people I used to spend a LOT of time with, who actually taught me some new cuss words I had never heard before, now have children and don’t want their kids to use ANY bad words. I can’t help snickering at that.

      I’m not sure why we have these cultural taboos, but it seems universal. *grin*

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh and looky there, darnit. You got the rooster.

      Not sure what cuss word would be appropriate for having to put up with his shenanigans.

  • Jane says:

    Hello Cassondra,
    We would get scolded for cursing, but luckily we never had our mouths washed out with soap. I remember when I first heard one of my older cousins say GDI and not knowing what it meant.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Ah, Jane…

      Obviously you grew up in a house where that was not said. I did too.

      Even today, I might drop the f-bomb with relish, but if I’m going to feel guilty about something, it’ll be the G-D-It when I let that accidentally slip.

      I can hear my childhood preacher now, saying that if I let it slip at all, something’s wrong with the inside of me–I’m corrupt at the heart level. *heavy sigh* Perhaps it is so. *hangs head*

  • Deanna says:

    I can’t say that we exactly had a list of bad words do and dont’s but I know the F-word was a big no no. I had never heard the F-word till I was about 12 or 13 and a girl at school started saying it repeatedly. I had never heard it before so I didn’t know what it meant but I could tell it was a bad word. That said though, I don’t really recall swearing much while growing up. It was generally frowned upon but I don’t recall instances where we were told right out that it was a no no.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Deanna, interesting that you didn’t know what it meant, but you could tell that it was “bad.”

      It’s sort of that way with those words, isn’t it?

      We just “know” that something edgy is happening when they get dropped in front of us for the first time.

  • Jacqui Sue-Ping says:

    No, I didn’t have a ‘list’. I had three older brothers, so my younger brother and I learned from an early age, the words not to say. Especially when one of the older bros would say a bad word and then automatically turn to us and say in that I’m-your-big-brother-so-you-better-listen voice, “don’t let us–heck not even mom or dad!–catch you two saying that!”

    If dad caught us saying a curse word, we’d get a tip of the very hot Caribbean pepper sauce (you know the one made with Scotch bonnet peppers?) on a tongue. After one time, I learned very quickly not to curse in front of dad or mom. My little brother not so much. *snork*

    Do I like to swear these days? I’m very PG in front of my little niece and of course, my mom and any of my friends that don’t care for it, but sometimes that F word really is that perfect word. I think it’s a cool word. George Carlin was on point with his routine about it (which I won’t post but if you look on youtube and search for George Carlin the F word you’ll find it). I have to say though that when I read or hear every other word a cuss word, I think it’s laziness on the writer’s part.

    To this day it is very rare that I swear in front of my mom. Not even the Lord’s name in vain. I hadn’t realized how much I automatically censored myself in front of her when, several years back, a car cut us off not once but twice and that second time I let loose a litany of swearing that I can’t even remember except I know I started it with ‘Mother*$%@# but I blacked out what came after that! LOL!

    • Jacqui Sue-Ping says:

      Oh I forget to mention that my poor mom almost had a connipition from my swearing and not from being cut off twice! LOL!

      • Cassondra says:

        OKay now THAT is funny! While searching for memes about cussing on the web I saw one that said “we’re a culture that gets more upset about our children saying certain words than we do about famine, disease, or human rights violations. Maybe true, maybe not, but it was sure a big deal in my house! *grin*

    • Cassondra says:

      Love it, Jacs! But Ooooooh! That hot pepper sauce had to be awful!

      I’m LOL at you letting fly when somebody cut you off twice. I have one friend who just HATES cursing, so I try hard to rein it in when I’m with her, but we were driving down the road by her house at night when suddenly a guy on a bicycle in dark clothing–no lights or reflectors–cut right in front of me. I let fly F****!!! and swerved. Then I looked over at my friend and said, “sorry.” And she said, “Don’t be. THAT was warranted.” I almost hit the guy and there was nothing I could do about it. So apparently it’s appropriate even for her , but only in the most dire circumstances.

  • Shannon says:

    Our parents were concerned about this, but their attitude was about age and audience. When we were young, they would basically tell us that was a bad word and we shouldn’t use it and suggest substitutes, such as darn and shoot.

    As we got older and we worked with our Dad on his projects, we certainly enlarged our vocabularies when things were not going smoothly. We were then taught that we could cuss along with him within reason. We could use naughty words with friends. But we were to clean up our language with teachers, our grandparents, and most adults. Exceptional situations such as our hunting or fishing, the rules were more relaxed.

    My Mom was a science teacher so her rules were that there were scientific names for body parts and functions that were also age appropriate. We were discouraged from the informal forms of male genitalia in favor of scientific terms. Even before the Vagina Monologues, I knew the word.

    As for characters using words, I don’t have much problem with anything except the f-bomb which was forbidden in my family no matter what. Every soldier I know swears like a soldier. (They tend to clean it up before me as an older female.) But those characters do need use the lingo, maybe tamed down depending on the genre.

    I think the thing that just leaves me kind of cold is dirty talking during and after sex. It’s not that I mind that per se. But a newly deflowered virgin getting into this instantly seems abrupt. And quite a few cases where this happens at a more appropriate stage of the relationship, the male dialogue seems to be demeaning to women and disrespectful of the union of a man and woman who are falling in love. Yet, I have also been charmed by an on-going joke between a sheltered character wanting to know all of the bad words for “male pulchritude.” Each scene he would add a few more words. When he is thinking of the heroine, he recalls a couple more that he resolves to tell her. I don’t know why I loved that, but other forms of dirty talking don’t work.

    • Cassondra says:

      Interesting, Shannon.

      I like that you also seem to divide it at what you feel is demeaning. If it feels demeaning to either person or to the relationship, then I don’t tend to like it either.

      I’m also like you in that I’ve seen a few instances where the “talk dirty to me” thing has worked, but a lot of times it doesn’t work for me either. I think it comes down to who the people are and “where” they are in life and in their experience, and if the characters have been built well and it fits, I have no trouble with it.

  • Steve Tabor says:

    I was a good little boy…didn’t cus at all, but I heard other kids use words that were bad, although I didn’t understand their meaning. Until one ady on Buss 449 on the way home from elementary school, a sixth grader pushed me out of the way and called me a littl brat. BRAT!!! Who did he tjink he was. I was a third grader, writing my name in script!

    It was time for me to impress all the other third graders on the bus with my courage (stupid stupid stupid) and my knowledge of how to cus. I let out a litany of profanity from my nine year old mouth that would make a sailor blush! It got real quiet after that and I found myself expelled from the bus and walking home alone. That was probably what kept me from getting the sh★t beat out of me!!!

    I was sooooo proud of myself, that night at the suppertable I informed my parents of the bus ride home and how I put the sixth grader in his place. Knowing mom and dad would be proud of me, I said: “I told him he was a G** Da#n Mother-f×☆▼♣in Son of a Bi@%h.”, and proceeded to smile, waiting for dad to say “Well done son.”

    Didn’t happen the way I thought things would turn out! After dad stopped choaking on his pork chop and mom stopped crying hysterically, dad calmly said, “Son, do you know what you just said?”

    I answered, “No”

    Dad told me I was very disrespectful and he was ashamed of me. He then explained the profanity I had used in third grade terms, got up from his meal and said, “Come with me.”

    He marched me to my neighbor’s house and made me apologize to the sixth grader, his mother and his dad. Then he gave me a lesson in respect…no spanking or soap in mouth or grounding, but a lesson I have remembered to this day.

    • Cassondra says:

      What a great story, Steve!

      I can just see little third-grade you, telling off that older kid.

      And what a smart dad you had. The lessons like having to apologize, or having to take something back to the store and give it back when you take it (I had to do that once) are the lessons that stick with you the most I think. But they’re often harder to think up. Easier to just spank the kid I guess. Probably a good thing I’m not a parent. Sounds like you had pretty good ones though.

  • Growing up, I can’t say we ever had a list of words we couldn’t use – we just didn’t. Curse words were not allowed on television (neither were full size mattresses apparently) and I just never really heard them used. My brothers and I said “shoot” a lot and maybe “crap” a little – but that was it.

    Then I went to college and learned how to cuss. 🙂 But when I went home on vacations, my potty-mouth stayed in the dorm room.

    Nowadays you can’t watch a television show without hearing the F bomb dropped repeatedly. I have turned off the TV at times if the swearing gets too bad. In a book, I don’t mind so much if it’s natural for the character and the time period.

    • Cassondra says:

      Donna, I can swear with the best of ’em, but I have also gotten really tired of continual f-bombs on tv and in movies. You’re right, if it’s appropriate for the character, it works. Sometimes it’s just filler, I think. One of the reasons I don’t enjoy Rap is because of the language–it feels very demeaning to women to me. That may be just my age making my tolerance levels lower, but even I have gotten up and left a movie (at home) when the cussing got to be “filler”

  • Ha ha, Cassondra! I really enjoyed this. Took me back to my very young girlhood where bad words were not allowed. These days, I use bad words when I want, dangnabbit! Well, not entirely. I think in a professional environment, many of them, especially the stronger ones aren’t appropriate. Although I’ll drop the occasional crap, bloody and bugger without worrying too much. Bugger has a kind of affectionate touch here. Calling someone a mad old bugger is a kind of fond insult if that makes sense. It does in Australia, anyway. And there was a brilliant Toyota ad where the dialogue was all ‘bugger’. I’ll see if I can find it.

    • Cassondra says:

      See there?

      I have wondered if the words bloody and bugger/buggar had different connotations in different parts of the NON-American English-speaking world, and it sounds as though you’ve confirmed it.

      I’m noticing that some of the words, though, tend to morph a little over time. Some of them soften I think.

      Hell seems to have softened a bit. Perhaps there are fewer of us afraid of it now, so it’s taken on a slightly less ominous tone. Or maybe all those preachers trying to scare us out of it have overused it and now it’s not scary any more!

  • Mary Preston says:

    I grew up in a family that just does NOT swear. My mother said to me one time, I think someone swore on television, that there was no need to swear when you had all the other words imaginable that did a better job.

    Having said that, I do have to agree with Anna Campbell about “bugger”. It’s barely a swear word around here. Fits most occasions I find. (Don’t tell my mother I swear.)

    • Cassondra says:

      Hahaha! Love it Mary!

      I know people who don’t swear at all, and you know? They make it through life.

      When I was a younger woman, I could break my language habits fairly easily. As I’ve gotten older, it’s much harder. My money jar would be very full if I started using it to break that habit again.

  • Here’s the Toyota ad. Cracked me up every time I saw it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u91WGac2mbI

  • Helen says:

    Cassondra

    Loved this post we were not allowed to swear either and neither did my Mum or Dad even when we got older Dad would never swear in front of a Lady and I agree with Anna and Mary Bugger is OK out here I do find it a shame these days that most young people use the F word so much but it still wil make me cringe 🙂 although when reading it in a story if I think it is warranted that is OK there was one word that my Dad would never let us use and that is hate and I still don’t like to use it. In our family we don’t swear very much at all the accasional SH*t maybe but that is about all.

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Cassondra says:

      Helen it’s very interesting to me that I see people with children trying very hard to not use swear words, and I know that if I had children, I would be that way too. Because all my children have fur or feathers, I know they’re not going to repeat those words out in public somewhere, so I can let fly without backlash.
      In any home with kids or grandkids, folks tend to be a little more careful I think. And I’m old enough and entrenched enough in my upbringing that I think that’s a good thing. I’m not sure why I think little kids running around dropping the f-bomb is a bad idea, but I do.

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    My list compared to yours almost word for word. Unfortunately my father couldn’t open his mouth without saying very bad words.
    A story mother told often was of a funeral being held at the church 2 houses from mine. A gentleman asked mother if he could park in my dad’s place, she said yes and stepped in the house to get me drink. Imagine her embarrassment when she stepped back out and her cherubic 3 year old had her hands on her hips informing the gentleman to “Get out of my daddy’s parking place you *SOB*” I was only 3 but I remember the yelling that went on when dad got home from work. The man bit his tongue a lot but it was still an ongoing battle to keep my language clean.

    • Cassondra says:

      Okay there you go, Dianna. You may have just answered the question of why kids shouldn’t cuss. Little ones don’t have the experience to know when to scale it back. *grin* That poor man!

      Oh dear. I have to ask, though. Did you get a spanking?

      • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

        No, she said she couldn’t spank me, because I was just repeating dad. But he really got yelled at. I was 3 and I can remember that “discussion”

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    Funny post! Your list is almost exactly like mine. Strange how I didn’t realize how little sense the ranking made until I read your list. All the substitute words were banned, too. One time I said darn and my mother said “Why you don’t just say damn, that’s what you mean?” So thinking aha, permission, I said damn and promptly received a slap in the face (midwest, 50’s & 60’s, yes, we occasionally got slapped). There was soap once in a while and a liberal dash of pepper if you thought you were being clever by going outside and sticking your tongue out in front of the picture window. I learned to swear anyway, tried to back off when I had kids but it seemed when THEY did it it was always the words I used, not my husband’s. Except for the time in the drugstore when someone an aisle over said to a companion “Huh??” and my barely-able-to-speak daughter yelled “Huh hell? That’s what my daddy says.”

    In books anything is okay for me depending on the book, genre and way it’s written. Sometimes trying not to swear is just too cutesy and sometimes describing body parts and using phrases is just too crude and detracts from the story. (almost said sounds stupid . . . I guess that would be okay as long as I didn’t say the author was stupid 😉 ).

    • Cassondra says:

      LOL, Sally!

      Yes, sometimes the dancing around the terminology does sound stupid, doesn’t it? I admit, I remember one workshop I went to when I first started writing. It was about purple prose and how to avoid it. One author spread her hands wide and said, “What is WRONG with the word p*nis?” Her point was that all these euphemisms start to sound–and yes I’ll say it–stupid–after a while.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    LOL Cassondra! Great post. Having just done my Harlequin revisions, it’s hard to write a hockey player without swearing. I use crap and damn and freaking a lot. In one scene, I had my hero (a goaltender) telling another player to get his honking great butt out of his face, thinking that’s as far as I could go. My editor said I should use ass ;).

    Bloody isn’t as bad as it once was. When I was little, I was told it was blasphmous (short for by our Lady) Nowadays it’s an acceptable adjective. So is bugger, like the Aussies.

    One thing I hate about going to the footie is that some of the best chants involve terrible swear words. I wouldn’t use them and hate to hear them, especially around all the kids.

    Oh and one of the hardest things about going from a job in business, where the f-bomb was almost re rigeur, to teaching 7 year olds was hoping that I’d never accidentally use a swear word! I only slipped once and thankfully none of them noticed!

    • Cassondra says:

      Anna, I remember going to work in the music industry and being out at one songwriter show and hearing (for the first time) the f-bomb from the stage. My mouth fell open and my breath sucked in for certain. Those words were definitely everyday working language there, and I’ve found them to be so in any arts or business field I’ve been around. Working with kids? You are far braver than I am, first to work with the little ones at all, but second, to leave the business world and manage your mouth that well!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Cassondra, I love, love, love this post! Like Dianna, this is almost word for word the “List” from my childhood. And whoever said that about the “many words in the English language that are far more appropriate” bit must be related to my parents. Hahaha! My Dad used to say “there are more than 600,000 words in the English language. Take a hint from Shakespeare and use some creatively rather than falling back on base swearing.”

    Snork! My dad could say stuff like that and make it seem so sensible. And “base and crude swearing” was considered not only a no-no but tremendously unimaginiative. Somehow that made it worse…not only had you done the awful thing (swearing) but that made you unimaginiative. EEK!!! Horrors!! Fate worse than death!!!

    Grins.

    And, like Sally Schmitt, I got my face slapped a time or two for imitating my brothers and swearing. Yeeeeouch!! You’d think I’d’a learned, but no….too tempting to swear.

    With my kids, as you mentioned, there’s no “stupid” and I try to get them to think about it when they say they “hate” something. Hate’s a powerful thing, do you realy MEAN hate?

    Had to lol about the euphemisms for body parts. Snork.

    Great post!!!

    • Cassondra says:

      Jeanne I had the old hand across the face a few times, though almost never for swearing–at least until I was a teenager–but for other things that I shouldn’t have said. “Sassing” they called it.

  • catslady says:

    We were not allowed to say shut up and to this day that word bothers me immensely. Some one can say the f word and it doesn’t bother me as much. Goes to show that it’s how much power you put into a word. There wasn’t a lot of swearing in our house, my dad here and there and i could count on one hand how many times my mom swore. My husband was in the service so I heard most everything. We didn’t swear in front of our young children or at least not that I can remember. I only made a fuss once when my very young daughter heard that f word on the bus and started repeating it – I’m afraid I did the mouth out with soap (just a very, very little) and I probably shouldn’t have but she was using it for the power of it and knew it. I probably should have ignored it but it just was too much. So I don’t really mind it unless that is all that comes out of a person’s mouth or even an author’s. We have one woman in our group of friends that reprimands anyone that dares to say any word in front of her and I think she is giving herself the power of telling others what they can and cannot say which at our age seems ridiculous for an occasional word (the men are past servicemen so it’s going to happen once in a while).

    • Cassondra says:

      Catslady…yaknow….I figure if somebody has gone and put his/her life on the line to keep me free, he/she can say whatever he/she dang well wants. :0)

      And yes, like the people who tell me to smile when I’m not–and maybe don’t feel like it–and the people who push my hair back off my face when I have it just the way I want it…I’m like….”I’m not your kid. If you don’t like the way I look, you ‘ll just have to live with it.”

      You’re absolutely right. It’s about the power we give words. Not about the words themselves. Which is why I find it a little funny, now…when somebody tries to get self-righteous on me about this. It’s all about their choices and their choosing to not like mine. Which is interesting, isn’t it?

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Another terrific post, Cassondra! We didn’t have an actual list but we sure knew which words would get us into trouble. Growing up with a slew of cousins and older kids in the neighborhood, I was exposed to many of the forbidden words but I didn’t use them. I was a “good girl.” Then I went to college…. 😉

    I don’t swear much these days but there are occasions when only turning the air blue will do, y’know? I guess I must still look like that good girl I used to be because when I let the words fly, the collective sucking in of breath is a wonder to behold. *grin*

    I don’t mind swear words in the books I read if they’re appropriate to the character. What drives me up the wall is a author that litters the pages with the f-bomb and other swear words for nothing more than shock value. In my opinion, just as bad as gratuitous sex.

    • Cassondra says:

      PJ, I haven’t seen a lot of that “shock value” cursing in the books I read, but that’s how I feel about it in general. And yes, sometimes turning the air blue is the only thing one can do. It’s just necessary.

      People no longer think I’m the good girl. I cuss too much. *grin*

  • Kaelee says:

    Cassondra ~ I love your posts. They always make me think. My list of bad words matched yours almost perfectly.

    My older sister and her friend wanted a word to use when they were upset so they invented the word cruminelious. They were at the friends house and something happened and they both said the word at the same time. The friend’s mother heard them and told them to stop swearing. They both protested that it wasn’t a swear word. The mother retorted that it sounded like one the way they said it and to not repeat it. It has become our family BAD WORD. Always said with a smile.

    I don’t mind a bit of swearing in a book but sometimes I just put down a book and call it quits because of the language in it. I started reading mystery series once (they had numbers in the title) and I got to book 8 and couldn’t finish the book because the language finally got to me. I think if I had read them as they came out yearly I may still be reading them.

    On the other hand when Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon came out a lot of people were shocked that she used swear words in the book. I had heard about the shock before I read the book and couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about.

    • Cassondra says:

      Interesting Kaelee! Did the Home to Holly Springs books work for you because those characters fit the curse words?

      Or what?

      • Kaelee says:

        In Home to Holly Springs the cuss words came from people dealing with black slaves. Cussing just had to be used to fit the way the story was told. The book delved back into the history of Father Tim’s family and the area he was born in.

        Jan’s previous series about Mitford and Father Tim did not have any bad language in them.

    • Cassondra says:

      Oh…meant to say, I LOVE cruminelious!

      I’ve been trying to make up new bad words for this book, and having a tough time. That one’s excellent, but I won’t steal it, though I’d very much like to.

      So let me guess….It’s…crummy plus criminal plus..I can’t figure the last part out–cruminelious.

      • Kaelee says:

        It was just a made up expression. I found it interesting that the mother in the mix, a very proper English lady, declared the word a swear word by the inflection it was given when said. It was how it was said not what it meant.

  • Cassondra, how fun! We were allowed to say darn and drat–none of the rest. Mentioning farts was semi-okay, if one had just generated one. My mom considered it a very crude word.

    “Shut up” was banned as appallingly rude but wasn’t considered profane. I still hear that in the back of my head when I have a character say it. If it’s a good character it’s a last ditch frustrated effort. Only bad characters pop out with it right off the bat. *g*

    The dh loves that bit in A Christmas Story, BTW.

    • Cassondra says:

      Nancy, I forgot about drat!

      I may have to pull that one out for this series. That’s a good all-around word.

      And you’re right. I will actually have a character drop the f-bomb before I’ll have them say shut up.

  • Steve Tabor says:

    Great Classic Litersature had it’s moments with profanity and racial slurs. The words were part of the times and culture, so they were accepted by the majority of readers. Today, politicial correctness dictates what words we use. I believe if the novel was about a rap group or ghetto life, it would be full of profanity and racial slurs. If the novel was about a church picnic, maybe it would be squeaky clean. If it was about the South in the Civil War era, the language would fit what was acceptabe for the times.

    Where would we be without the following classics if profanity and racial slurs were left out:
    “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Lord of the Flies”, Fanny Hill”, “Catcher in the Rye”, “Huckelberry Finn”, “Of Mice and Men”, “The Color Purple”, “Slaughterhouse Five”?

    I rarely cus, because of the respect lesson my dad taught me at nine, and I cringe when I hear God’s name disrespected.

    • Cassondra says:

      What excellent examples of profanity within context!

      I think all of those stories would be “less” than they are if the author had chosen to censor the language to please the sticklers.

      Well said, Steve.

  • Mozette says:

    My folks weren’t too worried about me when I was young. Seeing I was a Charlie Brown fan the worse thing I ever said was either ‘oh crumbs’ or ‘good grief!’ … yeah I really was a goodie two shoes and I got picked on about it too!

    But once I hit high school, I wanted to write some serious works and my brother got me into cursing and swearing at any time of the day or night… so out the window went my childhood mumblings and in came me swearing and blabbing those horrible curse words like a blue streak! 😀

    And yeah, I was proud of it too… I think I made up for lost time by the time I hit 18. I was also a rebel at high school too and known as a cool kid because I went against the grain, against authority and didn’t do what everyone else did…

    and I had a nickname I only found out at my 20 year class reunion… ‘Fonzy’… now that was the coolest thing to find out! Also, I turned into a right b*tch there too, just like in high school and everyone loved it! 😛

  • Amy Conley says:

    Sorry I am late to the paaarty Cassaandra, but I could not let this post go by.
    All of the words you listed, and probably a few otheres were also on my childhood list. Our punishment was getting our mouth washed out with soap. I never did get mine washed, but my younger sister and brother did (the middle ones, there are an even younger set of siblings after them, who NEVER did anything wrong.)
    I took a class in semantics when I was in high school which gave me a totally different perspective on “baad” words. One thing the teacher did was make everyone say the F-bomb, I can hear a hundred or more gasps at this point. LOL Anyway, he did it to prove a point. Words are only as “bad” as we make them, including the F-bomb. What does the F-bomb mean? Means the same as intercourse, which hopefully means making love, and this is a GOOD thing. So why do people throw up that middle finger and use the F-bomb when they are angry? When in truth we are hoping they do something enjoyable, loving, and caring.
    It is the same for all “bad” words for the most part. So when I heard my 2 1/2 year old son say, “Damn!” and watch him stomp his foot because something he was trying to do didn’t work, I didn’t get mad, mostly because it was the same thing I would have done. But I did try explaining to him most people thought “damn” was a “bad” word and certainly not one a little boy should use, and asked him to try to use darn instead and so would I.
    The word “hell” had the same, “but they say it in church” speech from said boys when they were about 10. So I explained to them it wasn’t a baad word when you were talking about it, but if you said for someone to go there, that just wasn’t a nice thing to do, like saying someone was fat or ugly. You don’t say words to hurt people, but if you use them the way they were meant to be used there really aren’t any bad words out there.

    • Cassondra says:

      Amy, what a great experience to have–that class sounds wonderful, much the way a good logic class is–and as though it forced you to think. I wonder how the parents felt about that class though? (Yes, I’m wondering if that teacher stayed around long.)

      It sounds to me like you’re a really great mom, and your kids will respect you for not being a “do as I say not as I do” person in this.

      • Amy Conley says:

        The teacher was there for a veery long time. My youngest sister (5 years younger) even took his class. He also maade one class pet a snake and another class has to eat dog biscuits! I waas in the snake class, but I’d been aaround snakes and they never bothered me, My sister was in the dog biscuit class and she made him a wreath out of dog biscuits for Christmas!
        Aboout 15 years AFTER I graduated there was a family who tried to get him fired because of the F-bomb class, but luckily it didn’t happen.