by Helen E. H. Madden
I'm back from Chicago, and very happy to see a topic of discussion that is near and dear to my evil little heart - bad language.I take pride in having a certain mastery of swearing, or as I like to call it, my native tongue. I grew up in a household where understanding the nuanced differences between "God dammit" and "God DAMMIT!" were crucial to knowing when to ask for a raise in my allowance (the first indicated minor annoyance on the part of my father, and he would hand me any amount of money to get me to stop pestering him; the second indicated he had just realized I'd dropped his favorite book in the toilet, and perhaps I'd better hide than ask for a raise). Yes, my father was quite a man of words, most of them being "God dammit" and "Son of a bitch!" And I learned well from him.
It was in college that my natural tendencies came out in full bloom. One simply cannot be a cadet without learning the finer points of linguistics. For instance, while in college, I learned when to call someone a cock-sucker versus when to call them a butt pirate. Army ROTC programs encourage the study of languages, and I was more than up to the task of fulfilling that particular educational requirement (although they did insist I study Japanese for a year in addition to enhancing my native tongue, no idea why).I never did learn to swear in Japanese, or in any other language for that matter, but I've traveled enough to realize I can make myself well understood no matter what country I'm in when I swear. For instance, taxi drivers in Italy will go much faster if I start swearing about how I'm going to miss my plane if they don't FUCKING DRIVE! And over the years I've even learned how to manipulate the lingua franca much the same way my dad did. Many is the time, during my days in the Reserves, when people would come to me to ask that I volunteer for this assignment or stay late for that project, only to walk away quickly in the other direction when they heard my voice rising in a thunderous "God DAMMIT!" I avoided a lot of unnecessary work that way.
So yes, I swear, quite a bit, and with an expert's flair. But being a mother of two small children these days, I've had to tame my wild tongue. I recalled having written something on this very same subject a few years back, shortly after the birht of my youngest daughter, Pixie. I went trawling through my personal blog today and found this, from June 8, 2006:Now I will be the first to admit I swear a lot. Much more than your average mommy does. I've said it before, I got my degree in swearing courtesy of the US Army. I take to foul language like it was my native tongue, and when I'm really torqued, I revel in the imaginative use of blasphemous phrases and scatological terms. I'm a writer. Creative language is second nature to me. But when Princess came along, I tried to cut back on the dirty words. I had to swear whenever I nursed during the first three months because it hurt so badly that it was either swear or castrate my husband. Outside of that, though, I tried to cut back. I really curbed the habit the first time Princess tried to repeat a certain four letter word that I usually reserve for computer malfunctions. Nothing like seeing your nine-month old pull herself to standing, shake a tiny fist at your PC and shout, "Fa!"
As Jenna pointed out in a comment on Ashley's post yesterday, a study has been done that shows swearing may help alleviate pain, and my snippet of blog post above only underscores that idea. But if this is the case, then I have to wonder. As much as I swear, does this mean my life is naught but the most glorious, exquisite agony to be endured?