Sunday, March 21, 2010

Anecdotes of Language Misuse

The other day I got to thinking about foul language, which is something I usually abuse. People from our generation seem to swear just to swear, for no real reason and without real consequence. This is all well and good, but sometimes we can forget that these are strong words. However, before I get too serious, a good f-word every once in awhile can feel pretty great.

In general, swearing, cursing, dropping f-bombs, anything of the like, is a curious social subject. When you're a kid, you learn from your parents that you should never say "stupid" or "idiot" or (in my house) "dummy". We were banned from even sticking out our tongues (this has to be the reason I get along so well with my siblings, isn't it?). So Catholic. As you get older, however, you begin to learn swears (from different sources of course, older brothers if you were lucky enough, sometimes on the school bus by the kids who have to older brothers...I'll let you take a wild guess as to which one I was). But you cannot swear in front of your parents. You have to hide your new found knowledge from all adults or risk serious punishment, like grounding or detention.

In your formative years, most offensive language must be explained. There are words one might hear and repeat without actually knowing the context or usage. Swears you might hear will mean nothing until someone tells you the word is a bad one. My parents did a good job not swearing in front of us. The only time I ever heard my mother use the "f" word was when we locked ourselves out of the house on the way to somewhere important. The first time I heard an adult swear just to swear was my neighbor, this sweet, generous, motherly woman (I was best friends with her daughter). Their family dog, Coco, had escaped and was running around the yard, and I'll never forget Mrs. R. saying, "Ohh that dog is such a jackass!" I was probably about eight, and thrown quite off guard.

There is one embarrassing story of my younger years involving foul language that far exceeds all of the others. When my brother and I were little (probably under 10) my parents took us to a museum. As a souvenir, I bought a little beanbag turtle that my brother and I decided to name Tit-tit. Again, I wish I was kidding. Upon arrival home from the museum, we decided to play in the yard with our new "pet". We tossed the thing up in the air, singing "Tit-tit! Tit-tit!" We had not the slightest clue of the connotation of the word "tit". My dad came outside and reprimanded us, gently informing us that "tit" was not an appropriate name for a stuffed animal, and he then explained what the slang usage meant. My brother and I solemnly swore to change the turtle's name, but when my dad went back inside, we just shrugged to each other. "I like the name Tit-tit," my brother said. We had never heard the word before, and I agreed. I liked the name's certain ring. We didn't see anything wrong with it.

Good Lord, it will be entertaining to have children.

1 comment:

  1. Well...look at the bright side...Mr. Turtle's name could have been "Shit-Shit"!