Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Watch your language!

Hello friends. I've been so excited to share this with you. I won a writing contest!

There is a wonderful columnist who writes for our local newspaper, The Davis Enterprise. His name is Bob Dunning. He's lived here practically his whole life. He shares stories of Davis past and present, and provides commentary on everything from sports to local politics.

Every year Bob runs a contest to "replace the columnist." He invites anyone who is so inclined, to submit an article on any topic they like. His "large judging body" ahem...then chooses the winners. Each winner gets their day in the spotlight as Bob's replacement in the column space.

I look forward to reading these columns every year. This year, I decided to submit my own essay, and much to my delight, I am a winner!

So my column is in the paper today!! You can click HERE to see it. You can also check out the other winning essays. Or you can read my essay below. My blog here includes the usual music video (and it's a doozy)!

Watch your language!

Ok, big confession. I have a potty mouth. I do. I enjoy inserting a four-letter word here and there. It feels GOOD. It adds emphasis to the emotions. It puts the exclamation point on the exclamation! I's not very lady-like. I've been told this. But I just can't help myself. Besides, I never claimed to be a lady. I'm a woman -- with strong emotions.

This penchant for cursing goes back to my youth. Like most kids, I began to experiment and test the boundaries, and using foul language was part of that. I remember a time when I was playing outside with my friend Pam, who lived next door. I was only 9 years old. I don't remember why, but I started swearing, probably just to sound cool. Well, Pammy's mom heard my lovely little diatribe. The next day, when I called Pam to see if she could play, she said, "No, my mom doesn't want me to play with you anymore.” What? Why? A bad influence? Me? But I'm so sweet and nice! What mom wouldn't want her daughter to have a friend like me? Her mom had it all wrong.

I had a lot to learn. Language is one of the ways, perhaps the strongest, that we present ourselves to the world. Everything we say leaves an impression. This has always been true and will always be true.

So why have the rules of language become so lax over the years? Don't people care about making a good impression anymore? To hear the young people talk, you would think not, but it’s not just youngsters. I hear more four letter words coming from adult mouths than ever before. Our societal "no-no" on cursing seems to have been lifted. Did we just give up on the rules? It seems we have agreed this battle is just not worth fighting.

Is it a matter of rebellion? It's hard to live by the rules all the time! Maybe our society is going through a collective letting down of the hair. We have done this throughout history. We've gone through periods of conservatism that led to periods of wild abandon. Victorian prudishness to flappers and speakeasies. 1950s "Leave it to Beaver,” to 1960s sex, drugs and rock n' roll.

Television must certainly play a role. If you watch one episode of “Family Guy” you’ll see what I mean. What about the Internet? With email and Face Book and Twitter, the goal is to be pithy and clever, and swear words are a quick way to make a point. Sarcasm is too. Politeness flies out the window. We get into bad habits and they translate into real life.

Well, I am happy to speculate on the subject, but we could take a more scientific approach. Did you know there is an academic discipline that studies such things? It's called Linguistic Anthropology. I Googled "curse words and society" and found it on Wikipedia, so it must be true. Wikipedia defines it as such: "Linguistic anthropology explores how language shapes communication, forms social identity and group membership, organizes large-scale cultural beliefs and ideologies, and develops a common cultural representation of natural and social worlds." If you prefer a more credible source, I found another definition on Oregon State University's website that says this:

"linguistic anthropology - study of how language is used in various social contexts. Anthropological linguistics focuses more on the interplay of language and culture."

There is even a Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA). So if you want to delve into this fascinating subject further, you know who to turn to.

Language, and what is acceptable, is changing in so many ways. Including curse words in everyday conversation is just part of it. It will be interesting to see how that boundary either stretches or bounces back.

Oh, and in case you were wondering.... there is a happy ending to my earlier story. I apologized to Pam’s mother for my behavior. I told her that the girl hurling swear words in the backyard wasn't the real me. I'm really a very nice girl, honest. I would make an effort to watch my mouth. Like any mom would do, she took the opportunity to lecture me, and I actually listened. For years I did not use foul language, even though it went against my natural emotive tendencies. Then, slowly but surely, the curse words crept back into my vocabulary. However...I try not to use them around my kids (does "crap" count?) or in public. I save them for special occasions and for the privileged few in my inner circle. Lucky them!

If swear words offend you, you may want to avoid listening to this video. It's really no worse than George Carlin's famous "Cuss words you can't say on t.v." routine. I thought it was hilarious, but not everyone shares my enthusiasm for such things. Proceed with caution!


  1. Congrats to you...congrats to happy for you that is so miller time :0)

    I have such a bad truck driver mouth it is horrible....

  2. What a great article, I can see you put a lot of work into it. I too have a bit of a potty mouth, so I totally get the bit of emotional release one gets after yelling (oh $H*@) or something worse! Congrats on being published! By the way loved the video.

  3. Michael Ann, first of all, congratulations! Wow! That is something. Second of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay. Having been prohibited from saying bad words growing up, I turned into quite the potty mouth heathen when I moved out. I too am going to use your brilliant defense of "I'm a woman with strong emotions." :) The Significant Other, quite the proper gentleman, is constantly reminding me that, "Ladies shouldn't express themselves like that," to which I always retort, "Who the f@#$ asked you?" hee hee! Thank you for sharing your good news and essay with us!

  4. Congratulations I am sure you are on cloud nine!
    I think I might have it figured out, it is just that us shortuns' 5'2" people need to be able to arm us any way possible ;-)


  5. Thank you guys! Love to hear I'm not alone with the swears :-)

  6. KILL me! And you were my son't preschool teacher! Sometimes I think because I'm around teenagers all day that my 'language' is influenced for the worse...glad to know I'm not the only one!

    And congrats on the contest...there were over 1,000 entries!

  7. Congratulations! What an honor!

  8. Congratulations on having your essay published! Awesome! And yeah, I have the worst mouth. I blame it on riding the school bus in my impressionable elementary school days and watching Dallas Cowboys games with my dad every Sunday growing up. I definitely heard a variety of words during those games! I keep trying to be better about it, but it's a work in progress. The same with sarcasm. Thanks for the posts!

  9. First of all, congratulations on being a winner! That's so exciting! Of course, you're always a winner in my book. :) And I have to say, I am guilty of the potty mouth (as I'm sure you've noticed on my blog). I can't help myself. I have to watch my language all day at work and around my kids. When I'm allowed to let loose, I just do. Big time. Again, congrats to you!

  10. Wow! It seems like you get an award or honor every week. Congrats!

    I liked your essay. I wrote on the subject"CUSSIN" in answer to my Editor sister-in-law's complaint of my excessive cursing in my unpublished (as yet) book "I Used To Be Stupid"
    I posted it in july if you are interested


  11. Thanks Joe! I read your blog and loved it!

  12. That video is fucken hilarious! And I loved the blog post. My dad always told us that cursing is a sign of a poor vocabulary. It might be that, but it's sometimes really satisfying.

    I get my potty mouth from my mom, by the way. That sweet old lady swears like a longshoreman. :)

  13. Oh..I swear as well but been controlling it now especially in front of the're not alone in this :)

    btw, congrats on winning the writing contest :)

  14. Hahaha, when we just moved here the first thing we did, we learned swear words and started to use them left and right. Finally my older son, who was about 5 years old at the time told us to stop it. "Mom, do you even know the meaning of what you are saying, because if you knew you would not be saying it in front of me" Congrats on the winning of the contest!!!!

  15. Congratulations!!
    It's funny (and I'm not miss innocent) how when I'm out in public I avoid the teenage crowds. If they are sitting on one side of McDonald's I go to the other. It is just so painful to hear them talk....OUCH!!
    Great article!!

  16. Very cool about the contest. I always love hearing news like this, just knowing other writers are pushing their dreams forward is a wonderful thing. I know they have their own slang (as we did way back when) but ... still.

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