While at work yesterday, I called a client to ask for clarification on a product code he’d typed into an e-mail. He’d typed too many numbers and apologized by saying “I guess I really fat-fingered that one.”
“No worries,” I said, “that’s practically the story of my life.”
I’d meant that I frequently make typos, but realized immediately that I made it sound like I fingerbang a lot of fat chicks. I don’t think the client realized this; he was pleasant throughout the call and is the kind of Southern gentleman who wouldn’t call me on it even if his mind was as disgusting as mine.
Speaking of having a disgusting mind, my friend Angie and I recently had a discussion about profanity. She was talking about someone who cursed all the time, to the point where they were using “fuck” like a comma. While I agreed that this is certainly an impressive talent, I also conceded that it was a bit excessive, and that like any other habit of speech, “fuck” loses some of its power when it is overused.
I curse a lot. I don’t do it intentionally or to be edgy or whatever. Cursing comes naturally to me; it’s part of the rhythm of my speech. To me, a simple “goddammit” used to express displeasure with something is more efficient than explaining exactly why I’m displeased, and the occasional “fucking” is useful for emphasis. Also, “shit” is less dramatic than “ohhhh nooooooo” and “sonofabitch,” when muttered under my breath, is a handy stress reliever and frequent self-admonisher. I’m capable of speaking full sentences – paragraphs, even! – that don’t include curse words, and it’s not like I’m cursing because my vocabulary is otherwise limited. I agree that people who curse far too much to the exclusion of other words are probably kind of stupid, but come on. I watch Jeopardy. I am not one of those people.
At almost 30 years old, I’m finally at the point where I can curse in front of my parents. My mother is more accepting of it than my father, who still sometimes clears his throat and frowns when I say “crap.” Other times he lets me say “shit” without batting an eye, so his reactions can’t really be charted. I didn’t grow up in a cursing household. Along with not letting us watch super violent movies or asking us to grab a beer from the fridge for them, my parents were very mindful of cursing around children. I can probably count on one hand the times I heard each of them curse – really curse – during my childhood. All of those times included heavy fighting, alcohol, or both, and were so rare that I thought my mother calling my father a “fucking idiot” one time was more hilarious than scary. So I didn’t learn to curse from them.
Know what taught me to curse? Dazed and Confused.
I first watched Dazed and Confused at my friend Tricia’s house in either sixth or seventh grade. As soon as the movie was over, I looked at her and said “let’s watch that again.” There was something so casual about the cursing in Dazed and Confused that didn’t sound forced or (too) excessive or fake. It was just natural, and this is how I recognized that cursing could be a legitimate part of speech.
It didn’t take me long to learn how to curse. I took to cursing immediately, and unlike some of my friends, my cautious personality restricted me from overusing profanity or slipping during conversation with my parents or at school. My sister was another story, as I still remember her saying “well isn’t this a fucking hell goddamn” about something or other, to which I said, “you are a fucking idiot, you know that?”.
Cursing isn’t always bad. It can be funny, smart, and effective if it’s done right. Personally, I’d rather speak to someone who’s comfortable with cursing, not only because I have to worry less about offending them, but because if they feel comfortable enough to express themselves so plainly, then I can feel comfortable with their judgement. Seriously, which person would you trust more, the one who says “I had a really good time” or the one who says “IT WAS SO FUCKING AWESOME”?
I guess nobody really needs to curse, but in the words of Wooderson, it’d be a lot cooler if you did.