Today, I want to talk about profanity. So, if you think you’re gonna get your panties all in a wad over a few curse words just skip me over today. While I try to tone down my own use of profanity, I do appreciate a few well-placed cuss words, especially if done in a clever and intelligent way.
I have gotten out of the habit of cursing very much because I’m a grandmother as well as a church youth leader. There’s usually someone around that I have act mature in front of. It’s a burden that I’ve gotten so used to that I don’t even notice it. We just don’t cuss in our family. Beaven thinks it’s unattractive and I usually agree with him.
OK, maybe I do say “shit” a lot. OK, maybe “hell” and “damn” but I swear I don’t swear much in front of the grands. Well, if I do I usually apologize. At least I apologize if their mother is looking. Actually, she usually apologizes for me.
My father never cursed because he called it a sign of a poor vocabulary. I only heard Daddy cuss twice in my life- once was while putting the lights on the Christmas tree and the second time was when his Styrofoam cup of coffee turned over one windy morning on a camping trip. Both times we only heard a soft and mild “damn.” Just these two memorable examples tells you I was raised better.
And even though I don’t get into hard-core cussing very often I have long held a theory that the term “God Damn It” is actually a prayer of intercession. Most people call it taking the Lord’s name in vain but I haven’t figured where the vanity part comes in.
Well, I went to see Lewis Black in Fort Worth last week. He is one of the funniest humans on earth in my opinion but part of the humor is that he will build up a frustrating scenario then let loose with violent shaking and a string of profanity that totally fits the situation and leaves you wishing you could do the same without the PTA on your doorstep with a warrant for your arrest.
Lewis Black takes profanity to a level that I think might impress my father. Daddy’s objection was that it was a sign of poor language skills if you couldn’t think of a better word. He called it lazy language. But Lewis Black’s use of profanity isn’t lazy--he works hard at his profanity. Shouting with outrage about some ludicrous government move or frustrating stint in telephone hell, we will wave his arms, waggle his head and cheeks then wag his fingers; then ultimately, after exhausting all his muscle groups, point both of his fingers and do little push-ups with his finger tips and finally tear off his glasses and bury his face in his hands. The curse words accompanying all this begin with minor profanity you might hear in the back alley of high school then build up to Marine Corps boot camp level and after building them a bit more, finally end with some he has made up himself after running out of words.
Friday night, I expected him to hone into the Republican debates with a laser beam but instead he mostly talked about the frustrations of modern electronics versus the ones we grew up with. When the television set had four channels and you had to stand up and walk ten feet to change the channel as opposed to a remote control with 4,000 channels with no discernible content. Then he got into texting and facebook—where you can have 4,000 friends none of which you actually know and half of which live in “fucking India.’
Sometimes he got so carried away that the words didn’t actually make sense. He would go on and on until with the last remnant of breath, he would add one profanity he seemingly made up right there on the spot as a sort of period to the sentence. One memorable diatribe ended by calling someone an “ass kissing, butt kicking, fart licking, son of a bitch.” Huh? Fart licking?
It brought back to mind my dear departed mother-in-law. Even though she was no Lewis Black, she could, if the mood struck her, drink like a sailor and cuss like a truck driver. Blanche was a woman of some substance who has been appreciated much more fondly in death than she ever was in life. She was a strong woman best kept at a safe distance.
It embarrassed Beaven without fail because your mother isn’t supposed to cuss. Yet she was the one to wash Beaven’s mouth out with soap if he tried it as a little boy. He claims that even today if he says a certain word he can taste Tabasco sauce.
My daughter describes her as “about 4 foot tall weighing less than 90 pounds and the scariest person on the planet.” She went into the hospital once for a bleeding ulcer and when the nurse tried to broach the subject that she seemed tense she unloaded on the poor lady with one of her category-four tirades. If Hurricane Katrina was a category four storm, so was Blanche.
Her use of colorful language wasn’t constant. I don’t want you to think she did it all the time. She mostly saved it for when she was reading the newspaper in the morning. After a couple of cigarettes and a pot of coffee she could get riled up and it was Katy Bar the Door.
Her crowning achievement in cursing and displaced logic came one morning when she read an account of Gov Ann Richards describing a rival by using a common profanity. I can’t really remember the cuss word the governor used. But I do remember Blanche’s response. With physical rage rivaling Lewis Black tensing her small frame, she slamed her fist on the table and exploded with: “that God-damned Foul Mouthed Bitch!”
And I’m sitting directly across the kitchen table from her thinking, “Do not laugh, Jane. Oh, dear Jesus, DonotlaughDonotlaughDonotlaugh, whatever you do, for God’s sake, do not laugh.” I managed to pull myself out of the moment by imagining dead puppies or something equally tragic and survived the encounter. But it remains one of Blanche’s most memorable moments.