CONTENT ADVISORY: This post contains words that people may find offensive.
CONTENT BONUS: This post contains words that people may find offensive.
In his comedy album Class Clown, the late comic genius, George Carlin, gave a monologue he called The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. Those words are as follows:
There is an OUTSTANDING two-part documentary about George, his background, his life, his pain, his comedy, his genius, and more called George Carlin’s American Dream, directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. I highly recommend it.
George loved language. And he often had jokes or bits built around language, English in particular, and its idiosyncrasies. I feel like George is part of my inspiration for my own jokes and puns, which also are often built around language and using words in different ways, etc. I get some talent in this area from my dad, who loved to make puns while we watched TV or movies or played games or just made our way through life. That is one of the aspects of my dad that I loved. There were some aspects of my dad that I didn’t love, but this is not a Daddy Issues post, so I’ll leave it there for now.
This section will make sense further down. But for now, just take from this section that there are words that Society sometimes refers to as “bad words” that we are expected to refrain from employing in polite conversation… Fuck that.
No Lifebuoy for me
Growing up, use of swearing/curse words wasn’t a huge deal in our house. It’s not something we did constantly, but the occasional slip or strategic employment of “impolite” words didn’t get us in much trouble. I certainly never had to have soap (Lifebuoy or any other brand) in my mouth like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he let loose an F-bomb, the “F dash dash dash word.” This is one of my favorite movies, by the way. We watch it as a family every year and still laugh.
Vaillancourt is a French-Canadian name and is somewhat common throughout New England and parts of Canada. My brothers and I are the first generation of our family to be brought up speaking only English. Both my parents were brought up speaking French AND English. My dad got a kick out of teaching me how to curse in French from an early age, making it necessary for me to be extra careful in French classes in school…
Do as I say, not as I … say.
My wife and I both swear/curse when we’re not really thinking about it. We made some extra effort once we had kids, but the results were mixed. Let’s just say that one of us, and I’m not saying who, showed only a modest decrease in swearing. One of us has been told by our children that she swears too much. But I’m not saying who. At this point, our youngest is now 15 and for the past few years, we haven’t bothered too much with our own swearing.
In fact, in our house, context appropriate or really funny use of swear words is not only encouraged but appreciated. One of our favorite stories from Paige’s (our oldest) early life was when we were potty training her. She was sitting on one of those tiny potty chairs we had in the bathroom. She was quiet a for bit, thoughtful, then she looked up at my wife, Trish, and said, “We don’t say fuck dammit. We don’t use those words.” Trish and I ended up discussing at the time where she would have learned this phrase. I confessed to her just the other night that… yeah…. I own this one. This is on me.
“I’m so proud of you!”
My youngest, Evelyn, has never been much of a swearer. Swearing tends to make her feel embarrassed. About a year ago, I was in my basement office and heard a THUD from upstairs in the kitchen. There was a few second pause, and then I heard Evelyn shout “FUCK!” She came down to my office for something a little while later and I asked her about it. She said, “Yeah…. I stubbed my toe and mom gave me the green light for an F-bomb.” I beamed at her with sheer delight, “I’m so proud of you!”
We still find it super funny when Evelyn swears. Playing Cards Against Humanity and Joking Hazard with her is beyond hilarious.
We’re going somewhere. I promise.
Hang in there.
Medication side effects
My main antidepressant, Effexor, appears to have a possible side effect of changing the focal distance of one’s eyes. For me, it moved that distance further away, so, to see letters clearly, I need to hold whatever I am reading further away from my face. This often results in clearly seeing that the letters are too fucking far away to read. Perfect. Some of this could also be age as well, but it really only started when I started taking Effexor. Anyway, as a consequence, I have reading glasses; just over the counter ones; no prescription. I tend to only wear them when I am alone since looking at anything more than a foot away while wearing them is blurry as shit and that instant transition fucks with my equilibrium and even leads to headaches.
Last night, Trish, Evelyn and I were playing Munchkin, a super fun/funny adventure card game. I wasn’t wearing my glasses due to the transition issues mentioned above. At one point, I looked down at a pile of papers that were sitting on the table next to me and just started laughing. Here is the exchange that followed, to the best of my recollection.
Trish: What’s so funny?
Me: I just looked down at this (pointing to a page of text) and I could swear it had the word “tits” in it.
Evelyn started laughing with delight.
Trish: (looking over at the paper) That’s the school district newsletter. Are you suggesting the school district newsletter has tits in it?
Evelyn’s laughter kicked into a higher gear.
Me (in my “principal making an announcement voice”): Show your tits at Homecoming! … SPIRIT! SCHOOL SPIRIT! Show your SCHOOL SPIRIT at Homecoming!
Evelyn then lost her shit. She was now into that phase of laughter where you can’t breathe but can’t stop. Her laughing fit continued, only gradually decreasing over the course of the next few minutes. OUTSTANDING.
A little help
In Munchkin, your character fights monsters. There are cards you can get that add bonuses to your combat power like armor, weapons, and other silly things. In a fight, you add up all of your bonuses and compare result to the power of the monster you are fighting. If your power is greater, you win the fight. If not, you can try to run away OR you can ask another player to help you, adding their total combat power to yours. Often, the helper will request, or your will offer, some share of the treasure as a reward for the help. I have sometimes just asked for a hug. Other times I have demanded treasure for NOT helping the monster. Whimsical, yeah?
Evelyn ended up in a fight she could not win alone. Since my power added to hers would result in victory, I offered to help. My wife, whose character was even more powerful than mine, also offered to help.
Trish: I’ll help you for one treasure.
Evelyn (to me): What do you want?
Typically, I would ask for a treasure. Not this time.
Me: I don’t want any treasure. I just want to hear you say the word “tits.”
Evelyn started losing her shit again. Which. Was. Excellent.
Trish came to her rescue by saying she would help for no reward. Evelyn ended up letting Trish help her instead of me. My master plan (improvised, but still) to get Evelyn to say “tits” was foiled by the pottiest mouth in the house. Motherfucker.
We, as parents, are teachers, too, regardless of our profession(s). As with anything else, the power of words is based so much in how they are used. ANYTHING, including words, can be used as weapons. But they can also be used in more positive ways to bring humor and joy. In our house, we’ve taken the position that there are no “bad words.” There are just words. And Trish and I are fucking delighted to help our offspring learn to use them well.