What the BLEEP is going on?

Potty mouth?  Oh, no.

Potty mouth? Oh, no.

open-mouth scream

Charlie Brown scream


According to “The Real” talk show I recently viewed while in Kansas, several studies agree that cursing can actually be good for us because it shows passion.   And according to PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, although frequent, continual cursing shows lack of control or disrespect, occasional cursing provides pain relief, non-violent retribution, and health benefits that include increased circulation and elevated endorphins.

During the thirty years I taught high school English, writing, speech, debate and mock trial, I told students there were two kinds of language: controlled and appropriate speech for public use, and vernacular speech for non-public relaxed speech with friends. The rule of the classroom was that only the first kind of speech was to be used.

Now I have a confession. When I retired and began teaching adult writing workshops and writing groups, it didn’t take long for “Retirement Tourettes” to affect my language. I didn’t swear like a sailor, but if cursing shows passion, all I can say is that there has never been any question I’m passionate about teaching adult writers of articles, essays, short stories, and novels.

My husband Jim just shakes his head and sighs when he overhears some of the words I incorporate while working with writers. He is an active retired teacher and a calm, kind, careful Grandpa with our grandchildren. But ask either of them what he said when describing a cabin we once considered buying, and they’ll shout in chorus, “Shit Creek,” the name of the creek leading to the cabin. They don’t remember any of the other details of the place, but they still love to say, “Tell us again about ‘Shit Creek’, Grandpa.” It’s the only oh-oh word they’ve heard him use, and our entire family fights back laughter because it’s not a case of Potty Mouth, but of Real Estate, right?

My Cursing Tourettes is not my go-to choice, and in my opinion grafitti is definitely unacceptable, but here are some additional thoughts for you to consider:

“Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” ~Mark Twain

“’Twas but my tongue, ‘twas not my soul that swore.” ~Euripides

“Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word itself.” ~Dick Cavett

“Shocking writing is like murder: the questions the jury must decide are the questions of motive and intent.” ~E.B. White

“Think with the wise, but talk with the vulgar.” ~Greek Proverb

“It is an immense loss to have all the robust and sustaining expletives refined away…At moments of trial, refinement is a feeble reed to lean upon.” ~Alice James

"My mistake, Momma.  I mean to say 'hoot, hoot' ...not 'Hooters."

“My mistake, Momma. I mean to say ‘hoot, hoot’ …not ‘Hooters.”





Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, teaching

50 responses to “What the BLEEP is going on?

  1. My dear old cowboy dad could swear with the best of them. Of course not around mom, as she disapproved of it. But he was Ok with us children hearing him swear from time to time. I have inherited this ability but use constraint. I agree, once in awhile it just feels good to swear!

    • I agree, Darlene, and though my dad probably had his choice words as well, I don’t remember hearing him use them.
      Even now, if I want to swear while I’m anywhere my mother might overhear, I leave the room (or building) to do it! 😉

  2. juliabarrett

    I can swear like a truck driver, but only when I’m really mad and/or when I encounter a terrible dangerous driver. Better to swear than give in to road rage!

    • Hey, “swear ranting” is definitely a better choice that obscene or threatening gestures toward dangerous drivers, Julia.
      Even when I’m alone, or at the keyboard or working in the yard or the kitchen, one little glitch and it’s an automatic first-response for me to curse. Yet when I’m in public or around others, I automatically hold back. When I get to the point that I just babble on and on in curses, I’ll have to have someone stop me, 😉

  3. I love the Grandpa “Shit Creek” story. 🙂

  4. And that’s the real name, Merril. We never learned how it got the name–if we’d decided to buy the cabin we’d have needed to know the details–there’s a lot of difference between a funny Colorado Mtns. nickname and the identification of a drainage problem running past the cabin.

    But the grandkids were very young, and their parents didn’t even allow them to say “stupid,” and then they heard the story about Shit Creek and loved saying it. If we’d actually bought the cabin, their communication skills would have taken a nose dive. 😉

  5. I’m laughing at this post, Marylin! I honestly never imagined you to be a “potty mouth.” LOL! Even now, as I look at your sweet little innocent face, I don’t believe it. 🙂 Happy Weekend!

    • And if you’d ever been a student in one of my high school classes, Jill, you never would have heard anything even close to a potty mouth! Retirement is so…freeing. Or something. 😉
      Happy weekend to you, too!

  6. Clear thinking on a dirty topic, Marylin. Your title certainly caught my attention!

    Grandson Ian is at an age when he likes to “pretend” swear. He starts saying “What the . . . .” and then pauses to see our reaction. We’ve joined in with the fun.

    My Mennonite dad wanted to swear but restrained himself with “shitmolink,” his invented word for suppliers or customers that tried to take advantage of him.

    • Hi, Marian. I’m smiling that your mennonite dad’s non-swear word he invented–”shitmolink”–sounds very similar to “Shit Creek.” Ah, the things we do to express ourselves. Do your grandchildren often work the shitmolink into their conversations? ❤
      I'm glad you enjoyed the title. It was a last-moment inspiration. 😉

  7. I am with Jill, I never imagined you to be a “potty mouth”. My language was sparkling clean when I came to this country. That changed quickly as I acquired some nasty language skills especially while driving. I am much better these days.

    • Oh, no, Gerlinde. And now I tell you that as an English teacher I wouldn’t let my students use bad language…but once I retired I became a (slightly, sometimes) potty mouth. 😦 Yikes! That’s not a very good recommendation for me, is it? I’ll try to do better. ❤

  8. I am with Jill, I would never imagined you to be a potty mouth. My German language skills were sparkling clean when I came to this country , however that changed as I was learning English. I have gotten much better over the years.

  9. Marian at first couldn’t get her comment posted, but I’m glad she tried again.
    For all of you who try to post a comment but can’t, please try again, and if it doesn’t work send me an email and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks!

  10. The only reason I am commenting is that you introduced me to iced espresso lattes….not bad words☕️😍

    • Ah, Grace, I’d rather have an iced espresso latte with you (only in the early afternoon) than with anyone! And when I look at you in last week’s post, the little girl standing in outfield learning to play softball…the little girl named for her great-great-grandmother Grace, I wish we both could have known her. She would have loved you so much.

  11. We all swear like troopers at work – out of earshot of the students of course – the air in the staff room is sometimes blue with profanity. What I absolutely can’t tolerate is using gutter language in a piece of writing to get a point across. It’s okay in dialogue if the character warrants it but good old spoken swearing has to be spontaneous 😉

    • Our staff lounge had open doors at either end, Jenny. The students couldn’t just walk in, but they could pretty much hear what was going on, so most of us watched what we said. Which is probably why I developed Retirement Tourettes and felt free to interject cursing in my adult writing workshops, and especially when I was teaching dialogue.
      But like you, I still don’t accept it in writing for the sake of shock or to get attention. In my high school Writing to Publish classes, if a student used profanity in a short story, he had to show me the publication where he’d be submitting it and support that first, it was necessary for the character’s dialogue and personality, and second, that the publication would accept it. There are so many contradictions in writing standards.

  12. Jane Sturgeon

    I love this post Marylin…..I swear creativity when ‘venting’ with friends and it is a wonderful release. With work there are a few of us connected online as we work and deal with all sorts and we have ‘codes’….and the meaning is clear. My fave is ‘fffs’…. Mind you, when one of us shares the phrase ‘Really?????’ that is also universally understood. I may be a prude in some ways, because I don’t swear in my writing, or write about sex come to think about it. Huge hugs and much ❤ for you. Xx

  13. Marylin! I absolutely love this post. My husband will tell you that I have cursing tourettes when losing at golf or tennis. I try very hard not to let those naughty little words out of my mouth, but some how they slip right through. And, when they do, it is a relief of stress, anxiety, pain, or whatever emotion I might be feeling. Thank goodness for forgiveness. 😉 Hopefully some day I will be able to experience the joy of participating in one of your workshops. Have a fabulous weekend! XO

    • At least your tourettes paces itself for losing at golf or tennis, Robyn!
      It amazes me that sometimes the words just pop out of my mouth when I’m alone and even the tiniest things go wrong, and it does relieve some of the stress or irritation. Yet in public I don’t even have to think about blocking those same words; I just automatically do it.
      It would be so much fun to have you in one of my workshops, Robyn, it really would!
      Have a great weekend, and if you're losing at tennis or golf, let it rip! 😉 We want to keep you stress free and creative. ❤

  14. Sometimes only a curse will do 🙂

  15. Molly

    Mom, oh Mom! The wonderful things that you teach and we learn in your blogs! 🙂 Your grandkids are at such a funny stage in their lives…they know not to say “stupid” or “butt”, but they are always looking for an excuse to try other bad words. For example, Gannon really wants a Shitzu dog, just so he can say “shit”zu! Grace loves to stick her tongue out and hold it with her thumb and index finger and say, “Apple” because it sounds like… well I’ll let you try it to see what it sounds like!

    How curse words impact our lives! Too funny!

  16. Gannon

    I really like this post. I love it when Grandpa talks about SHIT CREEK. Maybe tomorrow night at dinner he can tell it again!

    Love Gannon

  17. Jim

    Oh, no! The infamous S _ _ _ Creek is at the family forefront still again! Well, sweetie, this week’s blog does rightly state a good case for using certain rare words to relieve intense stress or sudden pain. The cliché from today’s era of micro-chips and genomes simply says, “That’s how we are wired.” I think even devout Amish gentlemen might be known to blurt out a juicy word or two on occasion–or maybe not; shouldn’t presume. 🙂

  18. Honey, you do so many wonderful things with your grandchildren, from sports to hiking to movies and letting them choose the adventures. And yet, forever and ever, their #1 topic to share with others will be Shit Creek.
    It is definitely, “how we are wired,” especially with grandchildren. ❤

  19. Very good blog Mor Mor don’t give up blogging. Blogging is what you love and what your good at.

  20. Thank you, sweet Gannon, and I really like your site ID for footballfacts. Yea!

  21. Marylin, I read a book (and reviewed it!) on changing negative words like swear words, into more positive words. The book was called “Power Words” and it made me think about swear words in a new light. I say “fudge” now (or try to) when I want to say that other four letter word!
    I love the “Shit Creek” saying and I’ll tell you we say that around here regularly.
    Here’s my review on “Power Words”- http://katherinesdaughter.com/hay-house-book-review-power-words/
    xoxo Joanne

    • Joanne, I really enjoyed your review. Well done!
      “Fudge” will be my go-to replacement word. 😉
      While I was in Kansas recently, my granddaughter Grace talked me into replacing my original old Kindle with a new Kindle Fire, and she (being 12, almost 13, and much more techno-smart than I am) also transferred my 46 books from the old to the new. I’m having so much fun reading now, and seeing the cover of your book as you intended it (the old Kindle just showed a black title, not a real cover) and the clear layout of your chapters is wonderful!

  22. You’ve touched on a constant struggle for me. My dad’s cursing threaded seamlessly through every tale he told. I can still hear the musical beat of his swearing in my head. But Mama raised us with the credo:cussing was for people with poor vocabularies. So writing used to be a battle: to curse or not to curse. I finally solved the dilemma being published in different genres using different names. In one I “Let ‘er rip.” It is cathartic, but sometimes my editor redlines my words.
    I will say, that in the series without swearing, it’s forced me to become more creative to find dialogue that’s layered with the same amount of emotion as a well-placed curseword.
    I also find in everyday life it’s easier to cuss than not to cuss. Oh-oh…I wonder what that means?
    Great post and discussion. I found you from Jane Sturgeon’s blog, and I’m glad I did.

    • I’m so glad you found me on Jane’s blog! I’m still smiling that your used different writing names; I used just first and middle initials with my last name–and a post office mailbox–when I wrote in different genres! And you’re so right about it being cathartic, but also that without swearing the more carefully chosen for layered emotion encourage us to write better.
      My father never swore, not until he suffered with Alzheimer’s and spent much of the last six years in the Rage Stage, cursing, spitting, hitting…all the things that had never been part of his personality.
      Please join us again for more discussions! 😉

  23. Haha…you’ve made my day with this post Marylin! The quotes are great. Thanks to you, I now don’t feel so bad when I think (and no longer cringe) at those moments when I’ve resorted to ‘potty mouth’ out of sheer frustration. I was so careful not to swear when the kids were growing up…and I am so proud to say that none of them swear around me and never have…but now they occasionally hear me let out a few words. Usually when I’m driving with my daughter…she just laughs…and then tells her stepdad with glee (who, by the way, sounds just like your husband, and I absolutely love the ‘shit creek’ story lol!) starting off with “You should have heard Mom today when someone pulled out in front of her driving to the store…” Yep…at such times, you better believe that sometimes ‘…refinement is a feeble read to lean on…’ 😀 ❤

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