I was raised proper, by which I mean a proper appreciation of language in all its splendor. Our family did not exclusively fawn over the most flashy words, nor the most humble. We took delight in using descriptors of all stripes, including those reserved for the bawdy house. Within the panoply of adjectives and expletives, I learned at my mama’s knee how best to decry, offend, verbally defenestrate.

We practice our art with caution but devotion. It’s too easy to rely upon the ugly but poignant “Fuckwad,” so we reach for more interesting ways to express distaste. “Blithering, emo, wuss-tastic fuckwad” is, to my ears far more interesting, and importantly, more precise. “What is the fuckwad doing?” Blithering. It’s all right there, sewn up in a tidy package. “What kind of fuckwad is he?” An emo fuckwad, who aspires to such far reaches of wussiness that he’s wuss-tastic.

I guess it’s always been this way. I got damned to hell by my best friend in second grade because I said “damn,” a bit of irony that was lost on me since I neither knew what “damn” meant, nor what this place called “hell” was all about. Was it near Mount Olympus? Did Zeus live there? If so, I really wanted a date with Cupid, the Roman hunk of “Cupid and Psyche” fame and Eros’ doppelganger. I was only eight, but I knew hotties when I read about them. Plus, he had wings. That’s pretty awesome.

Once my son Milo was born, I valiantly razed my language to the realm of modestly offensive, and then further into the dull confines of Vanilla Soft Serve Ice Cream once we belatedly realized that Milo had a real knack for language too. Instead of wusstastic-ness, I have become enamored of completely antiquated charmers like “Sweet Fancy Brown!” and “Good grief!” I don’t say “Gosh” or “Gee whiz,” but the words “Criminy,” “Dangit”  and “Oh, crumb,” feature often in my mild expletives.

And let’s face it, expletives help. You drop your groceries: what do you do? Thank the heavens for giving you one more challenge in your already ridiculous day? No. You curse, blurt, spit, and then you pick the frozen strawberries up and move on. If I couldn’t do that, those groceries on the ground might just send me around the twist, and I would lie down next to them tearfully, wondering how I used to manage to get through my day at all.

But I’m not stupid. Not very, anyway.

I know that there’s a time and a place for everything, and first grade is probably not the place for a seven-year-old to be yelling “Fuck off, ______!” at his friend who had just told him to go to hell. I realize this is probably a little raw for the playground out of the mouths of babes. I really do.

So after telling Milo that it was inappropriate and he wasn’t allowed to say words like that, I created a mutual disciplinary response to the elegant but perhaps misplaced use of “Fuck.” (I mean, syntactically, Milo nailed it: “Fuck off!” was the perfect response to someone who just told him to go to hell, and if he was fifteen it wouldn’t have raised any alarms.)

So I created the “Potty-Mouth Pot,” the bank into which we must pay our debt to the gods of expletives and curses. It’s a blown glass jar displaying our shame for all to see: Milo owes twenty-five cents for every use of the span of “grown-up words” (which linguists might argue are a badge of the truly immature); I owe a dollar.

Why the disparity to the potty-mouth pot? Because to teach the lesson well, I figured that we needed to identify who was winning the contest and who was losing. Each dollar bill was so much easier to separate from the quarters my son reluctantly placed in the jar that we could, by taking a quick glance, estimate the winner.

This is also known as “hubris.”

The first day went predictably. Chastened by my admonishment but also soothed by the admission that I too suffered the curse of cursing, Milo and I paid our first debts to the pot together. He was testing the boundaries of our agreement. Did “Damn” fit the requirements? Yes, but “Dam-age” did not. He paid a quarter for “Damn” but not “Dam,” and he was terribly proud of finding the workaround.

I symbolically paid my first dollar into the kitty. (“What’s the kitty?” he asked. Same thing as the “pot” in poker. Now we’ve introduced gambling terms.) Even though I hadn’t said a single blue word, I felt I should make the point that I would be fair and honorable in the contest, that he could count on me for holding up my side of the bargain. If he had to pay, so did I.

The next dollar I shelled out was when I was on the phone: I said “Damn” to someone and Milo shrieked “YOU OWE A DOLLAR! YOU OWE A DOLLAR!” I gamely paid up, neatly folding my dollar and placing it in the jar.

Then he said “Hell,” and I had to wrestle him for the quarter he was loathe to part with. He cried as he let it tinkle to the bottom of the jar, separated from its mate by only two single bills, and Milo begged me to change the rules of engagement. His bereft display confirmed my impromptu but cleverly crafted lesson from which he was suffering the consequences in a real and tangible way.

Depressed over the loss of a third quarter, Milo bemoaned our arrangement to his father as he was going to bed one night.

“Don’t worry,” Lars said. “Mom will lose. I guarantee it.”*

Aside from the fact that I married the male version of Mata Hari, this information was enough to give Milo a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

He mastered his reliance upon potty words with the zeal of a convert. After his third quarter went in the pot, he was done. Not a single verboten word has passed his lips, though he has danced playfully around acceptable substitutes.

I have not been so fortunate. It turns out it’s mitochondrial. While I have, in general, turned an about-face on the real dirt-bombs, I seem incapable of eradicating the basic building blocks of interesting language: damn, hell, crap are so intrinsically bonded with my molecular material that they are woven into the fiber of my tongue. I cannot, apparently, get rid of them. Like herpes, or gout: there for the duration, like it or not.

My son has learned valuable lessons, too. He has learned the skill of secondary hearing, which eluded him until now. I used to beg, scream, shout, dance in front of him, block the television, pull his socks off–whatever it would take to get his attention. Now I don’t need to worry. If he’s engrossed so deeply in a book that I could throw a hockey puck at his head without him flinching, all I have to do is drop my guard and talk like my DNA tells me to and I have Milo’s undivided attention. “Potty-mouth!” he shouts with delight as if being revived from a coma. “You just said a bad word! Pay up, MOM!”

He has three quarters in the bottom of the Potty-Mouth Pot. I have at least thirty bucks in there. But who’s counting?

Don’t answer that.

*Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not even the star player on the potty-mouth stage. Grandma, from who I learned everything I know, talks like a trucker with a fatal case of gutter-tongue. Even now, with her adorable Grandma walk and her devotion to baking holiday cookies, she blasts the room with language dripping with so much ooze it’s amazing people let her into nice places. Colorful, descriptive, eloquent and utterly demented, she shames all pretenders to the potty-mouth crown with their pedestrian lack of creativity.

So I found it both charming and ridiculous that after Grandma heard about my struggle to reign in my gutter mouth, she paid up one lowly quarter to Milo in the interest of making a good impression…even though she had outshone my every utterance in front of the boy in two short hours over dinner.

A quarter.

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QUENBY MOONE used to be a graphic designer who wrote once in a while. After her father came down with a touch of Stage IV prostate cancer, she became a writer who did graphic design once in a while.

She's written a book called Living in Twilight (no relation to vampires - unless dying of cancer is a part of Edward's story) in which her design skills came in handy, and includes some of her stories featured on The Nervous Breakdown.

61 responses to “The Potty-Mouth Pot”

  1. dwoz says:

    are substitutes really NOT swearing?

    I have an associate at work who says “friggin’ this and friggin’ that.”

    someone else close to me says “flippin’ this and flippin’ that.”

    I don’t hear those as being any different than the word they replace.

    But what do I know…I’m just a fuckstain on the mattress of humanity.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      The substitute question is for someone who has more mastery over their sewer mouth than myself. Oh, Fudge. Oh, darn. Those are all replacements too, but I don’t see Andy Griffith gettin’ upset over them. Otis never went into the tank because of his replacement “Golly,” so I’m thinking that replacements are a necessary evil.

      On the other hand, if someone just uses Frikkin’ all the time, they’re just being lazy– which is definitely unacceptable. Each use of multiple “Frags” equals a lost opportunity for elegance in colloquial language. They’re not rising to the level of their potential.

      You most certainly are not a fuckstain. Though it calls up an image, doesn’t it?

  2. Meg Worden says:

    This gets funnier every time I read it, Quenby.

    Every dam paragraph is brimming.

    I want a playdate.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Brimming with FAILURE! I’ve had some days where I just throw a wad of bills into the pot. Pathetic.

      The playdate will be two kids lurking behind the sofa while we stifle all talk for fear of going bankrupt.

      Other than that, YAY, playdate!

  3. Meg Worden says:

    I imagine them outside swearing like sailors away while we drink coffee indoors doing the same. Both parties effectively avoiding bankruptcy whilst living the illiterate dream.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Hahaha! I love your optimism! Milo is so thrilled that money is attached to our agreement that I think he’ll do just about anything to catch me up.

      Not that we shouldn’t have a playdate. Just that we can look forward to me shelling out some ducats!

  4. Gloria says:

    Thank you, Q, for making me research Mata Hari. It’s a name I’ve heard, of course, but never bothered to look into. That was fifteen minutes well spent.

    When I was in second grade, I had a friend named Amanda. We both liked the same boy, but he didn’t like Amanda. So I wrote “fuck you” on a rock and threw it at him. A few minutes later, he came to me holding his bloody head with one hand and a teacher’s hand with the other. It was the one and only time I was ever suspended from school.

    I admire your attempt to teach Milo decorum, but it sounds like you’re going broke trying. 🙂

    Tolkien loves to curse. Loves it. Like, so much so that it’s almost pathological. He’s learned, though, not to say these forbidden words at school. Nonetheless, I’m trying really hard how to skirt this odd and confusing social rule.

    For instance, instead of “shut the fuck up!” I’ve taught him to say, “Shut the front door!”

    Also, joke. This one is his favorite:

    Do you know how to catch a polar bear?

    You go out to the middle of a frozen pond and you cut a hole in the ice. The you put a bunch of peas around the hole. When the polar bear comes to take a pea, you kick him in the ice hole.

    I probably shouldn’t start a curse jar at home. I’d be broke by week’s end.

    • Gloria says:

      …trying really hard to **teach him** how to…

      • Quenby Moone says:

        Kick him in the ice hole! I can’t possibly tell this one to Milo or I’ll never hear the end of it. Never ever.

        I don’t know how I ended up here, with a glass pot exposing my flaws for all, but especially my son, to see, but I think I might have shanghaiied myself. I highly recommend you find some other way of dealing with Tolkien’s tricky tongue!

        Although I’ll take his money if he’s payin’!

  5. Judy Prince says:

    ” . . . damn, hell, crap are so intrinsically bonded with my molecular material that they are woven into the fiber of my tongue. I cannot, apparently, get rid of them. Like herpes, or gout: there for the duration, like it or not.”


  6. Jorge says:


    Had me laughing really, really hard.

    I am very unapologetic about my filthy mouth. I would surely have IOUs in the kitty by the days end if I ever had to pay up O.o

    Oddly enough, though, I do have restraint around young ones (read: 12 and younger).

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I just make change out of the pot now. That’s how many bills are in there: I can make change. Also, I often owe so much that I just chuck money at it.

      Lucky for me, my son is a great bookkeeper and reminds me without fail how much I owe on any given day.

      Lucky lucky lucky.

      I have restraint around the young-uns, but apparently not quite enough.

      Thanks for reading, Jorge!

  7. Don Mitchell says:

    Very funny, Quenby. Nicely done. I liked reading about your grandmother.

    When I was doing fieldwork, I discovered that the people in my village were totally potty-mouthed. Everybody. An old dignified woman who dropped her pot was as likely to emit a string of curses featuring genitals as was a young man who stubbed his toe. And me, once I understood what ordinary speech there involved.

    OK, so one day I was taken up in the mountains to be introduced to mountain people, and I wanted to make my villagers proud of me and my language skills, so of course I said such things as “this hard-on of a betel pepper is fucking good.” I got some odd looks, but I figured it was because the mountain people weren’t used to hearing a white man use their language with such skill and command of idiom.

    When we left the village my friends said, “Oh, we forgot to tell you. We never talk like that outside of our own village. We are the only people who talk like that . . . everybody calls us the dirty-mouth people.”

    I said, “I’ve shamed myself!”

    They said, “No, it’s nothing, because they knew very well who taught you to speak. It’s not your fault.”

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      “The dirty-mouth people.” Wow. This cracked me up!

    • Quenby Moone says:

      “Grandma” is actually my mother–she’s Grandma by benefit of being one, just not mine.

      I will say that I knew more whorehouse jokes and off-color stories by the time I was nine than would be tolerated today. I’m afraid I would be expelled over and over again–though I wouldn’t really know why since I couldn’t tell you what all the stories were all about. I just knew they were raunchy.

      Ah, gentler times.

      I love the story about your field work! I totally want to be from the dirty-mouth people! I guess I’m an honorary member anyway.

      Thanks, Don! I so love your stories when you comment, worthy of posts in and of themselves.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Darned tootin’! And Erika and I learned a few very choice whorehouse bawd cracks straight from your Mum too. Just think of that grandma quarter as symbolic of a cool quarter million, ya know! Don’t wanna bust the pot-pot with the literal–erm–motherlode.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          She does owe a cool quarter…million! I’m going to make her sign the biggest IOU ever in the history of potty-mouth pots.

          I’m glad you were allowed audience at the feet of the master. She is one of the last true Jedis in the art of dirty jokes.

  8. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    One of the many things I appreciated about entering adulthood was the option to curse without consequence. Stupid thing to be glad about, I know, but really, sometimes it’s just much easier to use profanity than to bother with a whole phrase or sentence.

    I think kids have an intuitive understanding about words. I had breakfast with a friend and her pre-school age child not too long ago. The mother used the word dick, not as a proper name, and the child began to CHANT the word with great enthusiasm. It was sort of fascinating…

    • Quenby Moone says:

      It is a real milestone! I don’t know when it happened, but at some point all of us were standing around swearing, parents, kids, everyone! Celebration from the rooftops!

      And someday, we’ll be standing around in our kitchen: Grandma, me, Lars, Milo…all talking like longshoremen. Ah, the future is bright, Ronlyn!

      Kids do understand! They can affix their radars upon the least desirable elements and mimic with precision, just like a ventriloquist. I know this from personal experience. It’s not pretty.

  9. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Cursing can be a real art form, like an episode of Deadwood or a rap album skit interlude. It sounds like your grandma deserves a larger forum.

    I can’t always fight my mitochondria either. Lately though I’ve come to enjoy those cleaned-up expletives. It might be a result of tilting toward middle-age, but I love phrases like “Sweet Fancy Brown.” I’ve even taken to adding “What the Heckfire” into my own rotation. It’s a little scary. Fanny packs can’t be far.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Two horrible admissions:

      One: Deadwood was so intense I couldn’t get through the first episode. I know it’s like I’m an alien who fell to earth, especially after my admission that I talk like a sailor on trucker’s speed. I feel as though this is a very serious character flaw which needs to be remedied, but I’m not sure how to get around it.

      Two: I’m kind of a potty-talk purist. I don’t want to hear about bodily functions, or general crassness. Rapacious insults, punishingly clever puns and really caustic commentaries are welcome, but I don’t actually want to hear about things that other people seem to have no problem talking about in supermarkets on their cell phones. In some ways I’m a complete prude.

      These unbelievable dichotomies (some may call them hypocrisies–but that seems a bit extreme, don’t you think?) just make me interesting. RIght?

      You think me using Sweet Fancy Brown is a sign of middle age? Crap.

      I do not own a fanny pack.

  10. Don Mitchell says:

    I hope I’m not the only one who’s read our own Sean Beaudoin’s “You Killed Wesley Payne.”

    He had to navigate the reefs and shoals of high school cursing, without using curse words. I was impressed with how well he did with it. He seems to have imagined an entire universe of curse words that can be mapped onto the ones we know, but don’t have to be.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I think you just sold a new copy, there, Don. I will run right out and get it so I can read these reefy, shoaly non-curse words!

      Great description.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Kindle! Have you discovered Kindle? I love Kindle (although I read Kindle books on my iPad).

        With Kindle there’s no need to run right out, nope, it can be on your mobile device in a minute. Talk about immediate gratification.

  11. Irene Zion says:

    One year when the family all got together for Thanksgiving, my only child with children introduced the curse jar. We probably should have been told about it ahead of time so that we could sort of prepare.
    Unfortunately, we failed miserably. Being together brings out the most amazing array of curse jar words and phrases. We were a big disappointment that weekend, but we really, really try when the grandkids are around us.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Oooh. If we added our family to your family, we might actually ruin society! It would be awesome: cursing, swearing, trying to show each other up in the devolvement of proper English!

      I was at Dad’s house with my brother last week, and he too brings out the best of the potty mouth in me. Except this time my son was along for the ride, and I was STILL swearing like a sailor. Chris correctly fingered the problem: it was my “Safe Place” over the summer when we suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and there’s a direct corollary between my stress levels and my potty mouth. I was really reaching for the stars last summer!

      But here we were, six months later and my son keeps pointing and shrieking at me: “I don’t believe it! ANOTHER DOLLAR! You owe six bucks!”

      I have to devalue the currency.

  12. Erika Rae says:

    I have met Grandma. Her lexicon is, indeed, impressive. Actually, I came directly home after meeting her the night of your dad’s memorial service and told Scott the dirty jokes she told us. God, I adore her.

    This was hysterical, Quenby – a word which I mean in the classic sense (minus the feminine connotations, which I suppose, in all fairness, must eventually be added back in due to my sex). As in, I was laughing like a lunatic. Your writing is superb, Quenby Moone.

    I have a friend who has a potty mouth pot which she shares with her children. She also is losing. Yep. Like gout.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Seriously! I think I’m bankrolling his next video game, which is NOT CHEAP. I mean, yeah, okay, he doesn’t have a gutter mouth anymore, but JEEZ, GIMME A BREAK!

      And then he gloats when he gives me a freebie. Sweet Fancy Brown! (You like how I did that? Sweet Fancy Brown’d my way through something I should be swearing about like a brothel madam on Sunday?)

      It’s funny about the Grandma, my mama. Today I was just writing, for the first time, about that night. It’s so funny, hysterical (!), sad and I just haven’t had the heart to write about it yet. But today I wrote about Superman banging Wonder Woman and I smiled. For a memorial, it was pretty great. Dad would have been proud.

      As to my mama, lemme tell you, she was on FIRE that night. I think she’s been all bottled up for years without all the crazy artists with which to hone her craft, and she just exploded with glee. You were witness to a very rare sighting of Mom in her natural habitat. Sad, really. I should bring her to more memorials.

  13. Art Edwards says:

    The “dam” workaround is a sweet, sweet memory for me from my childhood.

    Ah, to be seventeen again.


  14. First, I should probably call you Erika here in the comments since I called Erika Quenby in her comments… damn the mornings where I pretend I’m literate before coffee. In my defense I was writing below your comment on Erika’s piece where you had written about Taco Bell stuck in rubber bands and braces and Frenching and well… enough said. EWWWWWWW!

    When my daughter was in third grade she came home and asked why the word fuck was so bad. I told her that it was “just a word” that over time the meaning of the word had morphed into being “bad.” Yes, I was practicing some sort of meta-physical bullshit parenting that day. Because you know that explanation came back to bite me in the ass during the middle school years when she gleefully shouted out FUCK YOU during a Christmas Eve dinner (naturally many relatives in attendance) where her older sister pelted her with food bits to annoy her just because she could.

    I have a friend whose husband gleefully uses expletives in his daily conversations no matter who (including his three children) is present. I was at their house when her middle child had a “new” friend over to play. She gently suggested to her husband that he tone down his language, that perhaps in his house the adults watched what they said to which her husband responded: That’s the craziest fucking thing I have ever heard in my life. What kind of bullshit childrearing is that?”


    In contrast, last evening my younger daughter and I overheard a loud crash from the other room followed by my husband’s comment of “jeepers.” Younger daughter turned to me and said: “when was the last time you EVER heard anyone use that word?”

    • Quenby Moone says:

      You know, the whole “no swearing in front of the kids thing.” I think it’s a relatively recent dictate, one which I suspect has to do with the overbearing nanny-culture. I really embrace my foul language and feel a great loss when it’s bottled up. But I think my fear of other people is large enough that I choose to dam the dike rather than risk the scorn of other parents who hate my kid because he’s got a potty-mouth too.

      Not that it helps. They’re probably going to scorn me no matter what.

      It has been an interesting experiment none-the-less. After all this I realized exactly how hard-wired my brain is for swearing.

      I’m totally going to shout FUCK YOU at Christmas one year. Not that anyone will notice! Not around here, anyway, esp. if my mom is there.

  15. Matt says:

    My colleague’s one year-old son’s first word was “cunt.” He and his wife are immeasurably proud of that.

    I probably shouldn’t ever go over to your house, at least not while your son is there, as I’d end up just signing over the bulk of my savings account to you, since I curse like an 18th Century British sailor with a touch of syphillis. I love swearing. Really, truly love it. It’s taking language right down to it’s base, primal level of expression, and the more creative you get with it, the more fun it is.

  16. Ha! This was funny, Quenby. After reading dwoz’s comment, I have to note that we weren’t allowed as kids to use substitutes because “God still knows what you’re *really* saying.” I started cursing in other languages since I had kids. This means my girls are multilingual. So proud! Also, I’m really fond of the TNT network’s replacement cursing. Like the way they changed “mother fucker” to “motor scooter” throughout Pulp Fiction. Heh.

    • Wha? Pulp Fiction was supposed to be in italics. Not “heh.” Merde!

      • Quenby Moone says:

        Without substitutes the space-time fabric will tear in twain and we we all be ripped asunder! I cannot imagine a world where I can’t say ANYTHING! I’m too much in love with my words to let them fall into disuse; God (disclaimer: athiest) gave me these words. God wants me to use them so they don’t get rusty.

        MOTOR SCOOTER? Seriously? That’s hilarious!

        My son goes to a bilingual school so one of his first words in Japanese was “Butt.” Yep. We all love them, no matter what language we say them.

  17. angela says:

    when my brother and i are were kids, and were caught in the middle of saying, “what the hell?” we’d try to turn the “hell” into “heck,” only to constantly say, “what the helk?”

    all these descriptions of little kids saying “fuck you” and “cunt” are hilarious. i will probably feel very differently once i have kids myself.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Helk! I love it. I’ll be sharing that with my son because he will love it too–treading so closely to the fine line but not crossing it!

      At the risk of pimping myself too much, up above in Matt’s comment I link to a story about my son’s first word. It wasn’t “sunshine” or “kittens” I can tell you that much.

  18. Greg Olear says:

    Only thirty dollars? I could buy a new house outright, especially if I’ve been driving (the drivers in NJ are almost comically atrocious).

    My favorite part is that you were happy that he said “fuck off” with proper syntax. I’ve said that to Dom before…”That’s the proper use of ‘Oh shit,’ but you’re not allowed to say that.” He’s now out of his phase where he’d mangle the curses, coming up with things like “stupid Christ.”

    Great piece, QB. Fuck yeah.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Seriously, I’m hanging on by a thread here. It’s all I can do to skillfully navigate the euphemisms I’m left with.

      I really, really wanted to call someone a star-fucker the other day, but Milo was skirting the edges of the room, waiting, I think, for any little slip-up. He’s bankrolling himself, and he’s addicted to watching me pony up for his next extravagant Lego set or something.

      But not to be denied, and running out of words that he doesn’t know the synonyms anyway, I said to Lars, “She’s a copulator with the cosmos.”

      I’ve been reduced to this, Greg!



      I feel better now.

      Jesus H. Holier Than MotherFrakkin Jiminy Jones Christ-Mass.

  19. This was a fantastic piece, Quenby. Very amusing.

    I agree with you about making expletives more interesting. I’ve never been good at writing nice things and I’ll never be a proper journalist or a professional writer of any sort because of it… but I really take pride in being able to take people or ideas apart with well chosen words. “Fuck” is glorious, but it only really works in the right context and with a couple of friends either side. “Cunt” works nicely because it’s a little less used.

    My students often swear and I tell them that it’s okay, but they have to swear correctly. They’re learning English and quite frankly they’ll look stupid if they go to an English-speaking country and say, “I am take the shit.” That won’t do at all. So I make sure they know how to swear, but not to swear in front of certain people. I also explain that cursing is awesome… but only when it’s done in moderation. There are few things funnier than a totally unexpected “cunt!!!” but if someone says it all the time it’s just another meaningless word.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I love that you’re giving them proper training in cursing. When I was in the West Bank, the people there took great delight in teaching us furriners the best ways to swear in Arabic. Though I was supposedly there to learn Arabic, there was a full shut-down of the West Bank and Gaza, including our university for everyone except the foreign students.

      Other than that this was possibly the most surreal experience of my life, going onto an empty campus with thirty other foreigners and no Palestinians, the only Arabic I really learned was how to tell people their mother fucked sheep and that their sister was a whoring cunt.

      And maybe how to order chicken.

      But I digress. The whole reason I even thought of this story was because of the brilliant Scot photographer who was there, whose every utterance was peppered with cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt. Sometimes I would actually understand what he was saying if I could sift through the cunts.

      AH, memories.

      Anyway, good for you. Teach those students how to do it right, and we’ll never point and laugh when they say, “You are bitching with the wrong person, man!”

      • That’s awesome that you can swear properly in Arabic. I think it’s the same in Korea, depending on who you learn with. The women will teach you to speak Korean… but the guys will teach you to swear with the best of them. To be fair, there’s only really one proper swearword – “shibal” – but there are lots of amusing little other ones. Shibal is a bit of an all purpose swearword. Whereas in Arabic it sounds like you could say all kinds of thing, in Korean they’d just spit “Shibal!” at you over and over. If you watch a Korean gangster movie you’ll realise that they keep saying it but translating the same word differently. My favourite movie kept translating it as “you wanker!”

  20. Hilarious, if expensive, story.

    In my household we follow the teachings of my beloved Filth Elder, the sorely missed George Carlin, in the belief that there is no such thing as a ‘bad word’.

    I never bothered with the jar, or any efforts to curb the kids tongue beyond the three-level system. There are words for public use, words for at home only, and grown-up words. He wasn’t allowed to say Fuck anywhere as a small kid. He knew he got that privilege when it was an adult. But he was allowed to say Shit, as long as he didn’t use it at school or anywhere I would then get shit for it. Damn was at his discretion, but he knew he might get a hard time for it at school. But as far as I’m concerned, while Damn might be an expletive, it’s so lame and tame it doesn’t deserve the effort to remove it from anyone’s lexicon, not even a small child. And I dare the school to call me and complain if he says Crap.

    And the best part about my system is, it worked. He doesn’t think ‘blue language’ is something to freak out over, or something to aspire to. He sees kids at his high school that use Fuck for every other word and he knows they’re just doing it as some kind of rebellion instead of because they’re clever enough to do it right. What’s also interesting is that, at 15, he hasn’t asked exactly what age he gets to start using Fuck. But then again, he seems to really like Friggin’, which I’m also fond of myself. Personally, I think both have their time, as well as Frakkin’ if you’re geeky enough.

    Oh, and what I would’ve given for my son’s first curse word to have been Cunt, particularly with how much British TV I watch. That would’ve made my decade.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      This is the problem with coming up with disciplinary measures on the fly; I didn’t really have the time and foresight to figure out the repercussions of my “potty-mouth pot.” At some point I will have to reclaim my adult rights to at least the very most tame of curses, but my son has so properly dealt with his own miscreant tongue that I’m loathe to lighten up yet.

      Hoisted on my own petard, as they say.

      It’s been a really interesting experiment though. I sure have learned a thing or two…about myself.

      And truthfully, I don’t give a rip what he says. I know he’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. What I don’t trust is that people will look beyond the string of expletives flooding from his mouth if we just let him say whatever he wants to say. It’s OTHER PEOPLE who I feel are the problem, and sometimes you just have to suck it up and let other people dictate the terms…until you rule the world and can say any mother-fucking thing you want.


      Frakkin’ is my favorite TV replacement word of all time. The Dweeb runs strong in this family.

  21. Dana says:

    Cripes! Great piece Quenby! I think Sweet Fancy Brown is adorable. One of my favorites lately (for office usage when the boss is around) is “Why The Face?” Shamelessly stolen from the tv show Modern Family.

    Re: Frak, yesterday afternoon on NPR there was a scientist talking about fracking over and over again. Apparently it’s just a shortened version of fracturing (it was a story on earthquakes), but it was cracking me up. Such a BSG geek!

    CleverTitania, for a second I thought you were my friend. She did much the same with her son and I have to say, it’s really impressive what a great kid he’s turning into. It was also hysterical to see him stomping around the house when he was 2 (and knew it was okay because we were his moms cool friends) looking for his fucking socks. To my knowledge he’s had no trouble grasping the situations where it’s inappropriate.

    My parents didn’t allow swearing. At all. I STILL don’t swear in front of them. And I really can let the fuck flag fly. My husband tries to curtail himself around them, but it’s pretty fruitless.
    The reason I wasn’t allowed to curse was because my dad thinks it’s “coarse” and just not very imaginative. I disagree (especially after Deadwood, I have a renewed respect for cocksucker). One time my mom said shit because it was in the punchline of a joke. She blushed for an HOUR afterward. When my dad needed to let off some steam, a bunch of unintelligible words would emanate from the garage (the usual scene of the verbal crime). The most oft used phrase was “darnit hornet blooming foot”. His mother would often let loose with a “potlicker” and I still find that hilarious. In regular every day usage the worst I’ve ever heard my mom say is “shoot”.

    I just had a flash back to 4th grade when Lynn Smith got sent to the principals office for swearing. Her crime? “Oh my God.” That wouldn’t be considered an offense these days, would it?

    • Quenby Moone says:

      BSG Geek! I love BSG, and the geeks who love it! You know those scientists are exactly the same, probably naming things “Six” and “Boomer.” In fact, we named our Roomba “Boomer” and when it died we replaced it with “Chief.”

      Ah, dorkiness.

      I’m so sorry your parents didn’t allow the meager and thin “God.” That’s the only thing keeping me out of the poorhouse these days. If I couldn’t rely upon it in these hard times, I would probably start rupturing something inside.

      Darnit hornet blooming foot” is such a great piece of accidental surrealism that I want to make some sort of altar to it! Potlicker is good, but the former is freakin’ GENIUS!

      And OMG! Principals office? WTF???

  22. Great piece, Quenby!

    I don’t have kids, so my struggle with the f-bomb has been a classroom issue.

    When I was in grad school, a “friend” was called into our department chair’s office after one of his students counted 27 f-words in a single meeting.

    His explanation: “It’s a 3-hour class!”

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Since my father was both a university professor and brilliant in the gift of well-executed F-bombs (not honed with the true artistry my mother employs, but still: no slouch) this story makes me IMMENSELY PROUD of your friend.

      That he not only managed to fit so many in, but then explain it with such genius simplicity to the powers-that-be? Give that man tenure!

      I don’t know whether you teach kids or adults, but I will be the first to commend you on a few well-executed f-bombs, just to scare them a little. My father could really scare the crap out of his students–and I think it went some distance. He was also a really, really amazing teacher. He just didn’t take any shit.

  23. Simon Smithson says:

    My particularly genteel favourites are ‘What in the Sam Hill?’ and ‘Ahhhhhh…. nuts.’

    Pretty much entirely because of the way Carl delivers it on The Simpsons.


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