Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cussin' and the kid.

Someone left a comment about how, if I don't want my kid swearing, why do I use profanity all the time? And I've got nothing else to blog about, so you're now stuck reading my Theory of Profanity.

I don't want my kid using profanity for the same reason I don't want her using a paring knife: she's not old enough to understand how to use it, yet.

I'm a writer, and a former English major. (There's no such thing as a former English major. It's like the Marines. Once joined, always a member. Except instead of "Semper Fi" it's "Carpe Diem".) For most writers, there's no such thing as a 'bad' word. Some are just, well, stronger than others. Living in Hawaii reinforced this a great deal; Hawaiian has no profanity, and the concept that profanity is about usage and tone of voice has washed over into all the other languages out there. So when used properly (like, say, to express my opinion at the idea of a 38" bust equaling size extra large) it just underlines my point, or adds humor, and whatever.

Until my kid gets better at gauging social situations,the idea is for her not to swear. In fact, she's heard ALL THE WORDS, and occasionally uses them. Sometimes her stuffies or Little People get angry and cuss each other out. If she's alone in her room at the time, I don't say anything because it's an acceptable use. She's JUST starting to understand "home manners" vs. "out in public manners", and once she really gets it, I'll loosen up a lot on the occasional swear word. As it is, she will occasionally mutter "what the hell?" and again, since it seems appropriate (like when seeing High School Musical), I let it ride.

As for my language, these days I mostly swear on the internet, due to that kid thing I've been discussing. Usually for humor, sometimes for emphasis. Because it's the internet, people are able to decide for themselves if they want to deal with it and not read if they don't like it. Simple enough.

15 comments:

Sarah {The Student Knitter} said...

I like it - your whole theory. It jives for me. Also, I think swearing is hilarious when used appropriately. count me in. :)

Alwen said...

My theory (which is my theory which is mine) is a little different - when I got to the third paragraph I decided it was big enough to be a blog post.

http://lost-arts.blogspot.com/2011/06/theory-of-profanity.html

Gina said...

I swear for the catharsis, for emphasis, for humour, and for the stress relief. My kids have heard all the words too - and I've heard them back. They're still learning the social nuances, but I'd rather correct that than pretend they don't swear.

Penny said...

I realized when I was about to give birth that I either needed to quit cussing or be a parent who was OK with a cussing kid. I went with OK with a cussing kid as it seemed the easiest course of action. She actually caught on to company conversation as opposed to home conversation really fast. Once in nursery school I had a teacher mention that she had said "butt" and they were so surprised to hear that from such a polite little girl. I pointed out that that was entirely my fault as I hadn't thought to teach her that some people found that an offensive word. I swear I told her about the conversation and her 4 year old's response was, "guess it was a good thing I didn't say ass." As you can imagine, we were the "cool" house to hang out at during her school years. In case you are wondering, she's all grown up now, a staid member of the community, a home-owning, tax paying citizen, and librarian by profession.

Corlis said...

I'm so glad you are a mom.

Anonymous said...

Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke!

Michellenyc

Teri S. said...

Interesting theory and I kind of like it. "Kind of" because I ran into a situation (literally) several years ago when my husband and I were finishing a long run and passed two kids on a bike (they might have been 12, max). As we passed them, one said "Ugly cunt" which could have only been directed at me. Tom and I were a bit shocked but ignored them. In retrospect, we should have turned around, chased them down, and told them that that language was totally inappropriate (even though I don't look my best at the end of a long run).

So...cussing at home is fine, but will kids (and not just yours) not cuss in public when the parents aren't around?

knotknittingenough said...

Our kids have just started swearing. Although, the two that go to school (youngest is 5 months and doesn't count...) started out in a church school, and one day one came home after school in trouble for using a word that I have used often and in a similar context. It was not a swear word at all, and not really even remotely offensive. I did have to stop and think about it. Then I laughed and they knew better for the rest of the year to be careful how they talk in school. Now they are in a much better school (public) but are starting to use stronger words and some of them are offensive - but they are learning how to be social with other children of their age and I had to curb myself tonight when I heard the middle child talking to the oldest child. They have always been disrespectful to each other and now are learning about the usage of words and how some words and taunts can lead to others physically getting harmed ie school bullying.
I also swear up a blue streak now that we have been living together for the last 3 years. But only when they are in trouble. They are getting to be too old and too big to send off to their rooms and/or have a light spanking etc. They have come to realize that they are growing up and when they are in trouble they will hear it for quite a while. They do know better than to use profane words when talking with us, or at us when they are going through the "I hate you" phases...
I think it all boils down to respect. Its not the language that most kids use, its whether or not they know the difference that they are being respectful or not. And that can take a huge learning curve. You can have the most gentile speech but under all the fancy word be disrespectful.

And just because you swear on your blog or in other areas that you write, does not mean you talk "dirty" to your kids. Most adults that I know have public and private vocabularies. Sometimes I wish I could write with as much truth and humerus profanity as you do. ;)

Donna Lee said...

English major here, too. My kids heard all of the words and used them appropriately AT HOME (although I confess they might have used them outside as well, I wasn't always with them). I just hammered into them that if trash is always coming out of your mouth, people will start to assume that your head is filled with trash. And that in the privacy of their rooms, they could say anything they wanted.

They also learned the ability to curse creatively. They are very very good at it.

LyndaF said...

Ah ha ha! Like your theory! We limited potty language to specific areas of the house. I used to hang out in the bathroom with my kids and we'd all use potty language. It was great fun.

Emily said...

My daughter was, I think, 4 when she asked, "Mommy, do you mind when I say things like 'shit' and stuff?"

I answered that there were people who would judge her harshly for such language & that it was better not to get in the habit of using it. (Besides, you need "bad" words for certain times & too casual usage takes all the punch out of them, but I don't think I said that right then.)

Anyway, I got curious & asked, "Sweetie, what does 'shit' mean?"

She hemmed & hawed and was very evasive. Finally she dropped her voice and murmured, "You know, it's when the mommy & the daddy...'

"No, no!" I cried. "It means poop!"

She laughed in delight. "Oh boy, wait until I tell Jason!"

I had a momentary wonderful image of these little kids in preschool joyfully whispering these magical "bad" words to each other in the corners, with no idea of the meanings. But at that age, who needs meanings?

Amy said...

I've always believed in the George Carlin theory (close to yours, without the kid thrown in.) All language is good language--understanding swear words and how to use them indicates mastery at manipulating language, and it is a skill set. Like you, when my kids get old enough to understand that skill set, I'm all for it. (Witness my 16 yo daughter, saying "What in the fuck?" when told her cat had brought in a dead bird, and we hadn't found it yet. That, to me, was a very appropriate use of profanity.)

On sort of a sidenote--I bought Mate a copy of Sh*t My Dad Says for father's day-- and then read most of it. I think you'd like it--it shows a mastery of the language on a lot of levels, including profanity, and is a sterling example of how someone who's got a mouth like a sailor can set a damned fine example for how to be a decent human being.

Georgi said...

I always told my kids that when they were adults they good cuss, but until then there were words that mom and dad used that they couldn't. They seemed to understand the concept of mommy words and they knew when I said something that was not a kid word. It works, and kids ket used to hearing mom and dad swear. They also understand that the rules ar enot the same for them as it is for mom.

Anonymous said...

Our rule used to be, if you can't spell it, you can't say it. We also discussed different ways of saying things, such as defecate (but if you can't spell it...) My son, then in third grade and a horrible speller, looked at me and rattled it off in two seconds, correctly spelled! I had to tell his teacher (who was really cool) and she found it hysterical. They're just words, and I think Goober will be a fine member of society.

Trish

Yvonne Morgan said...

I swear..a lot! When someone asked me what I would think of my (then) 8 year old daughter swearing, my answer was, and still is, if it's the worst thing she ever does, I'll be delighted!

Verfication: rerses. Like curses for people who watch too much Scooby Doo?