Sunday, October 11, 2009


Today I was in a conversation where one of the conversers mentioned the word Friggin. And another pointed out that Friggin, fricken, freaking, etc, is really code for that other word, and as followers of Christ, we shouldn't use any of those words.

And it's true. Sadly, I know it is true. I say sadly because I love to use the word freakin.

I'm a word girl (word up!) I love words, I love new words, I love the etymology of words. One of my favorite classes in college was The History of the English Language, and I am rather proud that I can still recite the beginning of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, which is almost a foreign language. If I were to win the lottery, one of the first things I would buy would be a big ole Oxford English Dictionary.

Being that I love words, all words, I love local vernacular and I love slang. And I even love me some cuss words.

To me, there are levels of cuss words: Schedule I: the ones that I have never said, either because they are so foul or blasphemous; Schedule II: the bad ones; and Schedule III: the ones that you don't allow your kids to say, but sometimes you can, especially if you are referring to a donkey or the opposite of Heaven. Schedule IV are the ones which are the ones that aren't really bad, just tacky. You know, butt, fart - all the ones Shepherd loves at the moment. Schedule V are words that "someone" has determined to be bad, namely, "stupid." Which is stupid. But I've already discussed that.

So, no, I normally don't cuss, for three reasons. Number one, I think it is plain tacky and disrespectful. Even in my wild UT days, if a boy cussed in front of me on a first date, he would not get a second. Number two, I have these kids that I try and behave in front of. And then there's number three: because I love Jesus.

There are several verses, namely Ephesians 4:29, that exhort that we simply aren't to talk like that.

But I tell you what (verily verily I say unto you), sometimes, like when I trench my own yard again or when I splash bleach on a favorite shirt, or even when I need to let my husband know that my anger is not pretend at the moment but very very real, it just feels very good to let one of those Schedule II's fly.

I'm not proud, y'all, I'm just honest.

Those times are fortunately rare. What is much more prevalent in daily life is the use of the substitutionary cuss words. Like friggin. We know what it means, and out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, right? If our heart is saying the real F word, when we use a weenie version, we aren't fooling anybody.

Even our kids.

Most of our "innocent" cuss words are easy to trace back to their blasphemous origins. A favorite of mine happens to be Jeez Louise. But Jeez is just short for Jesus. Dadgumit? Rearrange some syllables and consonants and it's a Schedule I. Same with Gosh dangit.

When I hear someone swear Oh my God, I cringe. But what about Oh my gosh? Oh my goodness? Oh my heavens? Oh for Pete's sake? Let's be honest, all are euphemisms for God or his home or his disciple at the gate. The meaning is the same.

Even the ones I do say in front of my kids: heck, darn, dern, dang, shoot, shikeys, holy guacamole - the mouth says Schedule IV, the heart says Schedule II.

Then there's my favorite, the most innocuous sounding one of all: Oh my word. What does that mean? I think it probably means Oh my {insert cuss word here}.

My grandma used to be friends with a lady named Jean Petty, which I thought was the most beautiful name ever. I remember her sitting at my grandma's table over dominoes, saying "Well I declare" in response to my grandma's stories. Except when Miss Jean said it, it sounded like "Well I. De. Clare." Is "I declare" okay, or is it the toned down version for swearing?

Is it just as big a sin to say the real curse word as it is to say the weenie one?
Or are some obviously not okay (freakin) while some truly are innocent (oh my word)?

And what would one insert? How is "Oh my word" more toxic than "Wow" or "No way" or "Get outta town" or "Ooo chile"?

Y'all, I don't know. I just don't know.

If it is, it presents a very big problem for me, a Texan girl who is very expressive and known to be dramatic who loves words and who talks a lot.

For the love of Pete, what in tarnation am I supposed to do??


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