Cursing Conservatives: Bad Words or Not?

Curse words, four-letter words, bad words, swear words, oaths, expletives, obscenities, foul language, profanities the list goes on and on for what we call those words we really shouldn’t say. But who decides what words go on the list of words we really shouldn’t say, and what does it take to make a word a “curse” word?

Recently I made a statement like, “You’re really starting to piss me off!”

My daughter looked at me like I’d grown a third head or struck her.

“Mom! You said a bad word!”

“What? No, I didn’t. What did you think I said?” I thought back over my statement and found no curse words in my statement.

“You said the “p” word.”

“The “p” word? What? Piss?” I was confused.

“Yes! Dad says that’s a cuss word.”

“He does?”

Chris came around the corner. “Yes. That’s a curse word. At least to everyone except you, apparently. And we’ve discussed this before.”

Hmm. I don’t really remember discussing this particular word before, and I’m not sure I remember the fact that some people might think it’s a cuss word. Strange.

All I meant was someone was really starting to make me angry. It’s a figure of speech, an idiom. I heard it a lot as a child. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of it as a curse word.

(I just asked my family if it (pissing me off) was an idiom, and my daughter said, “It’s a bad word! Are you going to use it in your classroom?”

When I responded that it was for my blog, she says, “You know Christian people read your blog, right?”

I said I did and that I was writing about cuss words.

She responds, “Well, you don’t need to actually put one in there.”)

You can’t make this stuff up, folks! 😉

Anyway, bad words. Who got to decide what words were “bad” and what words were “good”?

For example, sometimes I can say ass. If I’m talking about an animal, especially from the Bible, I can say it, but that’s it. I silently giggle at this word almost annually.

Usually I get the privilege of accompanying a group of middle school students to the zoo in the fall. There is an animal there called a Somali Wild Ass. It’s absolutely beautiful. Every year I watch students stand and stare. Then I watch a student venture to the information sign, and then I giggle. One student giggles and turns red, and starts signaling to all of the other students to come read the sign.

Eventually one will become brave enough to say it out loud just to see how I respond. I never respond. Then another student will tattle. “Mrs. Tripp! So-and-so said the “a” word!” I simply nod in acknowledgment. Someone will ask, “Are we allowed to say that word?” I always ask if they know the species name. I always ask if they’re calling someone a name. If they can answer the questions appropriately, then it’s absolutely acceptable for them to say the “a” word while discussing the beautiful creature they’ve just observed.

Then there’s the “b” word. I won’t type it. I can’t. I was raised around dogs. My dad bred them, sold puppies, trained dogs, yep, I know it’s what female dogs are called, but I still can’t even type the word. It’s too bad. Why? I don’t know. It’s somehow ingrained into me. The “b” word is too bad.

Crap. Typed that one. Did it bother you? Some people don’t find this offensive at all. Others find this to be the same as saying the “s” version of the same word. I won’t type or say the “s” word, but it doesn’t bother me if people use the “c” version. Guilty of doing it myself, although I’ve cut back a lot. I don’t allow use of this word in my classroom. I encourage students to turn their frustration into humor. “Oh, poop!” or “Poopy!” sounds so much more funny and can really lighten a stressful situation.

The “d” word comes in many forms. I have friends who were backhanded for saying darn or dang because it was the same thing. I think nothing of darn or dang, but visibly cringe if I hear the actual word. It’s in the Bible.

And then there’s the “f” word. YUCK! I can’t stand it when people use that word in public. What bothers me even more lately is the fact my kids have taken to using the word “freaking”. I finally had enough and looked up the definition to prove to them that it was a bad word. The google definition says it is the same exact thing as the “f” word. Now, darn and dang are used the same way and don’t bother me at all…this one does. Why?

My kids who are totally against me using the “p” word are not happy about me being opposed to their “fr” word. It isn’t a curse word to them. My banning it doesn’t make sense to them.

What makes one word bad and one word good?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

For me, it seems to have come from how I was raised blended with my understanding of scripture.

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6

I don’t use any of those four-letter words that are commonly accepted as expletives ever, well, with the exception of the “p” word. On top of that, I try to be conscious of the beliefs of those I am around to temper my speech, although those who know me would tell you it would be uncommon for me to ever have to censor my speech.

I try not to be unnecessarily offended by the speech of others. I often am, though. I realize that individuals are products of their environments and often don’t realize the things that come out of their mouths offend others. I can’t hold individuals who aren’t aware of my beliefs responsible for living to my standards.

Sometimes it would be easy for me to let people who offend me with their language have it. I can do that…even with clean language. However, that conversation would not be with grace or seasoned with salt, but damnation and vinegar.

So, I’ll be leaving my legalistic nature behind and I’ll look past the words into the heart of the person speaking them. Hopefully, you (& these uncommonly conservative teenagers that call me mom) can do the same for me!


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