When I was a kid, the F-word was off-limits in our house. And we knew it was off-limits because my mother never said it. She never even had the nice-girl version of it like ‘freakin’ or ‘flippin’ to throw out now and again.
It’s not that she didn’t swear. When my brother was 12, his friend returned home to tell his mother about it. This is the conversation as Donny’s Mom remembers it:
Mrs. Russell is really religious.
Why do you say that, Donny?
Cause she says Jesus Christ all the time. She even prays when the phone rings. And when you spill a glass of soda she damns it straight to Hell.
As my brother and I got older and slipped up, dropping the f-bomb four blocks away and in an a vacuum, my mother would appear. She had bat ears and could hear even the whispered mutterings of an early morning search for homework.
And always, no matter how far away we were, or how quietly we spoke, she rose up like the wrath of God, all crazy eyed and vengeful to rave at us about the verbal transgression.
Then one day it happened. She said it. And the world stopped.
Everyone froze, waiting to turn to pillars of ash. It was like the snapshot scenes in old movies about nuclear war. We crystallized in our fear, as the air was sucked out of the room and we waited for the world to end.
“Naughty” words don’t bother me. They are so arbitrarily chosen, based on rules of society that have long since gone the way of the powdered wig and the oiled paper windows.
What, you don’t like that word? Here, let me give you four or five synonyms that don’t offend your delicate sensibilities.
The few words that are off-limits in my world are few and far between. And they are words that are often used to be hurtful. Faggot. Nigger. A handful of others.
This creates a bit of a problem for me, as a Mom.
I don’t want the little to say a lot of the ‘naughty’ words, but I’m far from inclined to punish him when he does. Instead I explain that in most places he’ll get in trouble for saying the words, especially if he says them at school. Mostly he gets it, and avoids using the words.
But every now and then he throws me. Like the other day. The dog knocked him down and he leaped to his feet and shouted, “Be careful, Jizzmuffin!”
I don’t even know where that came from. It may have been the first time in my life that I ever heard it. I didn’t even know how to type it – phrase or compound word?
So we had the standard discussion about getting in trouble if he says it in certain company, so it’s best not to use it around the house. We don’t want it to become a habit at home that could slip out at school, right?
Then, a few hours later the dog struck again.
And Q let fly with, “Careful, dog, you dumb jizz.”
He looked at me, all 4 year-old innocence. “What Mama, I didn’t say muffin.”
“Oh, honey, ‘muffin’ isn’t the problem. ‘Jizz’ is.”
“It just is, Buddy, it just is.”