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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

there are no bad words only bad spelling

It will no doubt come as a surprise to people who know me in real life and not just as a cloud of disembodied electrons that I used to be a smoker.

It is perhaps equally astonishing that I started smoking at the tender age of 11 when I was invited to join my Almost-Twin Sister and Jenny from Up the Street behind the Jones's house one summer's evening when the Jones family must have been away.

Jenny from Up the Street was a couple of years older than me and I didn't really know her well other than as a tough girl who'd been around the block. Since our block was in quiet suburban West End St. John's in the middle of what used to be a farmer's field, this did not really mean much. At the time, I considered her exotic, cool, and a little bit dangerous which was probably only because she was from a slightly lower socio-economic class* and didn't go to my school because she was Catholic.

Plus her tendency to lure younger children behind dark houses to introduce them to the demon weed.

What I saw that night behind the Jones's house was quite shocking, let me tell you. There was my 9-almost-10-year-old Almost-Twin Sister smoking like a tilt and, to add to my abhorrence, cursing like a sailor (this was not her first trip behind the Jones's house apparently). Filthy words were spewing from her mouth joining the noxious cloud of smoke in a whirling dance about our heads. I didn't even know what a lot of those words meant but I instinctively knew they were bad.

It was then I formed the deeply held conviction that smoking caused swearing.

Despite (or perhaps because of) my horror at this scene, I decided to continue with my own descent into juvenile delinquency and tried to light a cigarette.  I put it in my mouth, Jenny lit the end; I inhaled deeply and promptly began to choke and gag and struggle for air.

I dropped the cigarette and refused to try it again. But I did stick around while they continued to smoke, me lighting matches for the rest of the evening like a total badass.

Thus ended my career as a smoker and I became an insufferably self-righteous prig about it forever after like most reformed smokers.

What didn't end at that moment was my fascination with the demon word.

While a lot of kids associated smoking with adulthood, I became more interested in profanity as the true sign of maturity (the irony of that only just occurring to me). I was practically bursting with pride and adulthood when my parents took me to see The Sting, my first grown-up movie, when I was about 12. When Paul Newman told Robert Shaw he (RS) played poker with his head up his ass, I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever heard. I fell in love with Paul Newman and his filthy mouth after that movie - I still can't bring myself to throw out his poster which is currently rolled up and stored with the Christmas wrap.

I also fell in love with seeing movies in the theatre where my beloved swear words could be heard in all their glory and the jokes were never ruined by the poorly dubbed non-sequiturs you heard on TV. Growing up in the '70s during the golden age of Serious Movies that had finally broken the dirty language barrier, I thought it was stupid to censor those words because if the movie was good, they had an artistic purpose, and if the movie was lazy, the bad words made it more entertaining. Connoisseurs of the ridiculous might enjoy the extreme lengths TV censors had to go through to cover the ears of the easily outraged but I just wanted to hear the gosh-darn, melon-farming cuss words.

But despite my advanced internal maturity and appreciation of the art form, I was still very self-conscious about actually swearing myself.  As my mother has said on at least one occasion, I wouldn't say shit if my mouth was full of it.

I don't remember hearing my parents swearing very much but when they did it was pretty low level stuff.  I never heard either of them say the f-word. The worst thing I ever remember my mother saying was the s-word which I think shows remarkable forbearance for a woman who had five children in seven years and had to change diapers full of the s-word for 10 years straight.

When I was in grade six, my best friend's two-year-old baby brother was a prodigiously entertaining cusser thanks to his nine-year old boy cousin but other than that, I don't think many of my friends swore either.

Peer pressure finally broke my own personal Hays Code in a rather backwards way when my Almost-Twin Sister and I started hanging out with our older brother's friends in the graveyard behind the houses across the street from us.

The language was pretty R-rated among those teenage boys (feel free to clutch your pearls now) and it was pretty contagious. My Almost-Twin fit in right away. But when I finally dropped my first tentative f-bombs they were met with such amusement that I swore I would outdo all those fuckers. My conversation became so chockablock with bad words, I could hardly contain them when my parents were around.

This phase was probably so short-lived that I'm not sure anyone other than me remembers it.  I eventually realized that constant cursing lost it's appeal since the shock value wore off if you did it too much and often it just revealed a lack of vocabularial imagination. (By constant cursing I mean every other word. If you can find 3 or 4 good ones to stick in between the bad, you're doing fine.)

I went back to being a G-rated conversationalist while reserving the right to say anything I darn well please as appropriate.  I am a big fan of inappropriate words being used appropriately.

After all, when you stub your toe on the coffee table, there is no more appropriate word choice than FUCK!  Or maybe fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck! It feels a hell of lot better too if you keep that word and its derivatives in reserve for just such an occasion.

Which finally brings me around to my point (and I do have one). My last blog post probably surprised a lot of people since I am not known for my salty language.**  But I've been hanging around on the internet with loose companions and I watched the first season of Deadwood, a filthy masterpiece of profanity used in epic proportions, so my self-censor has gone all to shit.

That post was about depression as well as dishwashing and those topics deserve to be described in the filthiest terms possible because they both suck dead sheep sideways.

I have also stuck my name on this formerly anonymous blog because I am really trying to write something worthwhile here and I'm trying to find my way back to being a writer like my dad who used to regale complete strangers with (mostly) true tales of our family's adventures disguised as an outdoors column published for the whole freaking world to see in The Daily News.

Depression robbed me of my words 20 years ago. Since then, while I still took the time to write entertaining emails and a few blog posts when I started this thing a few years ago, it is only lately that I have been feeling a really strong urge to write again.

So now that the floodgates of language seem to have been opened in my brain in more ways than one, I hope you won't mind if I continue writing this little blog using whatever words I fucking like.

*I don't actually know if this was a fact. It was just my impression at the time and I'm pretty sure I was a teeny tiny bit snobbish about it back then without having a clue why. If Jenny from Up the Street ever reads this, I hope she won't mind a bit of tweaking about a stupid thing she did when she was a kid.
**I also have trouble with rude hand gestures. One time I got so mad at a driver who cut me off I really wanted to give him the finger but my inner-Canadian made me feel so guilty about the impulse that it turned into a thumbs up.

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