by Joe Shea
August 12, 2011
A MIND OF HS OWN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Some people have a real problem with cursing. I won't offer any examples, but you've no doubt heard them. You might not like them, but you know what words I'm talking about. If I say "the S-word," you know what I'm talking about.
The topic of cursing and the appropriateness or lack of it in the business world has been coming up a lot in discussions I've had with people. And as a professional word slinger, I'm interested in the power of language and how people react to it, including swear words.
I read a piece on Salon.com by Johanna Gohmann, who grew up in the '70s and '80s here in Indiana. She wrote about the inapporpriateness of some words, and how they make so uncomfortable that she grew up not being able to say them.
Words like butt and poo were replaced with "bo" and "boo."
It was so bad, even at age 35, that she is still uncomfortable using butt. It's such a problem that before a second date with a guy who eventually became her husband, he had texted her a message that included the word "butt" in a playful way. This bothered her so much that while on their date, she wrote her two most hated words on a napkin and handed them to the guy.
"Moist. Butt." He read them out loud, making her sorry she wrote them in that order. And he promised not to say either of them, like "Boy, this cake sure is moist. Too bad it will make your butt big."
I just don't get it. I tried to understand why someone doesn't like the word "butt," but it just doesn't make any sense. I knew a family who didn't want their children hearing the word, which caused a slight problem when I said it to their 3-year-old son while my wife and I were taking care of him one evening.
"You're not supposed to say that word around him," my wife said, who had known the family for years.
"What am I supposed to say, bottom?"
"No, you can't say that word either," she said. Turns out "bottom" is the word her family used for a girl's, uh, you know. This meant she got confused and frightened whenever she heard another parent tell their own child, "If you don't knock it off, I'm going to spank your bottom!"
So we were supposed to refer to this kid's rear end as his rear end, because his parents thought "butt" was a bad word.
What were they going to do when he learned about the butt end of a rifle? Or saw a cigarette butt on the street? Or was the butt of the other kids' jokes throughout his entire childhood?
I've been thinking about swearing lately, because I have a new book coming out in 10 weeks called "No BS Social Media." Only we didn't say "BS," we actually said the real BS word.
This has caused some consternation among a few people. Not many, but I've seen some raised eyebrows over the last couple months.
It's not really that big a deal. We've all heard this word before. The bookstores are actually okay with putting it on the shelves, and my co-author Jason and I are getting some speaking engagements where they're saying the title of the book out loud without bursting into flames.
To be sure, some people are a little leery. I had an organizer of one event say she couldn't put the name, even the abbreviated name, of the book into my speaker's bio. I've got a couple friends who are militant non-swearers and they will only refer to the book as "No BS Social Media." I tell them they need to respect the integrity of the literature, but they remain steadfast.
There's a section in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the president of a planet says they're in "one whole jujuflop situation" (jujuflop being the most awful word you could possibly say). Everyone is actually so pleased he said it that they failed to notice their 5,000-year-old civilization had collapsed overnight.
I sometimes worry that the No BS book is our jujuflop. Everyone is so pleased to see someone finally had the courage to put it on a book title that they completely failed to notice everything else collapsing around us.
I don't really worry it will happen, but at the same time I'm fully aware that this book title would not have been allowed 10 years ago. Still, I'll leave this discussion up to the philosophers and big thinkers. I just write books and sell them. But all of this has me wondering one very important question: What's wrong with "moist?"
AR Humor Writer Erik Deckers is a professional blogger, book author, award-winning playwright, travel writer, and humor columnist in Indianapolis, Ind.