The Perils of Foul (Really Fowl!) Language

This blog post has words, language, and images that may be considered profane, vulgar, or offensive by some readers. If you proceed, you’re responsible for your own feelings.

As a young girl, I talked like a foul-mouthed trucker. I even used God’s name in vain whenever anything ruffled my porcupine quills. But I knew The Ten Commandments, and the third one in Exodus 20:7 warned not to take the Lord’s name in vain or face punishment. So, my knees knocked like the worn-out pistons in our latest jalopy.

Every two weeks I’d unload my guilt in the confessional of the Catholic Church. After hearing my juvenile offenses, the priest would offer advice and have me pray the Act of Contrition. When I returned to my pew, I’d pray penance prayers before retrieving my pink blob of deflated bubble gum from where I stuck it under my seat. It smelled like the essence of all that’s good-and that’s how I felt unencumbered by sin.

But I didn’t feel good for long. I swore less but didn’t stop. I got an earful of expletives at home, on the street, and in parks where older kids hung out. F-bombs shot out of my mouth like bottle rockets. I sure didn’t know it meant THAT, and I didn’t even know about THAT at the time.

Then my friends-mostly boys because they played fun games-told me, “We aren’t allowed to play with you anymore because you say bad words all the time.”

I yelled, “No, I don’t!” But I knew I did, and added, “Not all the time!”

The bearer of bad news shoved me while yelling, “Yes, you do!” Then I shoved him into a ditch and had another sin to confess.

Devastated, I wandered into the neighboring projects. Two girls saw me moping around and said, “We’re having a fashion show with our dolls. Do you wanna bring a doll to the show?”

If this were a fairy tale, I would have shyly mumbled “Uh uh,” while shaking my head “no” and twirling the worn out toe of my shoe in the dirt. But still seething, I said, “Hell no! I threw my stupid doll in the trash.” I didn’t intend to swear and be mean, so I had to hold back tears.

I wanted to watch the after-school monster movies at my friend Johnny’s house. I wanted to join in with ball games, play kick the can, challenge someone to a game of marbles or mumbely peg, or play hide-n-seek in the dark-not play with creepy dolls!

During my exile, I created a safe curse mantra. Whenever I got mad, I’d shout D-S-P for Dog Sh*t Poo. “What the DSP! Your mumbley peg knife flipped into my leg!” and “Oh DSP! It’s bleeding like roadkill!” and “Kiss my DSP goodbye!” This childish acronym worked for me and I learned enough self-control to reunite with my friends.

For several years I helped facilitate an after-school anger management program and often shared this story. It helped start conversations about respecting others and avoiding volatile trigger words during disagreements. Initially, some parents addressed their children using off-putting language like, “Sit your a** down,” and “Tell them what the f**k you did.” And the apples didn’t fall far from the tree.

Profanities have lost their sting. Social media, movies, and television shows are infiltrated with obscenities, vulgarisms, and blasphemies for viewers of all ages. It’s not surprising when kids express shock, or anger, or disappointment with low-down-and-dirty language which they may not understand. And if God isn’t included in their lives, there are no checks and balances when parents don’t care or aren’t around.

Now, if swearers knew what the dirty, smutty, and profane words meant, they might have second thoughts about their vocabulary. Proverbs 15:1 points out that mild responses subdue wrath while harsh words stoke it. Clarification of several common swear words and gentler alternatives follow:

Blasphemy is using the name of God, Jesus Christ or any sacred name in vain, and dishonoring or slandering sacred names. It’s scornful and disrespectful to God, Jesus Christ, and everything holy.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is bad-mouthing the Holy Spirit, or maligning the work of the Holy Spirit, or rejecting the Holy Spirit. According to Matthew 12:31, sins and blasphemy will be forgiven but not blasphemy against the Spirit.

Golly, gee, gosh, doggone it, oh my goodness, OMG!, etc., are softer words used to avoid shouting sacred names when having a meltdown, but they’re still substitutes for the same names. God invites us to call upon Him without crying wolf.

H0ly sh*t, holy cr*p, holy hell are vulgarisms which use the word holy as an intensive for the expletive that replaces a sacred name. Sh*t and cr*p are yard bombs and hell is the devil’s domain. They aren’t holy, or saintly, or divine.

Wow! You’re kidding! Oh, my! are good substitutes for holy exclamations.

Everything is sh*t or cr*p: “Turn off that sh*t,” or “This is my cr*p,” or “Give me that sh*t.” Since we know what sh*t or cr*p someone is talking about, real names are disregarded. Referring to a myriad of stuff as animal waste is poop porn.

Thing is a good word to dethrone sh*t or cr*p. If objects aren’t feces, call them things. “I want that thing with two all beef patties,” or “Where’s the mobile thing that turns me into a zombie?” or “Hand me those jingly things that start my thing with four wheels.”

Jackass, a**hole, dumba**, lazya**, etc. are rough words that malign donkeys and compare someone’s shortcomings to their patootie. Someone who, for instance, flips you the bird after cutting you off in traffic, or sprays their pee in bathrooms as if they’re putting out five-alarm fires, or litters parks, beaches, and roadways with filth.

Doofus, dummy, and dope are softer slurs for someone acting like any of the a**es, but these are mean-spirited names, too. The socially challenged need guidance or prayers-not belittlement. And forgiving thoughts, not including “I’m sorry you’re a moron,” help displace anger.

C word and b*tch are used to degrade females who may, or may not be, the paragon of virtue. The first trash-talk word refers to lady parts and the second, a female dog.

Cupcake and Balloon are words that aren’t angry and may not ignite someone’s short fuse. “You’re such a cupcake when you key my car,” and “When you win, you’re an overinflated balloon!” Save trash talk for garbage collection day.

F-bomb and F-bombing are obscenities often voiced to vent sudden rage. These formidable words spit out of mouths like shivs. F-bombers have no inhibitions shouting every grammatical form of these crude comments which demean intimacy.

Freakin’, frickin’, and flippin’ are politer euphemisms that morphed from F-bombing. Somebody foaming at the mouth, should distance themselves from anyone they want to annihilate. Then they ought to count until their lips dry up.

C word and b*stard are derogatory names used for males who aren’t necessarily roosters and aren’t necessarily born out of wedlock. These are popular slurs for hotheads who want to pulverize body parts.

Don’t name call because the idiom “I am rubber, you are glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!” is true. It corrupts character. Do a few thousand pushups instead.

Swearing is a blowhole for anger, frustration, and thorny encounters. The more forbidden the profanity, the more powerful it is. Cursing is a plague that purges our vocabulary of polite ways to explain, forgive, or debate. Jeepers creepers won’t do it for a loose canon who’s angry with a poor sap who can’t find a window to jump out.

Religious restrictions, like the Third Commandment which forbids using the Lord’s name in vain, have less impact now than in past years when God’s grace gave me the discipline to stop using foul language. But the Lord still owns everyone and everything (Psalm 24:1), so I choose my words wisely and my knees no longer knock.

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.

1 Timothy 1:13, NAB

No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29, NAB

I tell you, on the day of judgement people will render an account for every careless word they speak.

Matthew 13:36 NAB
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