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Oh, the Bomb

By Carina Hoskisson

I only heard my mother swear once.

The application had to be postmarked by the end of the day. I didn’t yet have my license, so my mother was going to drive me across the whole town to make it to the post office on time. I don’t remember what happened before, but I do remember the panic, the near hysteria (I was 17, after all,) and the formula-one-style driving. We tumbled out of the car and into the post office. “Just GIVE ME the envelope!” my mom yelled. I don’t remember what I did or said, just that her next statement was, “D*****.”


I’d never heard her swear before, nor had I ever heard my father. The envelope went into the mail, we went back to the car, and rode in silence for a few blocks. The minivan lifted buoyantly over the road bumps.  At a red light, my mother the native Spanish speaker cut the air by saying, “I never understood the difference between dam that stops the water and the other kind.”
“The other one has an ‘n’ at the end,” I said.

And that was that.

Several years later, in a streak of delayed teenage rebellion that had everything to do with waiting tables at a diner, I picked up a mean swearing habit that still occasionally overwhelms me with a surge of emotion.

And when I met my husband he found it endearing.

I hardly noticed until I had my own children. Suddenly, I heard the swearing everywhere. I made a concerted effort to reduce or eliminate “language” from my dialogue. My children have never heard me swear, but my friends have.

We live in a microcosm of non-swearing culture. Everywhere around us, grocery stores, gas stations, on TV, in movies, even schools you hear “language” bubble up around us. I have had friends and colleagues that cannot seem to form a phrase without the f word, or really, many, many versions of the f word. To tell you the truth, the f word doesn’t bother me as much as hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain (that one feels like a little knife in my soul, making me twist with the pain.)

Are we the last of the non-swearing peoples?

Do you? Could you? Have you stopped? Indulged? Never ever?

About Carina Hoskisson


72 thoughts on “Oh, the Bomb”

  1. My mom swore, not too frequently, but often enough that we'd always tell her "you sound like Wyoming"–because she always swears in a very hick accent that sounds like she's channeling my grandmother. My grandma was a sweet woman who also had no problem with letting loose a 'd-word' and who never called it 'manure'.

    My husband no longer considers himself a member, but generally doesn't swear. I usually don't either and can only remember once in my life when I accidentally let slip an F-word and regretted it for years afterwards. Like you, I'm more bothered by vain uses of the Lord's name than a lot of other swearing. I tend to be pretty broad in my viewing and reading choices, but still don't like it when there's too much swearing in things. Or when foreign movies choose to translate all swearing in the f-word in the subtitles. My main problem with that is that it then ends up in my head for a time afterwards.

  2. Like a sailor, only maybe not as colorful.

    I try, I really try not to around my kids but my 14 yr old knows just right where my swear button is and he delights in pushing it and then chiding me.

  3. Cussing is a family tradition where I'm from. My grandfather regularly cussed from the pulpit when he was Bishop in his ward in Grants Pass, Oregon. Personally, I love to drop a cleverly done bomb every now and then when explosive emotions are needed, however I have noticed that when I'm around kids I want to rein it back and find softer words, and that's made me rethink the whole deal. I don't have enough brain cells to be able to juggle two entirely different vocabularies depending on who I'm around, so I've noticed slowly but surely my colorful language is disappearing. Except for a good one here or there when I stub a toe, because as we all know, those injuries just don't heal unless you've cussed over them first.

  4. I never swore until I had kids. They've heard me swear, but most other people have not. It's not good. I'm trying to relearn not to throw around the "d- word" when I'm pushed to my limit.

  5. "To tell you the truth, the f word doesn’t bother me as much as hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain (that one feels like a little knife in my soul, making me twist a little with the pain.)"

    I couldn't have said it better myself. Say all the words you want around me and I will tolerate you, but don't bring Him into it.

  6. During my senior year of high school, I dropped a large textbook on my foot and the S word just popped right out before I could think. A girl I had known since kindergarten turned to me and said, "Wow, I have never heard you swear before."

    After a pause she continued, "I'm really disappointed in you."

    Yeah, I felt about one inch tall.

    And that was the beginning and the ending of my cursing career.

  7. Never, ever. Not at all. That makes me feel like a wimp. A really uncool whimp, but there you have it. :-)For whatever reason, I have a really low pain threshold when it comes to swear words (and hearing/reading them really is painful for me). I think part of it is that when I encounter them, my brain tends to play them over and over again in my head–an endless loop of naughtiness. It's the way I'm wired. It's a weakness, and so, like an alcoholic who avoids bars and cocktail parties, I try to keep my distance from lewd words of the baser sort.

    I don't hold it against people who indulge now and then though. My own mother, the woman I loved and admired more than anyone else in this world, wasn't against letting a good one fly every now and then as the occasion warranted.

  8. I slipped and swore once in high school, and felt terrible about it.

    But then I started swearing on my mission, added a few words at BYU, and really "perfected" my skills at my first job in SLC, where the F-word was cool.

    It became so common place that I forgot it was offensive to some people.

    I really am grateful for a guy I went out with a few times who mentioned that he didn't like it. He wasn't preachy, and he hadn't heard me swear, it was just a topic we chatted about once. But it got me thinking. And I knew I didn't want to swear around my kids. And, really, I knew better.

    I still swear on occasion, but usually only when stress has really built up, rarely just to make an emphatic point, and rarely in anybody's earshot.

    I agree with all of the philosohpical and spiritual reasons to not swear. And I try to not justify my occasional slip. But sometimes a good swear word really (though not the best way) lets off some steam.

    Dh thinks it's cute if I say s*** because he's scared me enough to get it out of me, otherwise, he's a non-swearing man, and I respect that.

    I think I have at least one non-lds friend who doesn't swear.

  9. As a teacher at the elementary level, my workplace is largely swear-free. When I taught secondary, only the kids used it, and I very occasionally heard a colleague swear when student-free. I have always wondered how teachers who swear in their "real lives" turn it off in front of the kids.

    Incidentally, when I was growing up in my swear-free home, I heard lots of swearing at school. I thought it was a kid thing and was genuinely shocked when I had my first non-retail job at all the adults who sounded like children swearing a blue streak around the office.

  10. I'm with Sharlee. Never, ever. Can't stand it. I don't think swearing is ever necessary, and I think not swearing is a great way to practice self-control. When I think of the people I try most to emulate, I am quite sure none of them swear.
    (I am sure my hubs may occasionally slip on the golf course, but I've never heard him swear at all.)

  11. Not to be preachy-sounding here, but really, I find all swearing disgusting, especially when it comes from the mouth of a woman. Would we use that kind of language around the Savior or a church leader? Is it an attractive trait? I don't think so. That isn't to say I haven't cussed my fair share–I had a rebellious period in the 5th and 6th grades where I had a mouth like a sailor! But NOTHING bugs me more than the F-word. It is vulgar, way, way, way overused, and an absolutely unnecessary part of the English language (or any other language for that matter 🙂 ). I do find it hard to get it out of my head more than other swear words, so maybe that's what it is for me. I don't want my kids thinking that kind of speech is okay, either, so if something really bad happens or I really hurt myself, I might say 'd***' under my breath but never so my kids can hear.

    Anyway…off my soapbox. I hope that didn't come across as judgemental, just my two cents. There is enough bad in the world that we have to combat (as do our children). Using clean language is an easy step to make our lives more peaceful and spiritually in-tune.

  12. ok…I just noticed my comment sounded a little contradictory. I really don't ever swear, but I have caught myself once or twice on a really bad day using the 'd' word or such. That came across as sounding like "women shouldn't swear, but I do" hee hee…totally not what I meant. I never swear casually or 'just for fun'. That's what I meant. 🙂 Rant over.

  13. Like a sailor. Regularly. But now that I have kids that repeat everything I say, it's usually under my breath or when they're not around.

    Started in high school, tried to be good while going to BYU, saved my life on my mission when I was being electrocuted and all that I could get out was, "Oh s***!" and one of the English speaking missionaries heard me, came down and unplugged the washing machine and then did CPR. Worsened in a highly stressful job at a production plant and through some extremely stressful life situations.

    I know it's bad. I know it's wrong. I know, to quote (I think) Joseph Smith, it's an attempt of a feeble mind to express itself feebly. I KNOW. I wish I was better for my kids, for myself, for those in my general vicinity. I'm working on it.

  14. I grew up with a stepfather who swore a lot, and unfortunately the words stick with you. I rarely swear, but if I'm really upset I'll let a few "D"s and "H"s slip out. I think it's a direct result of the exposure I had to swearing as a kid.

    My worst swearing story however is about the first time I was seeing a new OB/GYN for an annual exam. He said the "F" word three times in casual conversation while I was in the stirrups! I couldn't wait to get out of there and will never be back. If that is his "professional" level of controlling his swearing, i can't imagine what his personal life is like.

    My husband interacts with a lot of people who swear at work, and he will pretend like he can't understand them (on the phone) and make them repeat and repeat their sentences until ultimately they've removed the swearing. I think it's kind of funny.

  15. Never felt like swearing until I got to BYU. For some reason, I just really really had a hard time up there when I'd get frustrated or angry. And there was awhile there that I really liked using A– if it was well placed. But never F- or the Lord's name. I draw the line there. And these days, although I hate to admit my kids have heard a few D— when I'm angry, its usually nothing more than that.

    I have no tolerance for people swearing in professional settings and am pretty disturbed by adults using F— right and left. If my Dr. had said that, I think I would have said something. Although I guess when you are in the stirrups, you aren't really in a good spot to discuss anything.

    Oh, and I worked as a substitute teacher for a couple years, all grades, and I was SHOCKED at the teachers' mouths in some of those lounges! So for those of you who are teaching and the teachers don't talk that way, that's awesome, but its not always a sure thing. I also wondered how they made sure they didn't slip in front of the kids. But then again, most of my friends who were swearing like sailors in middle school weren't talking that way at home. Guess our brains are pretty good at seperating things out.

  16. The F word is known by my children to be a 4 letter word for flatulence. I cannot stand that word. I would rather hear "Dam_!" at a bumped toe, than to hear that word.
    I cuss in my mind sometimes. It's always the D word, and it's done in a drawl–more like Day-um! and it's always at myself for something really clumsy.

  17. I've swore once to my husband while in all the time we have been married. I was really mad. If felt forced even though I was furious. I feel really bad about it. He reminds me of it occasionally because now years later he thinks it is funny, but it still smarts. Mostly because I would have let myself get so mad, especially since swearing is just not something that I do. Even if I am hurt or mad or what ever it is just not a reflex. I made a choice to hurl that word at him. I am grateful that my tongue is bound in that regard. I have and do say plenty of things that are mean and hurtful that do not involve swearing… but I am glad that is one thing that I am not tempted to do. I have plenty of other tongue bridling to be about.

  18. I think it is "I've sworn…" or maybe "I swore…" feel free to correct me. :). I'm sure sometimes my grammar makes some folks feel like swearing (if they be swearers).

  19. I never swear. When I was only 5 years old, I made a pledge to myself that I would NEVER swear because that is what my dad did all the time when he was mad, which was all the time. I *hated* swearing. I *hated* the way it made me feel to hear him yelling those horrid words all the time and how terrified it made me to see such rage and anger.

    I have certainly thought swear words here and there in my life, and I think I've let 2 slip out, but other than that, I have remained true to that promise I made myself. And due to a bishop that asked that the YM/YW leaders curtail certain words, as well, I have been better here and there over the years about not saying "crap."

    Whenever I hear someone swearing in a rage, it takes me right back to my childhood and I get really, really upset and anxious — even when I know I'm safe with that person and that they'd never lash out at me. My husband is very good at controlling his language, and I have only rarely heard him swear the minor swear words.

    Growing up, we knew that if a swear word escaped my mom's mouth that we were in BIG trouble and that she was WAY upset and meant business.

    Ironically, my racist, sailor-mouthed father (and my mom, too) would not tolerate us saying "fart" and we would have gotten our mouths washed out with soap in our younger years for saying it. And, disgustingly, my dad preferred to refer to them as "fanny burps." Ewwwww. In my own family now, we say fart. So, there, Dad!

    (My dad was never physically abusive to me. It seems unclear from what I wrote, so I wanted to make that clear.)

  20. I never swear- except for some reason this year I have said a swear word twice. A lady in my neighborhood made me so mad and then my children made me so mad. I felt horrible and guilty. My husband just laughed because he couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it myself. It must have been a tough year to go 29 years w/o a single word slipping then this year it happened twice.

  21. I went through a period in junior where I swore frequently–but never the F word. I worked hard to overcome the habit. And didn't swear for years. Not until a very bad day after driving 10 hours from Wyoming to Utah. The traffic in Utah was horrible and reminded me why I disliked the freeway so much there. I try very hard to avoid swearing, but I have let loose a few times. It isn't something I am proud of and is something that I work on removing from my thoughts as well as my mouth.

    Incidentally, while living in Sweden I heard the f-word dropped more casually and frequently than I had ever experienced–even by young children. One day I had enough of the neighbor kids using the word repeatedly that I marched up to them and explained that in English it is the most foul and offensive word that a person could use. I asked them to refrain from using it my presence or around my children. The kids respected my request and I never heard it on the playground by those kids in my presence again.

  22. You guys realize that swear words are an actual part of language and have their own place in the brain? Those of you who have sworn once or twice accidentally, that's why. It's part of being human. That's why Tourette's disease exists. For those of you that don't know, one of the symptoms of Tourette's is that some sufferers swear uncontrollably–against their will. That part of their brain (dedicated to swearing) is activated against their will.

  23. i was in the never ever camp till well into my late twenties. then during a little bump in my life, i "tested out the waters" once in front of a co-worker who was in his 40's, non-LDS, a life-long bachelor–no kids.

    it was a mild one (h or d?) and it hadn't ever occurred to me that he would be offended by it. but he was actually quite shocked by it. at first i thought he was teasing me with his reaction, but then i realized he was actually serious. so i asked him about it and he told me he didn't swear. I asked him if he had EVER sworn in his life, and he told me no. He said "I was taught that it was a sign of poor breeding, and I'm surprised that you would stoop to it." (he knew i was LDS and at least a little bit about our standards).

    that was a life-lesson moment for me. i relized if this non-religious, single guy could maintain high standards in his speech, so could i.

    once my DH who has effectively left the church but still attends Sac Mtg with us dropped the Fbomb in front of our young kids. our DD was about eight at the time, and the look on her face was so stricken and pale! her dad left the house and she began to cry. it had been her understanding that anyone who swore would be going straight to "the bad place" and she couldn't believe her daddy would have done that. i'm glad we could at least discuss it.

    there have been a few times when i've said things i regret through the years…but it never makes me feel better and i would never swear in front of kids. i wish kids wouldn't swear in front of me, either, but every time i walk through the halls of the junior high at the end of school, i get an ear-full (which is the only thing my kid doesn't like about junior high so far).

    of course, there is always my neighbor…but i just wrote about him on my blog so i'll spare you. ♥

  24. But agnes, we only use words that we know. We aren't born with swear words in our brain. As babies, we learn how to talk by listening to those around us. If no one ever swore, swear words wouldn't exist and they wouldn't be part of life, Tourrette's notwithstanding.

  25. Agnes, i had actually done a little research just a week ago on Tourette's, so i thought i'd chime in here.

    What you're thinking of is actually referred to as Coprolalia Coprolalia is involuntary swearing or the involuntary utterance of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks. The term is often used as a clinomorphism, with 'compulsive profanity' inaccurately referred to as being Tourette syndrome.

  26. I swore frequently before I joined the church and had no problem dropping the habit after.

    EXCEPT….when in extreme pain. This is crazy/funny to me because the word, only the "S" word, just comes out–like an unplanned belch or something. I'm more shocked than anyone around me!

    Once my husband and I were camping with 4 other LDS couples in Zion Nat'l park (back when none of us had any children) and a fiery hot piece of marshmallow was flung onto my leg. To the shock of all present, I screamed that "S" word so loud I am sure it echoed off the canyons. And then the crickets. That's all you could hear because no one said anything.

    I felt REALLY bad. These were some of the straitest, non cursing, mormons you've ever met. After I'd applied ointment to the bubbling blister on my leg, I apologized for my outburst. "The incident" was not spoken of the rest of the trip.

    Years later I can look back and laugh, but still wonder why everyone was so serious about it.

    I think the next time I swore was a few years later in a car accident. 🙂

    I think we should try not to swear (especially AT people or in the presence of little ones), but we should forgive ourselves and move on if we do.

  27. One more thing…

    I think that people can very effectively communicate harsh and negative things without the use of swear words. I've heard some pretty horrible and mean things said with "clean" language.

    And then there is my step-mother (a feisty little Italian lady) who swears like a sailor, but does it so jovially that it almost puts a smile on my face.

    So, I think we should also take into consideration WHAT is being said, and HOW it's being said, rather than having a black/white code of semantics (good words vs. bad words).

    All that being said, it really annoys me when I hear people swear just to be cool. But enough from me. 🙂

  28. I think that it is interesting about the "special place in the brain" for swear words, sort of idea.

    So here's my story, when my oldest two were little, I had pretty much complete control over their social lives and their media exposure. They never ever heard a swear word. I don't think that they even knew about the existence of "bad words." Yet the 4-5 year old and the 2-3 year old invented their own swear words. The worst of which was was "cocoboco" Sometimes it was just "coco" and sometimes just "boco" but in the most harsh form was the compound of the two. I can't tell you how many times they would hurl it in frustration and anger at each other, how many times they would run tattling and crying that the other one had called them that terrible bad word. It was the king of insults. Finally we had to officially classify it as a "bad word" and tell them that they were not allowed to use it. If they did they would go to time out. Still there were they occasional offenses and punishment was applied.

    Now that they are both teenagers and it is a little bit of a joke. It is uttered to lighten the mood in a otherwise frustrating situation, or it comes in handy when someone is behaving badly and could benefit from a little bit of humorous reproof.

    So maybe it is true, maybe there is a place in our brains for swear words. CocoBoco.

  29. Just this afternoon, my 13 year old was telling me about an incident where she was with some H.S. students over the weekend, acting as ambassadors for our town and the group was being complimented for their excellend demeanor… a passerby let slip "Holy S***!" as he noticed their discipline (marching band) and she recounted the scene to the exact wording. She thought it was a great compliment, and insisted that people say it so often that it's really not a swear. She said "Mom, don't you even know what it means? It means poop!" I assured her that it was a really inappropriate form of the word poop, and that she ought not to use it. I'm still not sure she believes me. (We live in a non-swearing household. We don't even use the word "stupid.") I was more shocked by the fact that she didn't find me a credible source, than by the fact that she uttered it so matter-of-factly.

  30. I grew up with a construction worker for a Dad. Yes, we had swearing in our home. Harsh words were thrown around at home in every direction but swearing was usually reserved for Dad. My swearing was held in reserve for my friends, it was an art form. As I gained a testimony I broke the habit.

    Now that I'm a parent I don't like to even hear my kids call each other stupid. They call it the "S" word. I laugh when they say that around other people because it makes me sound extreme. But I just can't stand the people I love the most in the world hurting each other with words after the environment I grew up in. I agree with Dovie, it is about the direction and intention of the words, not just the word itself.

    Interestingly enough I recently visited my sisters home and there were harsh words there. Not really bad, but I could see that our home growing up didn't effect her the same way it did me. My husband might say I'm hyper-sensitive about it.

    Sometimes I swear. Honestly and truly I swore in nursery on a Sunday two weeks ago, little babes around and everything. Yep, release me now and send me to H-E-double hockey sticks.

  31. okay, that was totally not fair to my sunday school teacher. except that yesterday i started crying and had to leave class when he talked about the people who are going to outer darkness. he said "who are these people who will be going there? They're us. We who have had the truth and turn away from it." i don't know if that's how it's going to work, but i sure get upset when i think about my spouse ending up there because he lost his faith.

  32. Sharlee, I think you ought not feel like a wimp. I think it's awesome.

    But I also agree with this: I think we should try not to swear (especially AT people or in the presence of little ones), but we should forgive ourselves and move on if we do.

    I still have remnants of the habit that I picked up to 'be cool' as a social outcast in junior high. It was my way to prove, I guess, that I wasn't too much of a goody-goody (which was written on the bathroom walls about me) to 'fit in.' Bleh. It sounds lame now, but you know how junior high can be. HS was much better, and I nearly eliminated the habit…but it does still show up once in a while.

    As I have thought about the way it can sometimes almost be a reflex for me, I wonder if somehow it got molded into my brain a bit during my still-developing years. I dunno.

    I think it's important to watch our language, but I also have felt God's patience with me and my weakness that still shows up sometimes.

  33. Blue, I had to read that a couple of times to understand what you mean. Now that I understand- Yes, some people would think that being relegated to Sunday School would equate to as much 😉

  34. My husband is in the military.

    So I have heard me some serious swears.

    But I never repeat them.

    Unless I know what they mean.

    Then I kind of might.

    Because, in all honestly, sometimes the inappropriate things those soldiers come up with are FAR more creative and appropriate than the chaste adjectives and expletives I have at my disposal.

    Bad, bad La Yen.

  35. Blue, to your Sunday School difficulty. I know that this is off topic but I just can't let can't let it lie. As I understand it almost all of us are believers. I think that is what mortality is. Very few of us here are true complete knowers, and compared to the immensity of the family of man almost none of us are that kind of knowers. We just couldn't bear it. I can't yet be the person that being a knower of all things would require me to be. That is why I had to leave the Father's presence to exercise my agency. There are are a few things I know but their are so many more things that I believe and hope in faith that are true. I think that there is evidence of the Lord's economy and mercy in this. I may know a few things, but I am not a knower of all things. I don't know the situation with your husband but I feel fairly safe speculating that he was not a true complete knower. Outer Darkness is reserved for complete knowers that reject the knowledge of the Savior and the Father's plan for us after they are fully in possession of it.

    1 Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

    I love my own tenderhearted unbeliever.

  36. (Not to threadjack my own thread, but…)

    Blue–if I had been in that Sunday school class I would have raised hue and cry. That's not the doctrine. That teacher would have gotten an earful (or a gentle rejoinder, give or take my mood.)

  37. Dovie–I have to laugh at your CocoBoco story, because at 2 yrs old, my son came up with "Baat!" Occasionally his 3 yr old sister would come sobbing, "Herbie just said 'Baat' to me!" We did have to ban the word.

    The actions of my parents made me decide to avoid swearing when I was very young. My Dad never swore in front of us, and I thought it made him very dignified, even when angry. My Mom swore regularly, when mad, and I hated the way it made her look. It didn't scare me, it made her look weak in my eyes. She doesn't swear at all now, but she also doesn't have 4 little kids at home either 🙂

  38. Well only once I said h e double hockey ticks and my husband freaked out and would not talk to me for 2 days. So no not in the home, although every now and then I am a mutterer curser I guess you could say. I need to be more careful although I can't remember the last time I did…

  39. This is just a small post to say that alas, swearing would exist if no one swore, because (according to my oh-so-fun linguistics class), some words just naturally degenerate into swear words. If we got rid of all the ones we have now, new ones would just pop back into the system! So I don't know that "swearing" is part of the brain, in that we naturally find words that express something shocking and say them, and over time they become "swear words." I mean, we obviously use "replacement swear words" like crap and dang and heck, which are really expressing the exact same idea and pop out of our mouths without our thinking about it, so is that the same thing as swearing? I don't know, but I do find what it says about human nature to be interesting.

    As for me and swearing, I like swearing (occasionally) around my Mormon friends…but I feel terrible doing it around my non-Mormon friends, which I think is a good reason not to make it a habit, because I don't want a cuss word to explode out of my mouth when they have such a high opinion of me and my non-swearing ways. Then I would just feel bad.

    Excellent post! I enjoyed it a lot.

  40. My husband told me tonight there were wasps in his father's (92 years old) lawn mower, that 2 stung/bit him, and that it's his job to kill "those dirty beasts." So I'm reading this post and in walks my husband in his wasp killing garb – baseball cap, safety glasses, hoodie, leather gloves, pants, work boots, and bathrobe! The only thing I could say was, "Oh hell." When there are not words to express how I'm feeling, that's when the hell, damn, shit pop out – must be my Idaho farm roots. Oh – honey just walked back in – forgot the flashlight! Someone quick, get a camera!

  41. Dovie, that was always my understanding of it, but this SS instructor is a person I have the highest respect for and appreciation of. He's been a temple president, mission president, stake president, bishop etc. and has taught me a great deal in the few months since i found myself sitting in his SS class. so when he said that (and admittedly it came on the heels of a conversation w/my DH about religion where he basically took a Korihor stance about things), it just hit me wrong. thankfully i was sitting by the door and could just slip out without creating a scene.

    Carina, i guess i thought if he was way off base that SOMEONE would have piped up. We had the bishop, his counselor, and loads of solid lifer's in the class. and it was right before it was supposed to be over, so maybe it was a timing thing. either way, my mood had a lot more to do with my emotional state than his comment. it was just the straw…


  42. One last gem – about 6 years ago my bishop stood at the pulpit, conducting Sacrament meeting. He said, and I paraphrase, "I had a terrible day yesterday, it sucked. My whole day was screwed." Then he looked at his wife, in the audience and said, "I can't believe what I just said, my wife will be pissed at me now, for sure." Swear words or another form of cocoboco or cheese'nrice?

  43. Re: the whole place in the brain thing, I'd love to see studies on that. I would imagine that if there is a place, it's more related to them being words we're taught are bad, than the sounds of the words, if that makes sense.

    Along those lines, when I had been swearing just a little, I thought about the verbal structure of the various swear words. I think some people *would* come up with them had we not heard the words first. Swear words flow out of the mouth easier. "Shoot" takes more effort than it's more vile form, as do darn and several others of the words. Hm.

  44. I think I heard my mom swear once. My dad, never. I remember getting my mouth washed out with soap for calling my sister a pig. I couldn't imagine what would have happened had I actually sworn!

    The first time I swore I was in 7th grade. Someone broke into my locker and stole my stuff. Needless to say, a word slipped out. I never really swore again until I got married. My husbands step-dad swore like a sailor. A tiny bit of that rubbed off on my husband, and consequently a little on me. Both of us have to try really hard not to swear.

    It's an easy habit to start and a hard one to break.

  45. Re: the whole place in the brain thing, I’d love to see studies on that. I would imagine that if there is a place, it’s more related to them being words we’re taught are bad, than the sounds of the words, if that makes sense.

    I would be interested in studies, too. My thought is if there was a connection, it would likely be more along the lines of how one deals with emotion and the brain pathways tied to that, than necessarily the language element of it. But that's a complete guess…haven't read anything, just wondered about it today.

  46. I agree about the F word doesn't bother me as much as the Lord's name in vain – i was working and we had a kid who used it quite a bit. i mentioned that it offended me. He asked what do you want me to say, F? I said it would be better than the Lord's name in vain. He went back gleefully saying – Traci said i could say F whenever i want.

    that isn't exactly what i said.

    My mom cussed, my dad rarely rarely did.
    I got into a thing where i was very often. I was challenged for Lent to quit cussing. Each time i "relapsed" i had to memorize another Bible verse – 40 Bible verses later i was doing pretty good – yes 40

    after that i met my husband – the worse i heard him say was – oh my oh my goodness – i was glad i took the challenge

    since then he has shown me other colors of his speech. he can turn it off and on, it amazes me. i have to watch still.

  47. I also picked up swearing in junior high. I said every word in the book. Well, minus one and it wasn't the F word.
    But I felt bad and never did it again until I came to BYU. And now I've gone in spurts. Here a little, there a little, and then sincere efforts at purging and repenting of it.

    There was one time last year when I was entirely overwhelmed by life and I tried to park my bike behind my house. It simply tipped over onto the ground but that was just too much, I yelled the F word and started crying.

    But despite the fact that sometimes I can't stop from swearing, I never use euphemisms. I used to say "eff" and "effing" all the time, until I started nannying a year ago. Then I decided it was thoroughly crass and I wasn't going to do it anymore.

    I feel just as if not more stupid and sinful saying euphemisms than swearing.

  48. Some of this is cultural of course. For instance, the Bishop in #46, I just don't get which bit of that quotation is bad. In England the d*** word isn't terribly bad either, it would be at the much lower level of swearing. We always have some Americans in our ward from the air base and over the years and different families have heard lots of things that they don't consider to be swearing but to us Brits, just are awful. The word c**p is said frequently but we find it very offensive. They also say another F word which has igging at the end, honestly that is the SAME as the F word that has been mentioned a lot. Awful!!

    Do I swear? I wish I didn't. I grew up with it and work hard to elimate it but when angry it comes out sometimes. I know it is one of my worst features, but I can't blame my mother for it for ever.

  49. The only time I heard swearing growing up was when my father was telling jokes. Gave me a rather perverse sense of humor I guess. My husband was shocked the first time I tried to cheer him up at the end of a really bad month by asking if he didn't want to D it all to H. He grew up around construction workers and found no levity in my words—and hadn't really considered even the literal meaning—don't you wish you had the power to make it all stop forever, stuck in a bad place where it couldn't reach you again?

  50. Our hearts stopped one day when our young son told us that kids on the school bus said the "s" and "d" words all the time and he didn't like it. So young to face such profanity! I calmly asked him which he meant and he whispered, "You know, stupid and dumb." Those have become the "s" word and the "d" word in our house and we still refer to them that way!

    Dh and I rarely swear and usually only when venting to each other with a h* or d*. I went through a brief swearing phase in high school, but it just never felt right to me so I stopped. I truly was a goody-goody!

  51. One day my visiting teacher was over and I said "that sucks." So her two year old repeats "that sucks", and she says "we don't say that word." So I said "oh crap."

    Another time my 6-year-old nephew runs into my in-laws house and says "it's freaking hot out there!" Conversation stops, so I said "You're right, it is freaking hot out there!"

    And yesterday, I said "what the heck" when I was trying to buckle in a kid that carpools with us, and he says "that's a bad word."

    None of these are actual swear words!

  52. NO swearing from me. One Sunday when my first son was a sunbeam and he wasn't chosen to hold up a poster during singing time in primary, he pulled his hand down, shifted in his seat and said "Damn it." under his breath (but loud enough for all the leaders to hear).

    The problem is that when we say these words, they are ALWAYS emphasized. So our kids mimic. So, no swearing from me. EVER.

  53. This is gonna come back to bite me, I can feel it. But I love that Segullah has always been a place where a girl can say it how it is (or at least how she feels it is) and not be marginalized. Don't bite back too hard.

    Do I swear? Yes. At time. Intentionally. I am neither uneducated nor ignorant. I consider myself fairly intelligent, and though I'm no Andalusian Lipizzaner, my family is also not particularly low bred. I speak two languages, hold an advanced degree, love the gospel, and I swear.

    Cause here's this, and it's nothing you don't already know, but there's the word as signifier. S&%$ means poop. Easy. Then there's the use of the word as signifier: when mom says S*&%!, she's really mad. And I contest that there are times when what is emotionally signified by an offensive word's use, even the very ugly, is a truth that needs to be conveyed. I know that this involves and perhaps invites acknowledging the natural man, something we're counseled (wisely, I agree) to put off. But I think there are times when it is essential to understanding ourselves.

    Here's an example that feels really awkward to use because it involves me, but it's the only one I could think of, so please forgive. Two years ago, Segullah published an essay I wrote about an experience I had as a missionary. I wrote trying to make sense of what I'd witnessed, what I'd felt. It was very very hard to write. Originally, I wrote the piece in the second person, and in the second line I dropped, yes, the f bomb. "Because _________ that you're a missionary with some kind of faith," is what it said. It said that for a long time. Long enough for my graduate nonfiction workshop to read it. Long enough for me to win a scholarship with it, and a really amazing grant that sent me to Spain to start a book. Long enough for me to mull and muse 😉 and finally feel sheepish enough to change that F word to a different word ("forget"), and finally feel okay about sending it out for publication. But I'll never forget feeling like it had lost something with that one change, an honesty, somehow. As though that one word conveyed the real depth of the despair and, yes, anger and confusion I felt. And when it was published, my friends congratulated me, but they, too, said it’s still very nice, but it’s lost something. It's not that I regret the change. I don’t think Segullah would have looked twice at it, had I not. Nor would most of you. And in the end, that was the right choice. But will it always be? I’m not sure. Sometimes the human me (us?) needs others to know that, yes, it is that bad, that hard, that confusing. If cussin’ signifies a lowness, that is, in fact, sometimes where I am.

    It's out. Don't hate.

  54. I swear. As much as I try to respect the ears/eyes of those around me by my choices when/where to swear, I also see that making a big deal out of certain words increases their importance both in our subconscious and conscious minds. Typing out 'h e double hockey sticks' inappropriately stresses, IMO, the word a lot more than just typing Hell.

    I had a great Film teacher at BYU that talked about what is actually 'bad' when sex is portrayed in movies. His opinion was that when sex is used to shortcut the real emotional intimacy that is developed between two people, THAT is what should be offensive to the viewer. It is an easy and inapropriate way to make a human interaction only two-dimensional. It is also often a manipulation so that the audience 'feels' something (even if it's only sexual arousal which greatly over-simplifies what sex is and can be about). And THAT is why that kind of sex is obscene. THAT is why we should be walking about of the theater.

    So, I think (in parallel with that argument) when swear words are used as shortcuts; an easy and unintelligent (because they're oversimplified) way to express our feelings, that is offensive to me. When swear words are used as apt descriptions of complex human emotion or situations, then that is their appropriate and justified use.

  55. I'm not perfect by any means — I struggle with loose-cannon swearing around that time of the month! 🙁
    Every month I keep striving to overcome my problem.

    But just like the BYU Dancers can dance modestly and appropriately and still win awards, can't we choose in our lives to use beautiful and appropriate words?

    Maybe they wouldn't be as effective in the world's eyes, but is that who we are ultimately trying to please?

    I've read books — books that touched my heart and soul. And the ones that touched me the most, that I reread and treasure, are the ones that looked for other words to put across those feelings, and did so powerfully.

  56. Thinking about Blue's situation, I thought of a good man I know who lets zingers fly in all his conversations — work, friends, church even.

    The thing is, when he does that, you lose track of the good he might have been saying. You are distracted by the zinger, and that's a shame!

    Kind of how my kids stop listening when I do slip and swear — I lose credibility in their eyes because I'm not doing as I say to do.

    I've got to remember that! (Bookmark page :-)!)

  57. Brittney and Mara, I just wanted to say that I love you both tons, and I love the insight here.

    And I don't swear. I censor my own books too. The words rattle around in my head, and it's hard for me to get them out.

    I think that certain words carry more weight, and I think it's good, whether or not you use them, to remember their weight.

  58. I've been known to swear a time or two. I grew up in Wyoming for pity's sake. They practically teach that in the curriculum! I kid, I kid.

    Sometimes, I just need a release and if that comes in the form of a well placed swear than so be it. I hate hate hate "oh my G**" or any other form of using the Lord's name in vain. I also hate the F word. Everything else just might have an occasional place and I don't think I'm any worse for the wear for doing so. I will say this, since becoming a mother last year my vocabulary has definitely improved. I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard my mom swear and most of those times were when we were in some sort of peril like sliding the van into a snowbank or something, in which case, totally appropriate if you ask me…

    In an attempt to curtail any extraneous usage of the swears, I have been known to make up a few in their place and those serve me well. Stuff like "HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS FRAKKING SACRED !" has been known to escape my lips.

  59. I wonder…
    When we use substitute words, do people’s minds fill in the blankety-blanks?

    At that level, I wonder if the sub words are really any better in spirit. Especially when/if they are used in an out-of-control way. I have never taken the Lord's name in vain, but how many times have I said 'gosh'? That's one I am trying to eliminate from my vocabulary, because really, is it THAT much different if I'm still using 'gosh' in an expletive-y way?

    When swear words are used as apt descriptions of complex human emotion or situations, then that is their appropriate and justified use.

    So I wonder: Is there really an absolute "in this case it's ok" line that can be drawn? I tend to think that more often than not, the use of language or sex or violence (in the arts, for example) can end up being a barrier to shared meaning and communication, not a facilitator of it — simply because there *are* many people with sensitivities, and because there is a chargedness to certain things. I would be interested to see how much is really lost by avoiding such things, and how much might be gained.

    I can understand an artist's struggle with the personal feeling of loss (such as what Brittney shared) if not using something more 'edgy' (for lack of a better word), because in creating, there is an intensity and emotion that I think ultimately no one feels quite as strongly than the creator. But I wonder if the partakers of the art would feel the same intensity of loss, not knowing anything but the 'sanitized' version. What do you think?

    I think more often than not, the "edgy" is overused in our culture, so I tend to be a fan of erring on the side of less, even as I can understand the desire to use it occasionally.

    I also think no one should ever have to *apologize* for sensitivities or personal lines. (Sharlee, still thinking of you thinking of yourself as a wimp for your feelings on this…no way, girl…if we call that weakness, I think there is something wrong.)

    I think it's also interesting, for all that we have our standards in the Church, to see the variation that comes in tastes and tolerance levels re: movies, books, etc. Even with kids' entertainment and literature! I am always grateful for parents who will not assume that their lines are mine, or not assert that somehow I'm a dork if those lines differ. And I try to offer the same respect in return.

    Interesting stuff to mull and muse over. 🙂

  60. I try really hard not to swear in front of the kids. I let S O B out when I smashed two of my toes in the doorway. My oldest was right behind me, but I didn't know that. She LAUGHED at me. I was ticked she was belittling my pain, but it turns out she was surprised I had said the B word. She'd never heard me say that before. I apologized.

    My sister visited us once and dropped her cellphone on the hard bathroom floor. Two of my kids were right next to her and she caught herself mid word. "MOTHER……preaching the gospel!" I still chuckle when I think of that.

    My mother was talking to a tourist guy years ago who asked if D, S, and H were "mormon swear words" because that's all he heard while he was in Utah. That was basically my mom's repertoire. She got it from her mom.

    My mom had her mom in the car and they drove to McD's (years ago) and my little brother was in grandmother's lap (precarseat laws). When the drive thru cashier said they couldn't serve breakfast anymore, grandmother said S under her breath. My brother looked up at her and questionly said S? And Mom had a hard time keeping a straight face and grandma tried hard not to do THAT again.

  61. I swore in high school, though not bombs or blaspheming. Mostly I would curse something, literally, as in "May your donkey's kittens implode" and stuff. Gave me an outlet for my sense of the ridiculous.

    Then I joined the Navy! Learnt some creative phrases there, that's for sure. Oddly enough, the best swearing didn't use profanity, but certainly conveyed the message!

    I sometimes say "d-it", though I still (regularly) curse creatively. However lately I've realised that heaps of Aussie lingo may be considered swearing elsewhere on the planet – here it's just an idiom or casual vernacular. Hope I haven't offended anyone!

  62. I have never heard either of my parents utter a single curse. Sometimes I wish it, just to make me feel better about my own sailor mouth, to make them more human.

    I'll keep on wishing.

    My grandmother though, she said the S#!t word on her death bed, bless her soul.

  63. I remember the one time my mother cursed… we'd had a food fight one dinner (Dad was away), and she tried. She really did. She took one wooden spoon from the dish of potatoes, broke it on the table. Took the spoon from the beans, broke it. Took the spoon from the gravy, broke it.

    Then she stomped her foot, hollered, "Damn", burst into tears, and rushed from the room, running into my father as he came home.

    "GO in there and SPANK all your CHILDREN!"

    We were still sitting there in shock, and quietly lined up for our spanking.

    (My Dad doesn't curse, cuss, blaspheme, or otherwise Utter Forth. Neither, outside of food fights when she's already at the end of her rope, does my Mom.)

    I don't like cussing. My personal opinion–it's a lowering behavior. I try to avoid it. Most of the time, I succeed.

    And then I married a man who was raised by a drill sergeant. So that's worked well. Honestly, I can ignore most anything but the F-bomb, and blasphemy. I'm not a fan of scatological Utterances, but I can cope.

    My current 4yo has it in her head that anything she doesn't personally *want* to hear is an "F-word." So it was fun to have a chat with the nursery lady after said 4yo explained, in response to "What families like to do together," that "MY daddy doesn't like to wear pants, and he says F-words at me."

    (He wears his kilt a lot.)

  64. I think what we should all take away from this discussion is; (#15) that swearing saves the lives of missionaries.

    But seriously:
    I don't take the Lord's name in vain and I tell my kids to say "oh my goodness" instead of "gosh" just to be on the safe side. (And I regularly tell the non-Mormon neighbor kids they can't jump on my trampoline if they say "oh my G__".)

    But I use strong words for strong emotions. If I get in a car accident, sh!# comes unbidden. 'Cause that's exactly what I feel like. No "crap" about it.

    If I drop the hot-out-of-the-oven dinner I made on the kitchen floor shattering the Pyrex it's in, I will "dam# it all to he!!"–because that's where I want it to go and rot.

    And if my kid says "Sam FARTED!" I reply "Say 'excuse me', Sam!" because although "Fart" is an ugly word, it's a completely appropriate one for the action. Calling a fart a "fluff" or a "bum trumpet" doesn't make it stink any less.
    And saying "Oh DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-NGGIT!" doesn't fool anyone. May as well say what you mean.

    Finally, if we never hear/learn swear words, or stop using the ones we have, we'll still find words to replace them. Because strong emotions are described by strong words. And eventually, those words, like damn and hell, will be categorized as swear words because of the weight of emotion they carry. Just my opinion.

  65. In re: neighbor kids and cussing… we had one. He used some pretty rough language. Mom sent him home each time, inviting him to come back tomorrow and try again.

    One day, she saw him trudging home, and went out to stop him, to make sure nothing had happened with the other kids. "Naw, I just can't stop cussing today. I'll come back and try it again tomorrow."


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