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If you're reading this, and if you've read much of my writing, you know that I cuss a lot. I do. I know it's a rotten habit and unladylike and tells lies on whatever intellect I may have, but dammit, it's part of who I am and how I am.

I remember this one day when I was a little kid, probably about 4, that my dad was having a cow over one thing or another and busting out with one of his prized strings of profane pearls. Now if anyone can cuss, it's my dad. He's practically got a degree in cussing. His own dad taught him to say “shit” when he was just a little nipper, then took him over to his very proper, very Christian granny's house and encouraged him to demonstrate his newfound skill. Add to that fine beginning the later experience of learning the workings of a Volkswagen engine from a hot-tempered Cockney expat, and you've got a man who can craft top quality expletives and use them with the precision of a Crazy Horse sculptor's explosive charge.

In short, my dad can cuss, and he can cuss with great skill and expression. Mom was a little concerned that I might pick up on this habit, and thus took me aside and taught me the major cusswords, plus the euphemisms which, while still kind of rude, and not really the best kind of language for kids to use, were much more acceptable to say, and basically okay for all but the politest of company. “Damn” was not okay, but “darn” was; hell::heck, shit::shucks, fuck::fooey. “Boobies” was probably a little nicer to say than “tits,” and “breasts” were the proper name but most people didn't really like talking about them anyway. The family nickname for those titillating protuberances was “deeckles,” which we should only say at home, 'cause no-one else would know what we were talking about. “Butt” was okay, “ass” was not. “Fart” was a gross word and we shouldn't say it, but if you had to talk about that (and in our family, believe me, you have to talk about those) you should say “pass gas” or “pooter.”

For many years I got along fine saying “darn it” occasionally, and “butt” and “pooter.” In fact, at one point I went through a bit of a neo-Victorian phase, where I felt it might be terribly incorrect to even say “butt,” but at a certain age, one's thought patterns and speech patterns start to change. You feel cranky, and you want to rile people up. I was 14 when I started to feel the itch to let a few blue words fly, and 15 when I started cussing (awkwardly, and furtively) but in earnest. I practiced cussing the chickens when they'd get into Mom's flower beds, forming appropriate phrases of castigation which should, if the Loony Toons were any representation of life, have caused the chickens' tailfeathers to curl up and start smoking. Once I gained confidence with my rhythm and phraseology, I was happy to parade my newly developed talents among my ruffian friends. One of my male buddies, already renowned for his foul mouth (and record number of demerits collected by virtue of his ceaseless cussing) allowed as how I was a really excellent cusser, for a girl. I liked to mix it up, using standard-issue words the FCC won't allow on air with vintage slang, Shakespearian epithets, British cussing (which many Americans don't recognize for how foul it can really be) and my requisite $25 vocabulary words. How else could I have called somebody a “thrice-damned cocksucking varlet?”

Now of course, I know there are places where it is more or less appropriate to swear. At the bar? Sure thing. At the office holiday party? Not on your sweet tie-tack. When you're underneath your car, and you drop the oil-pan plug and release a torrent of used motor-oil upon your head? Absofuckinglutely. When you drop a hammer on your foot in front of a room full of pre-schoolers? “Oh shhhhhhh-i-ugar, that hurts!”

So what I'm getting at here, is that while I may come across like a sailor with a hangover here in my journal, I do know when to can it. At work, by and large, I bowdlerize my lexicon. “Crap” and “bugger,” which are not that polite of words, granted, are about as nasty as I'll go…scatological goes over better than blasphemous or copulatory. So today I'm hauling our wobbly handcart, loaded down with nine heavy file boxes, and which steers like a drunk pig on rollerskates in the best of circumstances. I try and fail to make a corner and smash the cart handle and my hand against a cubicle wall. Holding it together, I grunt out “Aaarghuh…bugger!” My boss and the big boss above him were on the other side of that cubicle wall. I heard my boss say, “huh…that wasn't me.” They were arranging new office furniture back there. I am now slightly embarrassed. Both bosses are fairly staid and proper, and so now I feel like a pottymouthed punk.

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