You aren’t sure which words are swears and which ones are safe to repeat

Let me tell you a little bit about my history with the word “fuck.”  Belated warning for language.

When I was young, foul language was understandably taboo.  I would never have dreamed of saying a nasty word, and the consequences for it would likely have involved a wooden spoon and my backside.  However, I thought that words like “stupid” and “butt” were bad words.  I was sheltered from adult language very thoroughly and, to a point, that was reasonable.

The sheltering never stopped, however,  Well into my teens, I was still largely clueless about what a bad word actually WAS.  I had come far enough to realize that stupid and butt no longer held the same weight that I thought they did when I was a kid.  But then how was I to know which words were okay and which ones were bad?  My family had a TV filter on that automatically muted foul language, so even movies were no help for me.  Even my older sister was tasked with protecting my virgin ears and would stand by the boom-box and turn down the volume of the Evita soundtrack when the army singers shouted “bitch!” in the refrain of “Dangerous Jade.”  I knew there was such a thing as an “F-word” and this was the worst of all words.  But what it was and what it meant was a mystery.

My first experience with this mythical word came when I was reading a book about dog-sledding.  As a young teen, I checked out many books from the adult section of the library in order to challenge myself in reading.  It was common for me to skip over unknown words and glean their meaning by context, since I was reading above my grade level.  Little did I know, I was apparently skipping f-bombs by the dozens.  When my parents decided to look through some of my literature they were outraged.  “That book is full of f-words,” they chastised me.  “We are very disappointed in your choices of what to read.  We thought we could trust you.”  I was shaken and terrified because I didn’t realize that I had been reading foul language and now felt horribly guilty.  I had sinned against God!  And I still didn’t even know what the F-word was!  Oh, the temptation was great to sneak a peek in the book again, just to satisfy my curiosity about the dangerous word, but I was a good girl.  I resisted.

What that experience taught me, along with all of the sheltering, muting of TV’s, and outrage from my parents, was that this word was so horrible that even HEARING it was a sin.  Speaking it would be worse, I presumed, but hearing it was bad enough.  It was lumped, in my mind, into the category of “virginity”.  Thinking impure thoughts was a sin.  Seeing a man naked was a sin.  Hearing the F-word was a sin.  It was a loss of my purity to be exposed to this evil and, thus, a degrading of my very being.  I actually spent time worrying that I had heard bad words and absorbed their evil without realizing it.

To be embarrassingly honest, I didn’t know for sure what the word was until I was in college.  When my more enlightened friends tossed around “fuck this” and “fuck that” I felt myself clench up inside.  My virginity was being damaged by evil words.  I wanted to close my ears off, but had no mechanism to do so.  I wondered if I shouldn’t be spending so much time around these worldly people.  Perhaps I was endangering myself with their perversions of words?

To think that the word “fuck” nearly drove me away from some of my most fulfilling friendships is kind of laughable now.  But at the time, it was a very real fear.  My purity was EVERYTHING.  Without it, I could never be godly, live a fulfilling life, find a husband, and… well… fuck!  The amount of fear built around simple words was absurd.  Now, I’ve learned from the old phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  Yes, language can be hurtful, but the way it is used rather than the letters therein are where the poison lies.  I still don’t swear a lot, but when I do, I am guilt free.  I don’t even give a flying fuck.

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4 responses

  1. I can identify to some extent, I had heard the dreaded “F word” by the time I was 13 or so, didn’t know what all the connotations of it were, just knew it was a curse people often threw around. I didn’t know what masturbation was until I was 18 (not joking, I wish I was).

    I had heard filtering software for TV’s was possible, my family never had it (probably didn’t know about it, and couldn’t afford it if they did). This whole post about the forbidden F word brings to mind the “fudge” scene from A Christmas Story, maybe that’s just my strange mind, lol.

    1. Haha! Oooh I remember that. Ah a blast from the past. I was aware of masturbation vaguely sometime around the age of 17, but I thought it was something only men did… or were capable of doing. I thought there was something DEEPLY wrong with me when I started masturbating around 18, because I wasn’t even sure what the hell I was doing… only that it felt good but it involved my privates so it was probably sinful. When someone mentioned that women masturbate too, I was shocked, but at least now had a word for what I was doing. In fact, I knew that men had orgasms (that’s how they get the stuff in the woman so she gets pregnant or something like that) but I didn’t actually know that women had orgasms and was very startled when I had one at 18 and I didn’t have a name for it until I was 19 or 20. Until then, I wasn’t really sure why women let men have sex with them at all because, as far as I knew, it was not pleasurable at all. Lol! Oh the silly things we think when we are completely sheltered from sex ed.

  2. The thing is, the power and offensiveness of those words comes from context anyway. I remember at my fundamentalist school somehow, someone discovered the word ‘cunt’. I remember him telling me about it, and I remember saying it, and just being baffled at how it could be used. Without ever hearing it in context, I couldn’t make sense of it.

    He told me one of the girls knew more about it, so I asked her. She was like “Oh my goodness, it’s the worst word in the world!” But I was still none the wiser. I have many related learning-to-swear stories. Now I fucking love the shit out of swearing. Titwank.

    1. Hahaha! Yes, you are right, that the power of swears is in the context. I do not find swearwords offensive at all, but slurs certainly are. I think that is why I was so scared and bewildered at swearing… I assumed the word itself was horrible, rather than the context that it could be used in (even though I really didn’t understand the words… like why was “make love” more okay to say (although anything regarding sex should still never be mentioned) but “fuck” was not okay? They mean the same thing, right? It made no sense to me.

      I still don’t swear a lot, since I’m just not accustomed to it in my normal vocabulary. However, if I’m pissed off or enthusiastic or feeling any other strong emotion, I love to have them as a tool to express myself.

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