Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Creatively Keeping it Clean

One of the more difficult challenges of parenthood, in my opinion, is learning to change your bad habits when the kiddo arrives so that you don't inadvertently pass them on. For me the most challenging habit to break has been cursing. I have a horrible potty-mouth. (Sorry, Mom.)

This is not my mother's fault, I will point out. If I were going to shrink myself, I would likely conclude that this predilection sprung up as being the lesser of the teenage rebellions available to me. I was always a rather mild-mannered and well-behaved kid (and adult) for the most part. Sure, I had my indiscretions, went through my phases, but my acting out was always minor. Developing a colorful vocabulary of expletives and then putting it to good use was also a way for me to keep my image from being too squeaky clean without having to get into any real trouble. At this point, most of the "bad" words I drop don't even have any real vehemence behind them, they are just part of my vocabulary now. But knowing where they come from doesn't really help address the issue of getting rid of them.

And I do need to start getting rid of them. My daughter is not yet speaking English, but she is already an extremely talkative kid, and she has picked up the odd word here and there. I will sadly not be surprised at all if her first real sentence is something absolutely horrible. While that will certainly provide many funny stories much, much later on in her life, it's really not the goal.

But...there is a need for some expletives in anyone's language. I truly do believe that. For a while I have been thinking about how to weed out the words I really don't need my daughter repeating in politer company (or teaching other children with much less laid-back parents). I am really bad about the F-bomb, and the synonym for waste often sneaks in, as well as "damn" and "hell," though those last two are not in and of themselves bad words. My aim is to implement the tried and true method of substitution, and since phrases like "golly gosh darn it" just hold no weight in my mind, I have decided to turn to my love of all things geeky for help in finding some good replacements.

The Little Mermaid
Okay, I know this one might throw you for a loop, but it is the source of the word snarfblatt, which I have actually long used as a replacement for my bad language (I can occasionally filter myself). This one is pretty versatile, actually, and can be used to replace the F-bomb, damn, and hell. So I think I will be keeping that one around for sure.

When astronaut John Crichton got  swept off through that wormhole, one of the first things that happened to him aboard Moya was that he had translator microbes implanted in his body so that he could understand all of the aliens he encountered. For some strange reason though, curse words did not translate (gee I wonder what the reason for that could have been), so we were treated to quite a lovely lexicon of alternative curses to pick from this series. My two favorite are frell (substitute for the F-bomb) and dren (substitute for the word that rhymes with "hit"). I have been using these occasionally for some time now, so it is just a matter of more consciously choosing them to replace their more mundane counterparts. I have tried to get behind Hezmana a time or two (it is their equivalent of hell), but it just doesn't quite roll of the tongue.

Red Dwarf
Ah, this lovely series gives us the word smeg, which is another good all-purpose swear. It comes in handy in pretty much any situation where you have plenty to say and none of it is nice and keeping it bottled in would just plain be hazardous to your health.

Battlestar Galactica
Of course, from one of my favorite space operas we get the ubiquitous frak. I doubt there's any question of what that one replaces. I actually use this one about equally with its Earth-bound counterpart these days, so maybe that means I am halfway to conversion? Though this one is so close to the actual term that I think it will need to be reserved for when I am really mad. Side note: Yes, I am going with the four-letter spelling. In the original version of the series, back in the eighties, the word also appeared and was spelled "frack." That's all well and good, but RDM officially changed it to "frak" for his series, and that is the one I watched, so that is how I spell it. In case you were wondering. (Yes I realize that was some excessive nerdery there, still, it needed to be said.)

Star Wars
Specifically the Republic Commando series. A big part of that series, as I mentioned before, was delving into Mandalorian culture, and that definitely included Mando swear words. I rather liked quite a few of them. My favorite is osik (can range in strength from "crap" to that other word that is worse but means the same thing only with more intensity). There is also shabuir, which is what you call someone you really don't like, and shebs, which refers to one's hind parts.

That's quite a collection to start with, I think. I have a few others that come from life rather than the realm of geeks, too. For example, back in college, I had a friend that used the term heezy instead of hell, and I quite like that, so I have used that one pretty much since then. Also, at some point in high school I thought I should clean up my language a bit. It didn't take, but I was using the term fruitbat in place of another word that starts with the same letter, and I'll be darned if that doesn't crop up every now and again as well. I have heard from a few sources the phrase Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? to replace What the F-bomb? and have also been incorporating that.

So really, it comes down to just getting better about actually thinking about what I say before I actually say it. Really, that's good advice for anyone. It has the added bonus that sometimes just pausing to think takes all of the heat of the moment and the desire to curse at all goes away (sometimes). Honestly, the words themselves are only of marginal importance, because it is the intent behind them that really matters. I know this. But it is nicer for the people around you if you don't walk around muttering obscenities where they can hear (or at least that they can understand).

There are those, I am sure, who feel that because it is the intent that matters, even the replacements are bad and I should strive to not want to have or express those feelings at all. I can only say to those people that their souls are much purer than mine. Either that, or they run into far fewer idiots on a regular basis than those I seem to come across.

Hopefully I can remove the "real" swear words from my vocabulary so that when my daughter does start picking up those phrases, at least she won't get them from me. Also, this way, if she does go around repeating what I say, hopefully the other authority figures won't catch on to what she is saying, or will be amused enough to let it slide.

Also, you know, there's the fact that I do plan to actually teach her about the function and appropriate use (or lack thereof) of such words, but still. Kids are kids, even the good ones. Just look at how I turned out...

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