Not In Front Of The Kids
Swearing, cursing, and bad language in general have their place. Power words like those usually thought of as swear words get thrown about all the time, but, depending on how they are used, they can be fun, scary, insulting, vicious, acceptable or unacceptable and when used too much, just downright boring. Mostly though, society frowns on the use of swear words by children and most of us have seen that reaction ‚Äď usually a mixture of shock and repressed mirth ‚Äď when the innocent little kid comes out with a nice juicy one. The parents have probably tried to avoid swearing in front of their kids, hence the horror. ‚ÄúWhere did he/she get that from?‚ÄĚ they wonder. Now new research into children’s cursing seems to suggest that parents who don‚Äôt swear in front of their offspring in the hope they don‚Äôt pick up the cussing are wasting their time. They are going to learn this stuff anyway. It appears to enter their vocabulary as if by magic. By the time they get to 5 or 6 they are armed with a good array of ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ words. Though the parents don‚Äôt seem to be able to prevent this, what they can do, the research suggests, is to equip the children with an understanding of how and why bad language causes offense.
I don‚Äôt know for sure where I learned to swear, but I must have picked it up early and it got me into trouble a couple of times when I was a kid. It seems tough to blame an innocent cage bird, but I do remember my grandmother‚Äôs budgerigar ‚ÄúPeter‚ÄĚ repeating the words ‚ÄúBloody Jacky, Bloody Jacky‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúBloody Jacky‚Äôs here‚ÄĚ ad nauseum. Jacky was my granddad and I think Peter picked this up from my gran who would say the same phrase, ‚ÄúBloody Jacky‚Äôs here‚ÄĚ, when the old guy rolled in from the pub on his day off from working underground as a coal miner. Maybe that‚Äôs why I got my first lesson in inappropriate words ‚Äď there‚Äôs a right time and a wrong time for swearing. I was at Nursery School ‚Äď a preschool for 3- to 4-year-olds before full time school at 5. They had a few musical instruments; triangles, whistles, bells ‚Äď all that stuff. But I liked the snare drum best and got to play it every time we had a music session. Until one day the teachers gave the drum to another boy. I went into a big sulk and shouted, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs my bloody drum!‚ÄĚ Not too bad you would have thought. My sadistic minders thought otherwise. One of them, a very stern lady, tried to pull my ear off as she marched me to the bathrooms, one of those school blocks with a long row of tiny sinks at miniature human level. Then she broke off a piece of the Coal Tar soap that we used to wash our hands, stuck it in my mouth, and made me eat it. It was of course quite disgusting. I mean the smell of that soap was bad enough, but trust me, you don‚Äôt want it on your menu. She even made me swallow it. Apparently, according to her warped and cruel mind, it was going to ‚Äúclean out my dirty mouth.‚ÄĚ Thanks, Peter, thanks a lot you dumb budgie. What trauma ‚Äď I carried it for years and as a small boy had a constant dread of soap and drums. Even as a teenager, when me and my mates formed rubbish bands with our cheap guitars, I would always say, ‚ÄúOK, but no drummer, right?‚ÄĚ although I never actually stipulated ‚Äúno soap.‚ÄĚ
So I learned the hard way. Words have power. Use them in the right setting and they kick like a mule. Use them in the wrong place and they will cause you problems. Nowadays I rarely swear, put off by the constant barrage of repetitive swear words I hear when I am out. It just gets boring. After all, we‚Äôre not budgies are we?
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