Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"I like the way you swear"

I wasn’t going to bring it up, but after TWO related posts on Middle-aged Mormon Man (here and here), I couldn’t resist.

I don’t swear. Well, I don’t swear in front of other people. And when I do swear in front of other people, I don’t use swear words. Some of my favorites (really): By golly! and Jumping Jiminee! I also like Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat (but not as much as the other two).

We finished an awful project at work about a week ago. By awful I mean big, hard, unwieldy, lots of late changes, and (most important to me) lots of late nights in the office for several weeks on end. Toward the end, a co-worker and I were working late and I got frustrated by something we were doing where the data didn’t line up the way I wanted it to, and I used my favorite two phrases.

My friend smiled, looked at me, and said, “I like the way you swear.”

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me (though it’s the first time anyone told me he liked the way I swear). Years ago I was in a meeting with my boss. He let fly a string of profanity (very common in my company among men and women). He then looked at me and paused. “You don’t use words like that, do you?” I thanked him for noticing and confirmed I didn’t. He let that sink in and went back to our discussion (and didn’t censor himself in the process).

My parents were converts to the church. There was minor biblical swearing in our home before and after our conversion (though less after, and much less as time went on). My mother delighted in telling a story from their Sunday School class. (Spencer Condie and Orrin Hatch, both in grad school at the time, team taught the class.) Orrin was teaching and mentioned in a discussion of swearing (perhaps a 10-commandments lesson regarding taking the name of the Lord in vain?) that sometimes he would rather “swear than punch someone in the nostrile” (my misspelling is intentional as Mom reported he pronounced that last syllable with a long i sound).

Well, I also would rather not punch anyone in the nostrile. Hence my favorite swear words.


  1. I don't swear publicly, not because I'm a good person, but because I am too shy to do so. But my sister-in-law is much like you and uses made-up swear words (she won't even use a mild real one) and they are frankly rather endearing. But profanity is not the only ugliness that can come from one's mouth. Hate speech, in my view, is much worse because it's not just some mindless expression but an attempt to inflict harm on another person.

  2. Ray, I think I'm like you: I would be embarrassed to be heard swearing publicly. In my case, I suspect a therapist could have a lot of work to understand that embarrassment.

    And I agree that there's plenty of damaging speech out there, including hate speech, gossip, and more. Perhaps in another post...