There’s this little thing about me that you should know. I am Queen of the Squeaky Clean Language World. The other day I was talking to my daughter on the phone and telling her about some stuff I was bringing over for her garage sale.
Me: Some of it probably should be thrown away but I’ve been told that that is exactly the sort of, excuse my language, crap* that people actually buy. (*said in an almost whisper)
Daughter: Mom, crap is not really a bad word. Of course, you don’t even use the word “butt”.
She’s right. And I didn’t let my kids say butt or pee or crap, either. And certainly not anything worse! That is, until they were in their late teens and I lost control. That’s when they started watching PG-13 and even R-rated movies. Horrors!
You’ve got to understand, though. I grew up in this little Leave it to Beaver, perfect childhood bubble. My grandparents lived behind us, a couple of cousins next door, and four more cousins a block away. We spent our summers in our grandparents’ yard, climbing trees, playing dolls, building stuff, pretending we were pioneers, and drinking sweet tea by the gallon. We generally all got along, had lots of fun, used our imaginations, and didn’t cuss. None of us. My youngest brother, the rebel of the group, picked up the word “butt” from a friend in preschool and got in trouble for trying it out at home. None of the rest of us were brave enough to try that sort of foolishness.
This is just one of those quirky little things about me. I don’t sew; I drink LOTS of Earl Grey tea; I iron my pillowcases; and I don’t cuss or use crude language. It’s just who I am. Part of it is my upbringing and part of it has to do with this theory I have. I believe that words lose their power when overused. Certain words used at just the right moment can have great impact but when every other word out of someone’s mouth is of the four letter variety, people start to tune them out. So here’s where I am going with this. Someday I just might have occasion to be absolutely furious with someone and really, really need to get their attention. So I’m saving it up until then. Can you imagine the look I’ll get when I am 83 years old and finally let loose a string of obscenities? On the other hand, if it is one of my kids there will probably be stunned silence for half a second and then uproarious laughter. Oh well, I live to amuse my children.
So in the meantime I do have a bit of a dilemma. I am writing a book and I just know there will be a character or two who would reasonably be expected to swear, at least a little. Trouble is, I just don’t have any experience in using bad language myself so I worry about whether or not I can make it sound realistic. I don’t know exactly how I will handle this yet but I am thinking about *practicing* a bit on this blog. Nothing really bad but perhaps throw in a damn or hell once in awhile just so I can get past this hang up and be able to write with a certain element of realism. Y’all don’t mind, do you? Just remember, it’s writing research and practice. Oh, and be sure to read it as a whisper.