John Clark here: Some time ago, I think I shared a most vivid memory from a time when Kate and I discovered the shocking power of F-Bombs (keep in mind we’re talking late 1950s-early 1960s). There was an episode in the kitchen at Sennebec Hill Farm where one of us was absolutely outraged at Mom’s not allowing us to use that word. Mom was pretty sharp and tossed us the following challenge: “Use kitchen sink, or a variety thereof instead of the F-word for a week and we’ll discuss your being able to use it again.”
(Paging Buck Henry, paging Buck Henry)
Kate and I had a grand time ‘getting away’ with our coded profanity. I can’t imagine how many times we’d look across the table and one of us would say, “go kitchen-sink your self,” or “Mrs. (fill in an evil teacher’s name) is a kitchen-sinking witch.” Of course, it was way too good to keep to ourselves, so we shared the code with kids at school and watched as perplexed teachers, staff and administrators scratched their heads while trying to figure out why kitchen sinks had become such a popular buzz word. By the time we were to revisit the original discussion, I think both of us realized that our mother was right and that we could come up with far more creative pseudo-epithets to confuse and insult the great unwashed. Looking back, it was one of many times Mom nudged us into better use of language.
Sadly, times have devolved. Profanity has become so common, you can’t go anywhere (well, maybe to a funeral) without someone trying to impress others with their four letter vocabulary skills. For example, I really like the guys at the Hartland dump, but if I had a buck for every F-bomb I hear in the hour or so I’m there, I could be eating top of the line steak several nights a week. Supermarkets, walking down the street, you name the place and the cluster bombers are nearby.
(Kiss my arsenal)
It’s time to fight back, dear friends. Sister Kate and I have played around with the concept of a new type of pulp fiction we call the ‘Bodice Repair’ genre. After all someone has to undo all the damage inflicted by those churlish men who defile innocent ladies on covers of dime (well $7.99) novels. In the interim while we figure out how to re-hook all those literary corsets, here’s another way to strike back.
Mom was dead right about the richness of the English language when it comes to sounding like you’re swearing up a storm. Below are some examples. A few have been around for ages, but Beth and I sat down one evening after supper and created more. I encourage anyone reading this to post their own creations. Who knows, they might well appear in a stunning literary work one day.
1-He’s been observed openly masticating in front of underage females.
2-He and his unsavory cohorts were observed flagrantly philatelating after dark with the shades up.
3-Your sister’s been engaging in thespian activity after school in the auditorium.
4-(one of Kate’s creations) Fudge You, you anthole.
5-He has a most disgusting bumbershoot fetish. In fact I saw him waving his over a young mother’s perambulator at the local park yesterday.
6-You’re nothing more than a bombastic squeak.
7-Unable to discern the difference between his olecranon process and his callipygian cleft.
8-His personal aura rivals Rumford on a very humid day.
9-She’s guilty of unrepentant dandling.
10-Completely incapable of proper piehole cleansing to the anguish of all well bred people who have the misfortune to encounter him.
(I liked things a lot better when Mom just washed my mouth out)
It’s too early to come up with an epithet, but on behalf of my outraged eyes (and ears), THANK YOU!!
Thaks Dee, I’m sure you’ll create something devilishly useful and in a timely manner
In my PIZZA TO DIE FOR, my 14-year-old protagonist says “Peppercorns!” in place of a stronger word. And in UNCERTAIN GLORY I borrowed from the 19th century, and “Godfrey mighty!” is my hero’s phrase. Fun to think about substitutions ,,,,
Okay, I’ve had some caffeine, so I’m reasonably alert now. A friend of mine says “razzlefrats” instead of something stronger, and I’ve adopted it too. My mother’s favorite was “shoot, dot the i” in place of (slang term for excrement), and a college roommate used “sugar” as a substitute for the same word.
Oh, gosh! What a wonderful post. Hooray for your mother!
This was fun to read even though I have heard about it before!
I have to admit I enjoy using the F word around consenting adults …
When my daughter was a teenager, she and her best friend were making fun of the overuse of “like” by their classmates: “He, like, said it was, like, really, like, cool.” We were on a shopping trip, and I said, “No, no, you shouldn’t say ‘like,’ you should say ‘as if.'” This was in reference to a critique group member’s comment on dialogue in a novel I was working on. So, for the rest of the day, they did Teenspeak with the *correct* terminology: “She, as if, said she would, as if, never be caught, as if, dead dating him.” The looks on other peoples’ faces were priceless ….
Add So, Basically and Actually to the used to a frazzle list.Like is one of those space-fillers that begs to be messed with…A literary sitting duck as it will.