09 July 2009

Strong Language

I recently read Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Aside from making me want to eat calf’s liver with mustard shallot sauce (my vegetarian days have long been forgotten), and inspiring a lot of research into where the local natural foods store gets its meat, it had the effect of making me drop my current no-foul-language streak.

Periodically I feel the need to clean-up my language. I worry about who, if anyone, I might be offending. Although, let’s be honest here, my definition of lack of foul language is very different from some people’s. Hell and damn never make it out of my vocabulary during these clean-language streaks (and I would never say “heck”). I also still feel the need to drop an f-bomb here and there, so I asterisks them (if facebook can make “friend” into a verb, I can make asterisk into one too, right?). And, I am ashamed to admit, I’ve even said “f-ing” once or twice. If you’re going to use it, then use it, damn-it, don’t be a pussy about it. For some reason I think asterisking is more acceptable than saying “f-ing,” or (ehh) “fricking” (or any other horrible variation).

I learned as a kid that it was OK to curse as long as it was in Romanian. This “lesson” was only mentioned once, most likely in passing, and definitely not as a means to teach us some good manner. To me, though, it translated into “It’s OK to curse,” and it was one lesson that stuck (even though, I am sure, it was not meant to). Oddly enough, it didn’t seem to stick with my brother, at least not that I know of. It’s just me. I like to think that I inherited my tendency to curse like a sailor. Like, somehow, it’s out of my control. But, given that I can work with people for well over a year, and surprise them with an expletive (“Wow, I’ve never heard you curse, Anda!” - clearly someone who doesn’t know me well), I can control it.

This current streak of clean language started a few weeks after St. Patrick’s day weekend last year (quite a sustained effort, no?). That weekend I may have had one too many car bombs, and, well, no need to go into that. It’s enough to say that I was not on a clean-language streak that night. A couple of weeks later, I was listening to someone talk at a party after she had had more than one too many drinks. “Is that what I sound like when I curse,” I wondered. Several people assured me that, no, I am not as grating as the lady in question (a good portion of it had to do with her personality). Even so, just the thought of potentially being that grating inspired several very clean-language months and a more sustained effort since then. The truth is that sometimes profane language does offend some people, while others just think it’s obscene (silliness!).

Anyway, Julie Powell is so unapologetic about her language, that I wondered: “Why all the fuss?” Who really cares? I don’t want to offend people, not at all; but a few words here and there should not be an issue for anyone. I am still careful around new people, or people I know I might offend (the ones that use the words “heck,” “gosh,” and “darn”). Otherwise, fuck it (as seen on the lone bumper sticker on a beat-to-shit VW camper van).
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