First of all, I was born in the deep South in 1950, another world. Mother was determined to raise us to be above criticism. This was hard on me, a kid quite comfortable with criticism. Our language was subject to all kinds of boundaries. The first thing that set us apart from the great unwashed was that we “wee-weed” and “gee-geed”. I’ve met other prissy kids who “wee-weed”, but I have yet to meet another “gee-geeer”. (g as in go) See, there’s not even a right way to spell it. Being a “gee-geer” in a world full of “do-doers” is rough. On top of that, I grew up with a bunch of renegade cousins who were too bad to “pee-pee”. They “pissed, do-dooed, ka-ka ed, dookied,” and even worse, they “shat.” They said these words in public, in front of their parents! Mother led us to believe they were exceptions to the rule, bound for hell. Imagine how humiliated I was when I went to school with normal people, didn’t realize I was a weirdo, and said “gee-gee” the first time. Uhhhhhhh! She set me up!!!!!!!
Unbelievably, Mother had me convinced I would get caught if I said anything on the bad list. I yearned to cut loose, but, in the interest of growing old, curbed myself. Mother never specifically categorized forbidden words, but we all knew their rank. The F-word would have been an unforgivable sin. Besides, the first hint of its existence was in the sixth grade from my cousin Cathy, and she pronounced it “Funk.” Wouldn’t I have looked like an idiot writing that on a gym locker? I still avoid typing anything that starts with a capital F. Next in line, comes S-H-I-T. I did not say the word. I just spelled it. Mother even spelled S-H-I-T once to make a point. My sister Connie dropped a skillet on her toe and said, “Crap!!!!” Mother told her she might as well have said “S-H-I-T.” It was just as bad. Fortunately for Connie, she didn’t take Mother up on her advice or she wouldn’t be here today.
It would have been unthinkable to say “G—-Damn!” Lightning surely would have struck. It was saved for drunks, harlots, atheists, scientists, and other unregenerate sinners. You couldn’t have dragged it out of me.
We were fortunate enough to hear “Damn” occasionally. “Damn” did not put you entirely beyond the pale; just made your raising suspect. That was the worst thing about bad language. It put your mother in a bad light. Guilt was the best control. “You ought to be ashamed. You’re raised better than that! How can you talk like that? People will think we talk like that at home. We’re not the kind of people who talk like that. What if Daddy heard you talk like that? …………..” This could go on for a while, ending with, “ I’m so hurt!” It was okay to make Mother mad. I did that all the time. “Hurting” her put a kid beyond the pale. She’d drag herself around looking like a martyr till she was convinced you’d suffered enough or till the next kid really messed up. Nope. You didn’t want to “hurt” Mother
I did experience one miracle in my childhood. Daddy was a grouch, a nag, bossy, and impossible to put up with on his best days. He criticized all of us relentlessly. After knee surgery, he was in a cast, on crutches, and couldn’t drive. Whenever he had to go somewhere, we all took off in the opposite direction. Recovering from surgery did not enhance his sunny nature, no one wanted to drive him. It was a misery from the time you got in the car till you baled out. He was free to critique every portion of your being, from your personality, your behavior, your attitude, and most of all, your driving. One fine day, Mother got stuck with the job of driving him, and in his usual sweet way, he was torturing her. “Speed up, slow down, change gears, don’t ride the clutch……………!!!”
Connie and Marilyn were stuck in the back seat, listening to his incessant lecturing, when Mother finally got enough. She pulled the car over, killed it, clamped her teeth, and hissed at him, “Shut your damned mouth. I don’t want to hear another word out of you.” Stunned, he shut his damned mouth. She cranked the car and drove on. Connie and Marilyn were shocked beyond words. None of us had ever heard Mother say “Damn!” We’d all wanted to tell him to shut him damned mouth at least a million times, but hadn’t had the nerve.
When they got home, Mother stormed into the house leaving Daddy to struggle in on his own, instead of holding the gate, shooing the dogs away, and holding the front door for him like she had been doing since his surgery. It took him a while to manage the gate on his crutches. When he finally dragged in, he made a big production of collapsing into his recliner, raising his feet to a comfortable position, and asked for something for pain. Mother went on about her business, ignoring him. He asked me to make coffee. I brought him a cup. He called us all in; he had something to tell us. The last time he’d done this was when he’d announced they were having a new baby. I was pretty sure that wasn’t it as grouchy as he’d been lately. Once, he had everyone’s attention, including Mother’s, he put on a hurt face, looked around at us, and confided sadly.
“Children, you’re not going to believe what your mother said to me. She told me to ‘Shut my damn mouth’.” The room exploded. We were all laughing out of control, thrilled Mother had finally had enough and stood up to Daddy. It was a fine moment for the entire family. None of us shut our damned mouths for quite a while.
I’m not even going to talk about “titties!”