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Opinion

Cursing bad, could be worse

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September 29, 2006

I remember very vividly the first time I heard the “F” word. I was seven and riding home on the bus after a strenuous day of first grade. I was talking with a friend across the aisle when all of a sudden a second grader turned to us and said “fuck you,” and in case we were hearing impaired, thoughtfully signed the phrase for us as well with his middle finger, or, as I knew him then, Tall Man.

I, thinking it was some sort of salutation, repeated the gesture back to the boy. This may come as a shock to people who know me, but I was a very naïve child.

That same night, as my family gathered around the dinner table, it occurred to me that my very wise parents would know something about this new word. So during a lull in the conversation, I piped up, “Mom, what does the word ‘fuck’ mean?”

The blood drained from my mom’s face and she excused herself from the table. My dad, on the other hand, was doing a respectable job of holding in his laughter. I looked at my dad in confusion, and he simply said, “You better not say that word anymore.”

To my 7-year-old mind, I had done something so horrible that I had terribly upset my mom and received the admonishment, “Don’t do that again” from my dad. I wasn’t sure what I did, but it must have been something awful. Right there at the dinner table, on my Strawberry Shortcake cup, I made a solemn vow to never utter that word again.

Looking back on those days of innocence, I am surprised at my mom’s reaction. I guess it wasn’t so much that I had unwittingly used profanity, but more because that was a major step toward losing my innocence of the harsh world around me. But at seven, I felt I was way behind the rest of my peers as far as cultural awareness. Somehow, I had been kept out of the loop.

While our society has become much more accepting of displays of violence and sexuality, the noose around profanity’s fat figurative neck has only tightened. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather my kids walk around cursing than collecting STDs, babies and gunshot wounds. Those words are a part of our language, and in moderation, are great ways of expressing ourselves with a weight no other words can carry, like say during any game Carlos Silva pitched in this year.

Speaking of the Twins, broadcaster Bert Blyleven’s penalty for lettings some obscenities fly when he thought he was off camera a couple of weeks ago was way too extreme. My grandma, who thinks “darn” is a curse word, thought the penalties were extreme.

I guess we can shelter our kids for as long as we can, but all that care and concern doesn’t mean diddly when a child boards that big yellow school bus and takes the ride straight into Adult World.

Cassie Rodgers is a student at UW-River Falls.