Salty language

By: J NS - March 12, 2007

I grew up hearing cussing /swearing. I heard it all the time. It wasn’t hard core language that fell on my young ears, just the D word, H word and S word having to do with manure and the oft used A word that referred to one’s posterior and the kicking thereof. Sometimes in great fury or frustration I would hear a G…D…but that was an exception. My family used language that was very salty. They could splice together a whole sentence of h’s, d’s and s’s with a few other words that were self manufactured. I never thought less of these folks, it’s just the way it was. Although girls were not supposed to cuss, once in a while a delicious forbidden word would escape my mouth. I considered the s word a safety valve and usually said it in my own company. Once it escaped after a very long and anxious day when I was not alone and the hearer was a beloved member of my in-law crew. I could see the diminishment of my esteem in the eyes and demeanor of the unfortunate witness. Since then I have tried to control myself knowing that at my age I should have more sense if not more self control. My brother, however, has honed the skill of cussing/swearing to a fine art. His language is legendary. My children would sit at his feet just to hear what he would say and would never be disappointed. He lives in another state and we don’t see each other often, but we telephone. Whenever I report that I have had such a call to my children they always want to know what he said. I recount his stories, words and at the same time get to use wonderful and terrible vocabulary by quoting him. Even when he was in the presidency of a very sacred edifice his expressions never changed. It was as if J. Golden was in the building. I loved to listen just to hear how he could insinuate colorful vernacular into the remotest of provocation. Then the last few times we talked I realized as an afterthought that I heard none of his usual wordage. I thought about this for a while and decided that I had imagined the omission, so I called him. We talked for several minutes and it was confirmed in my hearing that indeed his speech was pristine. I didn’t ask him why the change I just pondered it in my heart. When we talked again I listened with great interest to see if I was imagining the transformation. Damn it, I miss those conversations. I miss the colorful, imaginative, delightful forays into the slightly bad. I love words. I love to form them into patterns and lines and rhythms. I love using the unusual. When things are too sweet or white or usual they become dull and banal. Salt is salt until it has lost its savor.

J NS is a frequent reader and we are pleased to have this contribution.

9 Comments

  1. This post is delightful. In some ways it reminds me of Ardis’s recent post on Brigham Young’s linguistic proclivities. Thanks for this.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/12/2007 @ 3:02 pm

  2. My wife just returned from the funeral of her Grandmother. During the funeral her Uncle Rick told the following anecdote: “I was the third of three rambunctious boys. We were always in trouble as boys that age often are. Until I was about 5, I understood my name to be different than my given name because whenever my Dad would call us he would yell, ‘Laron! Gary! Damnit!’”.

    Comment by Craig S. — 3/12/2007 @ 3:17 pm

  3. I believe that there is a classic Bill Cosby (Bill Cosby Himself, perhaps) sketch that is related to that, Craig. Hilarious.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/12/2007 @ 3:24 pm

  4. There was a great image on the Simpsons last night. A delivery truck pulls up to the house. On the side, in large letters, is something like the following:

    A.S.S.*

    American Supply Service

    *Not affiliated with the human ass

    When I was about 9 years old, my SS teacher, who was a convert from another religious tradition and very strict, taught us a lesson on euphemisms, all about how we shouldn’t use them because when people say gosh they really mean God, or geez really means Jesus, or darn means damn, etc.

    That lesson had a profound influence on me, and for years I wouldn’t utter so much as a gosh or a darn.

    This practice did not, however, survive high school. Dammit.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — 3/12/2007 @ 3:36 pm

  5. A fellow missionary who grew up on a farm was once corrected by the mission president about his language . The missionary’s response: “But President, I grew up around s***, it has always been s***, and it will always be s***.”

    Comment by jose — 3/12/2007 @ 4:17 pm

  6. When I was 8, my family was visited Salt Lake City. My mom was off somewhere, so my dad took his seven kids, whose ages range from 17 years to 7 months, to tour the visitor’s center at temple square. When we get to the baptismal font on the backs of the oxen my dad decides he wants a picture. We’re standing there in front of it posing for the shot, and my dad says, “O.k. Now say bulls***!”

    Comment by marcus — 3/12/2007 @ 5:48 pm

  7. I work in an industry where salty language is the norm. Reeeeeally salty. Men and women alike.

    It’s gotten to the point where it just rolls off my back. I don’t participate, but it doesn’t really bother me anymore. Oh well.

    Comment by Chad Too — 3/12/2007 @ 8:18 pm

  8. Chad Too, let me guess…You’re a rodeo clown?

    I was raised by non-LDS parents who hated swearing. I think it stems from my dad’s father being a violent drunk. Anyway, my dad rarely got angry, but when he’d did, boy, look out.

    He’d use words like, “fiddlesticks!”

    Comment by Susan M — 3/12/2007 @ 10:03 pm

  9. My dad never cussed, at least in front of us. He’d say things like “that was meaner than a witch’s left eyebrow.” When he’d smash his thumb with a hammer, out would come “ratza fratzen frickenlooper rasnaritch!!” and he — and we — would be laughing by the time he got through it all.

    Dad and his older brothers raised themselves on a farm in New York, two counties away from their parents. I really don’t know why he didn’t grow up cussing like a demon.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — 3/17/2007 @ 5:49 pm

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