When I was growing up, my mom did not allow me or my siblings to use ugly words - cuss words, swear words, four-letter words. Mom's rule wasn't a terrible imposition on my freedom until I reached high school and the age of enlightened maturity. Some of my very grown-up classmates used ugly words. Famous writers we read in English class used ugly words. Actors used a plethora of ugly words in all the popular movies. What made these words so "ugly" to my Mom that she prohibited them? Why couldn't I use these exciting, expressive, grown-up words, too?
When I pressed my case with Mom, her response surprised me. "Using ugly words severely limits your vocabulary." Well, according to my way of thinking, the freedom to use ugly words would instantly increase my vocabulary, quite significantly. Mom didn't buy my argument. "You may not use ugly words. Period."
Guess what I've learned over the 30 or so years since that conversation with Mom - She was RIGHT. Having lived many years out in the big wide world, out from under the watchful eye of Mom, I've been exposed to all variety of ugly words. East Coast. West Coast. Back woods and hollow. And I've noticed that people who do use swear words....use them a LOT. Often to the exclusion of alternative, more appropriate words. Descriptive adjectives? Powerful verbs? Precise nouns? Missing!
I was sitting at the vet's office last week with my girls, waiting to take the cat back for her check-up and shots. A friendly man with a black lab chatted with us from across the room. His cell phone rang. "Yep? Oh, I'm just sitting here in this *#$%+ waiting room, waiting to take the *#$%+ dog in to see the vet. What the *#$%+ are you up to?...." This fellow was very pleasant and amiable. He wasn't upset or angry. Why was he using such foul language? (And, just what makes a waiting room a *#$%+ waiting room? The room looked fine to me.)
It seems that most people who swear have vocabularies of about twenty words that they use over and over. And over. And over. They have arrested vocabularies. They are almost incapable of communicating with any significant degree of clarity or precision. They have handicapped their own ability to verbalize ideas and emotions. Happy? They swear. Furious? They use they very same swear words. Awed? Yep, same old words.
Now that I'm beyond the enlightened maturity of my teenage years, I understand and appreciate my mother's hard stance on swearing. Thanks, Mom! What about you, Dear Reader? What kind of "ridiculous" rules did your parents have that you grew to appreciate later in life?
(Too bad Vice-president Biden didn't have a mom like mine - maybe if he had, he could've told us more accurately, and with less ensuing embarrassment, what he thought about the recent passage of President Obama's healthcare bill!)
3 weeks ago