The ability to lipread can be a blessing and a curse. Twenty five years later, I vividly recall driving my grandfather home and being on the tail end of a truck driver’s angry rant. As a newly licensed driver, I was cautious – even more so with my taciturn grandfather in the car. I was taken aback when I experienced my first road rage incident. “You fucking bitch!” came through loud and clear, even though I was the only one who “heard.”
Flipping the bird, however, is universally understood – except for deaf kids, perhaps. When we were little, my sister and I thought it meant “baby.” After witnessing us use the greatest insult we knew, our parents sat us down and proceeded to enlighten us. That day, not only did we learn about “the bird,” but we also learned about the more colorful versions of “donkeys” and “cats.” Of course, before we were told all the swear words, we were cautioned never to use them. Our parents wisely figured better them as a source than wherever we got “baby” from.
And now, to my parents’ great pride, I have a potty mouth. But I try to use it judiciously. The key word being “try.” My 13-year-old has asked when she can swear. I told her to wait as long as possible, because once you start, it’s hard to stop. We did give her permission to use “hell” when appropriate. She’s gotten good at substituting “crap” for more damaging words, and using the right intonation and emphasis to make it sound worse than it really is, like “What the CRAP!?” and “Crap you!”
When my daughter voluntarily interprets, it’s an added bonus when she gets to swear in the process. Hmm, perhaps that’s why she’s doing it voluntarily!
To lessen the damage, I’ve tried using fictional curse words from TV shows, like “frak,” or “frick,” which are close enough to be slightly satisfying. As a family, we’ve had fun coming up with other alternatives, like “Shish kebob,” or more accurately, “Shhhhish kebob.” “Shhhiitake mushroom” is another one.
But when we mean business, we resort to the time-honored standbys. My daughter’s procrastination — especially around bedtime — is so bad (or so good, depending on your perspective) that my husband’s common refrain is, “Get the fuck in bed!” For his birthday, we got him the popular book, Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, which reads like a children’s book for adults. Take this excerpt:
The owls fly forth from the treetops.
Through the air, they soar and they sweep.
A hot crimson rage fills my heart, love.
For real, shut the fuck up and sleep.
Naturally, we couldn’t resist getting him the sequel, You Have to Fucking Eat, which applies to our picky eater son.
Truth be told, I’d rather eat my shiitake mushrooms and shish kebobs than try to get them trending as #alternativecursewords. The other thing I’m sure of is that this is one fucking bitch who won’t make the mistake of calling her kids “baby.”