[WARNING: The following does not endorse the practice of swearing. It merely suggests that if you do it, do it right!]

The Art of Swearing:

Anyone can swear, but not everyone can do it in a convincible manner. There is an art to swearing.  It takes practice. It also takes a firm voice and positive attitude. And one must also take in the fact that the typical American swear words have a tendency toward hard sounds, a good many T’s and K’s. These sounds should not be slurred over. It is also very unimaginative. Referencing religious figures, hexing, scatology, or a person’s birth and or intellectual ability, and so many, many variations of the act of reproduction. It would be so much better if we swore in a more colorful way like: ‘May a thousand camels walk through your tent’, or the more popular, ‘May the Bird of Paradise fly up your nose’; but we don’t and have to play the cards dealt to us.

 mark twain   It was reported that Mark Twain excelled in the art of swearing, much to the chagrin of his ‘long suffering’ wife. To keep peace with his wife he suggested a special room dedicated for swearing. Whenever he felt the need to swear, he could run to the room and swear ’til heart’s delight. But he reasoned, when one needs to swear, there isn’t time to run into a different room. So he dropped the idea. Again, much to the chagrin of his ‘long suffering’ wife.

The Old Hand:

One of his stories Twain liked to tell while on tour concerned swearing and his wife.

He said he was shaving one morning and, like any husband, had done something to get his wife very angry. She burst into the bathroom and cut loose with words Twain had never heard her use before. “Dear,” he said, “You got all the words down pat, but you should work a little more on your delivery.”

At home my dad rarely swore, and when he did slip up and Mom heard him, she always let him know that there would be no swearing in the house. “Ah,” Dad would argue, “That ain’t swearing. That’s just packinghouse talk.”

A friend, Larry, tells the story of taking his father to get his first hearing aid and stopping off on the way home at the neighborhood bar. Larry knew that the hearing aid was working because his father told him angrily several times that he didn’t have to holler. Larry said his father kept turning his head and looking at a table where several young women were sitting. Finally, his father said, “Well I never, in all my life, heard women use those kind of words before!”

“Dad,” Larry explained, “You just never had a hearing aid before.”

Published, 5/27/11, SPPP, Bulletin Board.

Swearing must have a purpose. It should not be simply an interjection for the lack of nothing to say or a play for time to think out what to say next. Blunt talking Lenny Bruce used it for shock value and to expose the hypocrisy of the times. And he was repeatedly jailed for vulgarity. Philosophic George Carlin used it for emphasis and, as in his famous routine, Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On TV, to expose the hypocrisy of the times. And he was repeatedly jailed for vulgarity. One has to wonder if the jailings were actually for vulgarity or a circumvention of their right to Free Speech: namely exposing the hypocrisy of the times. 

Today’s comedians, whether stand-up or acting in sitcoms or movies, rely more on vulgarity  than they do in presenting a polished, genuinely funny routine. The shock value is long gone and their routines are too weak to need emphasis, and all that remains is boredom. 

I first noticed this tendency to use ‘dirty words’ to fill out a routine in Eddie Murphy’s live performances. He did a show that lasted a little over an hour. If he would have removed the word concerned with incest, aka the malady of Oedipus, his routine would have lasted  less than a half hour.  When Bill Cosby pointed out that Murphy had too much talent to waste it by the use of constant vulgarity, Murphy couldn’t think of a response, so he  suggested what Cosby should go and do to  himself.       

The art of swearing does not include using swear words simply for fillers or brain burps. 

Growing up, swearing was done in the same secrecy as smoking grape vines behind the barn. Like my using  cigarettes, I  never swore much before I went in the Army. Unlike my quitting cigarettes many years ago, I still swear, much to the chagrin of my ‘long suffering wife’. I, however, have managed to eliminate it in most situations, none of which involve running afoul of a bad driver. 

The Old Hand

My tendency, to honk the horn or give the one finger salute at a driver DWS, (Driving While Stupid,) is pretty much under control; but I admit I need work on my vocabulary. The words that I utter are not the lyrics of the latest Justin Bierber song.

We had to go up to Bemidji so my wife and I went up with our son, Dirk, and his family. I rode shotgun.

The next day another son, Dan, arrived. He was telling Dirk about driving up. He asked Dirk how it was when he drove up. Dirk said it was okay. The weather was good. The kids behaved – fairly well. The traffic wasn’t bad.

‘And’, Dirk said. ‘I didn’t have to swear at even one bad driver. Dad did it for me.”

Published, 5/17/13, SPPP, Bulletin Board

Burton Playbill I heard this story from Eric, Leonard Nimoy’s personal dresser, when we were on tour with Leonard’s one-man play, VINCENT. According to Eric, (which may or may not be true), it occurred when he was Richard Burton’s personal dresser on CAMELOT, (which I know was true).

After a Saturday matinee, he and Burton left the theater by a door which opened into the alley. There was man, holding an almost empty bottle of Thunderbird wine, using the building wall to prop himself up. As they went to walk past him, he hit them up for money. ‘Just a loan. Pay you back tomorrow.’

Seizing the opening, Burton puffed out his chest, pointed his finger at the man, and in his best stage voice said: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be. For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE!’

The wino pulled himself as erect as possible. He pointed his finger at Burton and said in a loud voice: ‘Fuck you! – TENNESSEE WILLIAMS!’

Eric said, that while the man had a problem with his elocution, his volume and delivery was every bit as good as Burton’s.

The wino had almost mastered the art of swearing.