I was blessed with reading parents. I know, the majority of parents these days can read, but my parents do so with joy and made sure to pass that joy on to me. From the day I came home from the hospital my world has been filled with books and the voices of my parents reading them to me. We had the My Bible Friends, and Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories sets, filled with beautiful illustrations to highlight, usually, the moral of the story. After all these years my sister and I still have some of the stories memorized word for word.
As we got older, my parents branched out and my Mother read amazing series of books to us, Little House on the Prairie, The Great Brain, Ramona, and Fudge. We heard about cowboys, Indians, and missionaries in faraway places. We listened to stories about the Indochina war, World War II in the South Pacific and the Battle of Waterloo. Biographies of the Founding Fathers, and other ground breakers like Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton. History ran rampant through our brains, and our imaginations soared to heights that only prepubescent girls can dream up.
From an early age we had library cards, as being a rural pastor & a nurse in the 1980s, didn’t pay enough to support the book habits of two voracious little girls. By the time middle school rolled around my days finding books in the children’s section were over. I had grown into what would now be called the Young Adult section, and quickly the ‘real’ library. I read biographies, poetry, histories, religious fiction and then I was given a book that would change my whole concept of the written word.
(Warning: The following will be discussion of words not used in polite society, including the F word, and I will not be using any euphemisms to make them more palatable.) For my eleventh birthday I received my first hard back novel from a boy in my class. (Actually his mother got me the book, he could have cared less) It was called The Girl in the Grass, written by David Roth. It chronicles the search of 17-year old Tom for the girl the haunts his dreams, the girl in the grass.
Thinking that he might be going crazy, Tom is startled to see three paintings of the girl in the grass straight out of his dreams while in Boston on a trip with his Aunt & Uncle. They reluctantly tell him about his older sister Sylvia who took care of him until he was 5. As he searches to find his sister, he takes his first lover(what we would now call a cougar), moves out on his own to be closer to his search area, and discovers his mentally ill sister and a family history she would have rather he not know about.
It was the first time I had ever read the words fuck and shit in a book. Profanity wasn’t used in my home; I don’t remember ever hearing my parents using curse words, at the most Dad said shoot. I knew what those words meant, before internet search engines there was this strange thing call talking and kids did it while on this even stranger place called a playground. Kids learned those words and taught them to each other; even sheltered ones like me. Reading that book lead me to discover the power of words.
I’ve always had a slight analytical bent, even at eleven, and I quickly determined that while those were not words I could say out loud that if I tried to substitute what my religious up bring told me were the acceptable words to be used, the meaning of the sentences and paragraphs changed. Emotions were lost. Looking at the scene of a burglary and saying “What a load of feces this is” doesn’t not convey the same emotion as saying “What a load of shit this is” does. The same thing for fuck; although I believe this word is extremely over used by people who are unable or unwilling to expand their vocabulary and find an expression that really fits the situation.
As the first book to touch on so many new subjects for me, The Girl in the Grass was the place I started when I developed my philosophy about words and language. My philosophy became this:
There are no bad or forbidden words. There is a time, place, and audience for every word. Do not rely on a single word to describe your ever emotion, this makes you flat and shows a lack of education and/or vocabulary.
My words can be a tool or a weapon, and I have to decide which they will be daily. I find that shit occurs regularly in my life. At least once a week something will happen in my life and “oh shit” just seems the most succinct and descriptive phrase. Shit is organic, and while it is a pain the backside to clean it, no pun intended, it does in fact clean up. I’ve never been big on the word fuck. It doesn’t portray the actual meaning behind the emotions I’m feeling, it tends to be use simply for the shock value not the situation it is to which it is being applied. There are better, more descriptive words that I would rather use. Here are some of my favorite words/phrases, but alas I don’t get to use them very often because I constantly have to explain them.
- Fiddle-Faddle: nonsense
- Milk the pigeon: trying the impossible
- Buffle-head: stupid or silly i.e. buffle-headed nonsense
- Bum Fodder: Toilet Paper (used as a word of frustration)
- Fartleberries: excrement hanging or stuck around the anus (stinky and annoying)
I’m sure these came from the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue or something of that ilk.
What words or phrases do you use as tool and weapon? Why?