CREATIVE EXPLETIVES

(Or, “How to Feel Like You are Swearing Like a Sailor when Your Mama’s an English Major”)

“I’m so mad I could spit!”

My mama isn’t the swearing kind. She doesn’t spit, either. If she uses a word like “spit,” you’d best take a step back.

When I reached the ripe age of twelve or thirteen, I thought it behooved me to adopt the more mature language of some of the saltier grown-ups of my acquaintance. I quickly learned, however, that four-letter words would not be tolerated. “Besides,” Mom explained, “swear words arrest your vocabulary development. They are the tools of a small mind.”

I didn’t quite understand Mom’s reasoning. Seemed to me that the use of common four-letter words would significantly expand my vocabulary. But I was raised by an English major, not a sailor, and Mom stuck to her linguistic guns.

Still, we all need expletives, those punchy little words and phrases that allow us to express surprise or strong emotion.

My siblings and I were forced to be creative with our expletives and “swear words.” We created peculiar new exclamations, gleaned new words from the dictionary.

One time, my little sister ran into the kitchen to tattle on my brother for calling her an ugly name. “David called me a farkleberry!” she wailed.

Mom called David in to give an account of himself. “Farkleberry is a real word,” David explained. “It is not an ugly word. It’s a kind of berry that grows on a tree.” He had called my little sister a berry: what was so bad about that?

I’ve learned over the years that folks who frequently swear tend to adopt one or two pet curse words, and then use those to the exclusion of other, better-suited words. Thanks to Mom, I heard much livelier, more creative, more colorful language growing up.

Dagnabbit.

Shoot fire!

I’ll be a turkey’s tail feather.

Chigger spit.

The possibilities were – still are – endless.

 

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