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I’m telling you, I’ve had about all I can take of the #*!#&*! profanity. Everywhere you go, people blowing vulgarity like eighth notes out of Dizzy Gillespie’s horn. At the coffee joint. The car wash. The Little League field. At Back-to-School Night, for *#!^&* sake! You get the feeling that somewhere in America, sailors are blushing and Bobby Knight is struck dumb.

Let me point out that I’m not a prude. I can go blue with the best of them when conditions are right and my muddy muses give me the old thumbs up. The key, it must be observed, is to know when the moment is right. It’s a matter of context. That’s what turns the whole business from unrefined expression into something approaching an ancient art. Certain taboo words have been respectfully reserved for low purpose since the dark ages, only brought out when some verbal muscle was truly called for. That discretionary baton has been passed on through the generations, and all these potent words have kept their virility because of it. Until now. Holy #*%*!! Is nothing sacred?

When my sons began to move away from innocent speech and pepper the air with sworn statements, I understood the cause. They were running off into the swamps of puberty like braying hounds on the trail of something furry and sweaty. I gave them a certain amount of leeway, and turned a conveniently deaf ear to the more raucous exchanges in the back seat of the car as I chauffeured them and their friends around. To turn all Draconian would only cause the smutty chorus to rise in volume and frequency, I figured. I’m not anxious to enter into such battles with the rampant hormones of red-blooded youth; I want to save what’s left of my eardrums.

My approach has been distilled into a fairly simple and straightforward mantra: Don’t waste perfectly good cuss words on situations that don’t deserve them. Don’t, for example, suck the life out of a proud expletive by using it on the occasion of a lost sock or a bitten tongue. Save it up for when it really matters, boys. And just so you know: that’s not when your mother asks you why you scored a 78 on your last Spanish test. Or when you have to get up from your chair, leave the dining room table, and get some butter out of the kitchen. Reserve for your future righteous rage the dignity of language that has not been cheapened and mass produced by bland, everyday usage.

And in the meantime, look around, know your audience. You can’t be offending people willy-nilly. It’s boorish, and it makes you appear unoriginal and intellectually lazy. You’ll be hard to ever take seriously if you can’t figure out a way to outrun the thugs in your brain who equate unfiltered obscenity with charisma. Consider my advice, fellows. Someday, you’ll need to have a full arsenal of verbal filth at your disposal for some situation or event that strikes you in a deep and personal way. But that won’t happen if you’ve squandered all your best weapons on trifling matters.

You’ll end up being the boy who cried #*@$!
And jeepers creepers, that would be a dang shame.

 

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