*#%! and Other Fighting Words


When I was in the checkout at the grocery store once, the cashier accidentally entered the wrong amount of money I handed her and confused the register.

She hissed “@$#*!” and then slapped her hand over her mouth and murmured, “Oh, sorry.”

I smiled with understanding, but my interior voice said, “You know, you wouldn’t risk offending the customers if you didn’t cuss habitually.”

It’s time for a confession:  I don’t curse … out loud.  The filter between my brain and my mouth (or fingers) is fully engaged.  I just hope it doesn’t go on the fritz when I become an old woman, causing me to walk around humiliating sailors.

What is it about the language that we use “colorful” words?  It seems that in moments of high negative emotion we need to be able to erupt with something short (about four letters), vivid (the shade is usually blue), and abrasive (there’s a nicer word for that).

And yet there are those who don’t need high negative emotion to employ such speech.  Like the rooster who crows “Cock-a-doodle-do,” their mantra seems to be “Any mood’ll do.”  (Yes, I noticed the rooster used fowl language.)  But what are the ramifications of peppering everyday conversations with swear words?

Language does change.  There are naughty words in history that are acceptable today (like nasty, interestingly enough), and there are some historically common words that are taboo in modern times (I will neither confirm nor deny what those are).  They can also vary among cultures:  If I say “bloody rooster” in the US, it means we’re having him for dinner.  In the UK, he wouldn’t come to dinner because I’ve just insulted him.

There has been a trend in this culture for people to swear more.  I don’t know if they think it makes them appear independent and self-determining, but to me it makes them appear to have the vocabulary of a barnyard rooster.

Time for another confession:  I will curse out loud during moments of high negative emotion (“There’s a %#*$ snake in the chicken house!”), or within certain parameters for humor (wait for it….).

It would seem that naughty words are kind of like Christmas, which comes only once a year.  When used sparingly, they maintain the potency they’re meant to convey.  But if they get used casually, they just become dull and plodding.  Remember, Monday comes every week.

Sterner Rooster


Any *#$@ questions?

5 thoughts on “*#%! and Other Fighting Words

  1. It may have come to your attention, A.E., that cultures vary and in an Australian context many would have responded to the cashier with a sympathetic smile, indicating a refreshing change from the robotic ‘have-a-nice-day’ regime imposed by management. Like you, I despair of 5 word utterances that contain at least 3 swear words and ‘comedians’ (and their audiences) who think some swear words are innately hilarious.
    However when an erudite speaker or writer inserts the odd expletive in an otherwise entertaining context I don’t find it intrinsically off-putting. To provide a local context, in my country to call someone a bastard speaks not of their parentage but your disapproval of their behaviour. However it is more commonly used as an affectionate greeting between men, as in ‘Good to see you, you old bastard’.

    PS – May the absence of snakes in your chicken house keep your mouth pure 🙂

    PPS – In my country a miser is described as someone who has snakes in his pockets. A chicken house would pale in comparison to the expletives that may elicit from you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, we have pretty much the same use of bastard here in the States. And as far as snakes in Australia, any of them any where would probably elicit a stronger remark from me. Seems like everything in your country is out to kill you! 🙂


  2. I think swear words have their place, I tried not using them but it was just too hard with some many people around me who brought it out of me. Certainly in writing it’s best to use it properly or not at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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