Cussing is commonplace in college. Certain words become part of our lexicon and slip their way into everyday conversations.
While in the bookstore I happened upon a student who had apparently turned his cuss flow up to “Gangsta Irish Sailor.” I was there helping my friend look for her books and as I was searching for a Zoology 201 book, I happened to be standing next to this very well dressed guy.
He had khakis on, a nice black button-up shirt and his hair combed perfectly to one side. The ensemble screamed Future Accountants of America. As if he heard my internal comment about his dress, he bent over to look at a stack of finance books, looking for one without any bent corners. Suddenly his phone rang.
He unclipped it from his belt and brought it up to his ear so fast I thought he might punch himself.
“Yo man! What the [f-bomb] is up!” He practically yelled into the receiver.
“Nothing much brother! I’m just [f-bombin’] around the [f-bombin’] bookstore … yeah you know, gettin’ my [f-bombin’] books and [excrement.]”
I’m pretty sure my mouth was open as I stared at him, so I quickly picked up a used psychology book and began to read it. He proceeded to describe in great detail how big of an [f-bombin’ she-dog] his schedule was.
Was he aware of how loud he was? Did he realize he was in the middle of hundreds of students, parents and salespeople? He kept cussing loudly and laughing to whoever the apparently deaf person on the other line was.
For some reason I imagined the checkout woman was my grandmother and the woman with her son behind me was my mom and little brother. My face turned red and I thought about smacking the phone out of his hand and stomping it, turning to yell at him; “My god man! What the [f-bomb] is wrong with you!”
Instead I took the wiser route, and moved quickly away from the scene, breathing a sigh of relief when I couldn’t hear him anymore. Then, I almost felt a little guilty for running. What was the big deal? I cuss all the time. I believe in free speech and the First Amendment.
Why had anxiety caused me to run from the politely dressed sailor-mouth? Well, there is a story for that too; when I was about three or four years old I went to the grocery store with my parents and my grandmother.
My grandmother was the secretary at our local elementary school, and was a very elegant woman. I had recently gotten to the stage of my development where I sang songs at the top of my voice all day long, my favorite being “I’ve been working on the railroad,” or whatever the title of that song is.
I sang it all the time; in the shower, before bed, in the car or just quietly to myself as I played in the sandbox. I did so much celebration of American railways during that time my parents should have gotten a check from Amtrak. Somehow, for reasons no one in my family will ever understand, (my mom still blames my dad, and my dad blames TV) one word of that song became different as we stood in the line for the checkout.
“I’ve been working on the railroad all the [f-bombing] day!”
My grandmother was mortified, which is an understatement.
Half her bridge club was in the line next to us and a teacher she worked with was in another. A more appropriate description for her reaction was “wanted to crawl in a hole and die.” I heard that story every holiday we spent with her, and whenever the subject of profanity came up till she died, and now my mother reminds me of it whenever we have company over.
Since then I have been physically incapable of cussing in front of anyone who looks remotely parental. I could drop a lead brick on my toe in front of my dad, and all that would come out would be a restrained “dagummit.”
So maybe cussing is a big deal, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s like public shows of affection; you wouldn’t do “you know what” in public, so is it right to yell a crude synonym for that human interaction?
I guess the opinion is in the ear of the listener. I know the whole “freedom of speech” deal, but as a famous statesman once said “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” So if your language offends the ears of someone, isn’t it a little like poking them in the eardrum?
Not saying I will stop cussing by any means, I like the way I talk and certain expressions just aren’t the same without the little added “umpf” of profanity. Perhaps I will try to soften my tongue around women and children … yeah, definitely children.
Zac Hobert Thompson Technician North Carolina State U-Wire