i’ve been ruminating a bit on my swearing habits lately, particularly on how I’ve developed this oddly g-rated approach to words that aren’t just ‘fuck’ and ‘shit,’ and occasionally ‘asshole.’

One thing I learned when I was younger, and the swearwords were more tightly confined by my parental culture, was how to swear without actually knowing any swears. In Hitch Hiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox uses the term ‘photons’ a few times, and so around the age of eleven I picked it up. I remembered saying ‘what the photons’ and ‘oh photon.’ at two separate occasions, which prompted my father to take me aside and say, “Hey, you know what you’re actually saying, stop it.”

What’s weird is, I actually didn’t.

What followed was a steadily widening circle of expressions of frustration and anger that didn’t actually say much. When dad made ‘crap’ an acceptable part of the family venacular (by repeating a joke his brother told him), I used it, but bear in mind this was when I was still reading twee British books and old classic literature, so words like ‘sod’ and ‘bounder’ were wielded with care. I learned things like ‘madre de dios’ and ‘zutalors’ because apparently, saying things in a foreign language was okay.


  1. Both my parents swore fairly readily, particularly my mother, but I grew up curiously clean-mouthed. Possibly because I associated it with negative family things rather than stuff that I idealized

  2. “I will shove all the planets of the universe up my ass.”

    ~Firefly (translated quote)

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