I Like my Language Like I Like my Potato Chips… Salty

Not too long ago, while moderating BINGO with a small group of second graders,one little boy said, “What the hell, Miss Pope? That is some BS.” That is an exact quote from an eight year old. I opened my mouth to correct his language when I realized not a single one of the other students batted a lash. Nobody was eager to tattle. The child’s less than clean language didn’t surprise them at all. Why is that? 

I think I know the answer to that question. We are a nation of potty mouths. I’ll admit it. I have one. I have four brothers, a Cop father and a mother who can curse so elegantly that it brings tears to my eyes. I was destined to have one. I have let a few choice words go in traffic, or when I’ve dropped something on my foot, or when I can’t get my hair right, or for any reason really. All of my friends are big fat potty mouths. My coworkers too. I have to admit I love when a person can curse effectively but not gratuitously, who can express themselves while not putting down others.

This position maybe controversial to some but to me cuss words are just words. Words with interesting history. Do a search of your favorites and see what comes up. (Make sure you include history of in the search.)  You’ll be surprised by the history of these words. That being said there is a time and place for everything. Cussing in church is a no-no. Watch your mouth around other people’s small children and at the library, the bank, or around your grandmother.  Try not to cuss at your boss no matter how much they may have it coming.

What does any of this have to do with writing?  I’ll tell you. It’s okay to use cuss words when you write, especially if you are writing contemporary romance. People are potty mouths by nature.When I read a book I want my characters as realistic as possible and real people cuss. During love scenes I like when a writer goes for it instead of using words like, flower and petal, and bud, because NOBODY talks like that. It’s up to us as writers to find a balance when using colorful words and if cussing doesn’t feel right to you than don’t do it.

Of course this is just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions… Ultimately it comes down to what you are comfortable with. Now it’s your turn to share with me. How do you really feel about cursing? Are you a potty mouth? Do you use colorful language when you write? Do you disagree with me? Any comment is fine folks… as long as you keep it clean 😉

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10 thoughts on “I Like my Language Like I Like my Potato Chips… Salty”

  1. I am a champion curser. Years of bartending and working as a lounge singer, I guess. I’ve tried to tone it down, but certain words will always be in my vocabulary, especially after a martini or two.

    When I was first writing erotic romance, I wrote a couple of historical novels. Erotica doesn’t go for euphemism — they want graphic language — and I got tired of using the same words over and over. I wanted more variety, so I found myself studying the history of cursing.

    Let me tell you, books on cursing make the best coffee table books ever. I had a couple of girlfriends over, drinking wine, and one started reading from the loooooooong list of historical slang terms for ‘penis.’ Helpless laughter and spitting of wine ensued. (My personal favorite: “Purple headed custard chucker.”)

    I thought it especially unfair that the list of slang words for “vagina” was much, much shorter, especially as one went back in time. Apparently, prior to about the year 1300, women didn’t HAVE vaginas. 🙂

  2. WOW! I have been a cuss-slinger as far back as the 3rd grade. That’s when the “F” word entered my vocabulary. But now that I have small children, I’ve had to change them all. Here’s my new list of curses:
    Dill weed (usually for use in traffic when someone cuts me off)
    Peanut brittle (fudge was just too obvious)
    and to replace my personal favorite – Butter Lover! It has the same kind of sound as “Mother…”

    And instead of wishing that people who drive like maniacs (outside of my own maniacal-ism) get either a ticket or killed as I used to do, now I just wish diarrhea on them. It’s better karmically. Instead of death, they just have an annoying and potentially embarrassing afternoon. I’m willing to take that kind of karmic hit.

    1. Your comment made me laugh so hard I almost tinkled…. I say Shut the Front Door. Or What the French toast when I’m at work. My kids laugh at me.

  3. Toni and J, thanks for starting my Monday with a laugh!

    I too have to confess, I have a potty mouth. I’ve tried for years to clean it up, but alas, no luck. Although I know when to just shout those words out in my mind alone. I had to laugh at the new Battlestar Gallatica and the word “Frak”, but it grew on me and now it too is part of my vocab.

    Yes, Jamie, characters in books need to sound real. Which means that at times they need to drop the F-bomb or other word. I have one character in my story Dangerous Enchantment who drops the bomb quite frequently, but he’s also the bad guy, who’s trying to kill my hero/heroine. I just can’t picture this hired gun going around saying “fudge” instead. And, if he did, I don’t think I’d buy the belief that he could cold-bloodily kill someone.
    p.s. Toni, some day when my kids aren’t quite so young, I’m going to have to get that coffee table book.

  4. That would be a fun read. 🙂 As for me, being that I write inspirational, I have to get creative to keep it clean but real. From what many editors say, is if I don’t have a good word, then just say, He cursed, and let the reader fill it in.

  5. I used to have a serious potty mouth, which I’ve worked pretty hard to disengage. Having a kid definitely made the transition easier. Not that I don’t slip up now and then when the situation requires it! My writing genre (cozy mysteries) doesn’t tolerate much cussing, either. The F-bomb in any of its forms is definitely a no-no, even if a villain or other low-life says it. One thing I would say is that even if your genre does need/require cussing, and even if somebody in real life might drop the bomb every other word, it gets annoying/uncomfortable pretty fast when you’re reading it. So I’d sprinkle in enough to make it colorful, but not enough to get tiresome. As for the romance anatomical euphemisms, a lot of them are just plain silly. But on the other hand, the anatomical names for the male female parts aren’t always very romantic sounding, either. Nobody wants a romance that reads like a med school textbook!

  6. I let my characters do most of the F-bomb dropping in my books. Though I will use the F word occasionally when my kids aren’t around. I do have a very creative and foul mouthed husband who has taught me quite a few gems. Some of them even appear in my books because they are too good to pass up.

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