Category 1: Words I Grew Up With and Use Today
When my sister Amy was about 3-years-old, our grandmother, a known curser, was showing her a picture book. As many adults do, my grandma would ask, "And what do you think is happening here, Amy?" or "What do you think will happen next?" When they got to a page showing a little girl spilling her milk, my grandma asked, "What do you think the girl is saying here, Amy?" My sister, drawing from the bank of language she had heard my grandma use, replied, "SON OF A BITCH! I SPILLED MY MILK!" I, myself, had heard "soooooon of a bitch!" from my otherwise super-sweet, stereotypical-looking grandma plenty of times. She would draw it out in a high-pitch squawk, almost like she was calling it out of the audience on "The Price is Right." I'd use her phrase later in life, but shorten it to a more Holden Caufield-esque "sunuva bitch."
Grandma's not the only one to give me my early lessons on the art of cursing. As a kid, I remember standing in the doorway of my dad's workroom and watching him fly about at a frantic pace. On any given weekend in the 1970s, he could be seen down there, adding to the contraption in the backyard that was once a bird feeder. Dad aspired to make his bird feeder impenetrable to squirrels, a task which required a lot of wire mesh, tin cut in various shapes, greased poles, and a lot of cursing. It was here I learned the rapid fire "dammit!" and the f-bomb, said so quickly, that it might as well have been "fuh." I filed both away for future use.
Category 2: Necessary DescriptorsSome things aren't just funny. They're f****** hilarious. There's a difference, and I find it my duty to differentiate between the two with clear and precise language. Keep in mind, many things which are f****** hilarious happen throughout the school day, and they must temporarily be downgraded to a category really funny or occasionally the edgier so flippin' funny. But when retelling stories back home, I'm sure to use the right description.
In the same way, some things are classified as nasty shit, and no other words would do these things justice. Certain foods, such as olives or blue cheese qualify as nasty shit. I once had a paper turned in by a student and found two pages stuck together by a booger. That was some nasty shit. I've woken up to a floor littered with putrid smelling dog-diarrhea. This is also nasty shit. I think you get the point. One level down from nasty shit is nasty-ass, an adjective used by a former assistant principle to describe the potato salad she was made to serve up each year at our back-to-school district gathering. "I hate that nasty-ass potato salad!" she'd say. I, for one, didn't think it was that bad.
Category 3: Upping the Ante: Threatening Gangsta-like Cursing (Mostly done at home and directed towards inanimate objects or my pet)This type of aggressive cursing seemed to really take mutha-f*****' flight after watching what I consider to be one of the best music videos ever made: R. Kelly's "Real Talk." In the video, Mr. Kelly makes a passionate phone call to a lady who's done him wrong. He begins by stating, "I decided to do this shit...uh...real talk...on youtube because...I think it's a great song, you know what I'm sayin' even though there's a lot of profanity in it, but, profanity represents just how real shit gets when you arguing witch you girl and shit...you know what I'm sayin'...so I did it on youtube...but Imma do this shit for ya'll on youtube." I think that's pretty clear.
And it's clear to the recipient of his call, no doubt. In a lovely, soulful voice which could just as well be singing a gospel hymn of some sort, R. Kelly sings, "I been witchu five years and you listenin' to yo muthaf***** girlfriend. I don't know why you f*** with them old jealous no-man havin' ass hoes anyway! Real talk." The "real talk" seems to function as both an admission of telling the blatant truth as well as a disclaimer for the foul language.
I've found that after watching the video, it's nearly impossible not to sing-song the most vile string of curse words followed by a subtle "real talk." Really. It's nearly impossible. I dare you to watch it.
I reserve real talk for adults who have already viewed the video and for when I'm in the privacy of my own home. Having cereal: "Yeah! Gonna put some milk on these bitches! Real talk. " Drying my hair: "Do you think you could mutha-f***** dry? Do you think you could mutha-f***** dry? Real talk. " Feeding my dog: "Why you lookin' at me like some no-food-havin' ass hungry ho? Real talk."
(Note to my mother: Mom, don't watch this video. If you thought "Three's Company" was degrading to women, this will send you over the edge. Then there's my other concern- that you'll find it as hilarious and catchy as I did, and end up using a little "real talk" in your work as a hospice care provider: "Did I say you could muthaf*****' die? DID I SAY YOU COULD MUTHAF*****' DIE?! Real talk.")
I try to keep it under wraps. I'm nearly a muthaf*****' angel on the job. Really. You'd be proud. But, do know that if I happen to drop an f-bomb or lovingly refer to you and your family as "bitches," I'm doing the best I muthaf*****' can with what I've been given. Real talk.