Let me say first that our kids know there are words they’re not supposed to use: The “S” word. The “F” word. The “D” word. Ann Coulter. They know they’re going to get in trouble if we hear these words from their lips. It’s not like we’re telling them it’s OK to go around yelling curse words all the time. It’s not like they hear that shit from me, either – well, OK, but SOBUMD is from Jersey and she will damn well let you know it.
So the other day, Number One Son had a hard time undressing for bed – his shirt was really tight around the neck, and he needed some help pulling it over his head. He then asked me politely if he could please use a swear word. It was just the two of us, so I said to go ahead if he felt he really needed to.
“Daddy, some shirts are really a bitch.”
Now, in my house there is no God but Grammar, and Webster is his prophet. The dictionary is probably closer to a holy book in our house than the actual bible. (For those readers expressing surprise, yes, we own a bible or two – but the dictionaries get read more often.) The words “I don’t care for any more” will get you excused from the table; “I don’t care for no more” will get you sent to your room.
So it was in this spirit that I explained to Number One Son that Messrs. Strunk and White would probably have him amend his words. First, not to swear at all, but second… The term “bitch” has a female connotation, and you’re discussing a man’s shirt. I’d rather he say, “that shirt is a real bastard” – since it’s a man’s shirt. Of a ladies’ blouse, one might say that it was a bitch, but in general he should try to maintain a consistent gender while cursing. And finally, please, don’t curse at all – after all, I don’t want to hear that shit from him.
Needless to say this devolved into paroxysms of laughter on his part, since he doesn’t usually hear me use that many curse words in a row unless I’m working on plumbing, reading the news, or writing code. I think he went to sleep channeling George Carlin. When I brought the whole conversation to SOBUMD, she asked what one would do with unisex clothing, such as a hoodie. I maintain the proper cursing etiquette would be to go with the gender of the wearer, leaning toward the masculine when in doubt.
I was reminded of the need in college to instruct my roommate – brilliant, but new to swearing – in similar fashion. “The gerund comes before the noun. You’re not going to sit in effing that chair, you’re going to sit in that effing chair.” After all, if you’re going to swear in the first place, please do so with the proper effing inflection, good goddamm grammar, and wit.