Column: Curses, should he give a (rhymes with ham)?


As our game of cards reached the tipping point, me zooming toward victory over my 8-year-old daughter, the 6-year-old looked at her sister and said the following:

“He’s beating your (rhymes with bass — the fish, not the musical component).”

She dropped an A-bomb right there on the living room floor with her father right next to her.

She is in kindergarten, which means she is too vernacularly challenged to read things written by Dr. Seuss. Yet she can curse with such ease that she informed her sister she was getting her (rhymes with crass) beat in cards, then merely sat there as if she’d absent-mindedly recited a line from “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Ho-hum. Say something, dad? Did I say something bad? Something sad? Something so definitely not glad?

I still remember the day I let fly the word (rhymes with mitt) in front of my grandmother. Horrified, I tried to keep babbling while secretly hoping she’d think she was losing her hearing and growing old and senile because there’s no way her precious grandson would blurt (rhymes with fit) right there in her kitchen.

So I’ve got a problem. And I’m the one to blame, because I’ve always cursed like a (rhymes with slam) sailor.

Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Bob Knight coach basketball or maybe it’s because I’m an old-school guy who took things far more seriously when my mother peppered the command with a (rhymes with fun of a stitch). On the upside, cursing requires creative conjugation and exploratory articulation that would challenge high-level English professors, and I like grammar. Foul language is quite deep; there are five forms of swearing — I’m big on the cathartic and emphatic methods — and studies indicate we say bad words almost as much as we use words like he, she, it (don’t read that too quickly, or “he, she, it” morphs into something less innocent than a pronoun; rhymes with pit). There are curse words in the Bible, for Heaven’s sake, and Shakespeare hath sworn in his fair and noble literature, so how wrong can my (rhymes with streakin’) vocabulary be?

On the downside, foul language generates the kind of perception that can soil the reputation of someone who, say, works in the public eye, has three daughters and coaches a buffet of youth sports.

So I need to tell the profanity to (rhymes with chew) off.

But what do I do about my kids?

Even when they’re not blatantly dropping the word (rhymes with brass) as off-color commentary to a game of cards, they’re teetering on the edge of getting themselves in trouble and simultaneously dousing guilt upon their potty-mouthed father.

They buzz through (rhymes with sass) sprinkled into song lyrics like land mines. They sometimes forget that “What the (rhymes with speck)?” is much better than “What the (rhymes with spell)?” They don’t realize that (rhymes with strickin’) might be harmless when explaining the merits of a mid-afternoon fist fight among siblings but that same word won’t fly with the second-grade teacher.

We must separate the church of gentle nomenclature and the state of our forthright phraseology, kids.

But no sooner do we make progress does the song “Uptown Funk” becomes a hit with the 3-year-old, who has now breached the seven words even George Carlin advises are best left unsaid. In case you are not familiar with toddlers, they possess no ability to enunciate. Thus “Uptown Funk” becomes “Uptown (rhymes with ... you know where this is going).”

“What song now, Emilie?”

“Daddy, (funk) you up! (Funk) you up!”

“Listen, kid. If you don’t stop saying that word, I’m going to have no choice but to spank your (rhymes with grass).”

Jason Recker is the news editor at The Herald. He and William Shakespeare share a birthday. His email is

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