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Giving a Fudge

Strangely enough, as I drove yesterday, my mind on the family tree that is eating up my life (I swear, the high point of my day was an email exchange with Pome that led to me to the realization that there is a whole host of free services at the National Archives I haven’t tapped into yet.  And you better believe I will), I thought about whether or not I would still be saying the word “fuck “when I’m a great-grandmother.

Women in past generations — from what I understand based on movies and Abraham Cahan books — didn’t curse.  I never so much as heard my great-grandmother utter the word “damn.”  I mean, to be fair, she didn’t speak a lot of English so perhaps she never got to curse words in language acquisition (though while I only know two-and-a-half languages, I can swear in close to twenty).  I don’t think I ever heard my grandmother say anything saucier than “shit.”  And my own mother has commented before on my filthy mouth.

I wondered if perhaps as I aged, I would become a sweet old lady who said things like “oh fudge!” as I rocked in my rocking chair.  I wondered how one went about shedding a potty mouth.  Was it a natural progression, something that would come on like menopause, where I would realize one day that it had been at least a month since the last time I had said “fuck” and now it felt more comfortable to say things like “fiddlesticks!” than it did to say its baser alternative?  Or was it going to have to be a conscious decision, much in the same way the twins needed to pick a date and give up the binky?  Will I have to choose — let’s say — the date I begin wearing dentures will be the last day I say any of that shit?

And then, I just read that Adele has allegedly given up swearing as she prepares for the birth of her child.

Isn’t Adele 24 years old?  She’s going to give up curse words in her twenties?  Doesn’t she know that the ability to utter curse words may have a lifespan much like her fertility?  Who the hell willingly gives up cursing in prime cursing years?

Why doesn’t she do what every other person who curses regularly does once they find themselves parenting?  We say curse words in places other than the space where our child(ren) happen to be in the moment.  Just in the same way I spoke in the classroom in a different way than I spoke at my locker back in high school, I speak with Josh in a very different way that I speak in front of the twins.  When they’re around, it’s a clean mouth that would make my grandmother proud.  When they’re not around, it’s sailor-time.


Is there a chance my great-grandmother was doing this to me too?  That when I was away, she was laughing with all the other ladies at the nursing home as they cursed their way through a discussion on man meat?  And then I’d step in the room and she’d switch it over to cleany kidville where she handed me silver dollars and called me a “nice-a little-a girl.”



Remember the Abraham Cahan books.  Ladies didn’t curse back then.  I’m safe.

Okay, so back to us.  Are you still going to be cursing when you’re a great-grandmother, or will you be washing out your own mouth with soap a la Adele at some point?

Ooooh, and don’t tell me that you don’t curse.  That only serves to make me feel badly about my unladylike tendencies.


1 Susan Jett { 07.24.12 at 7:35 am }


I’m struggling with this right now, since among my peers, I have a mouth like a sailor. I do not, however, want my kid to be ostracized because he, um, swears like a sailor. So I’m trying to do better. I thought I was doing great, replacing ‘fuck’ with ‘damn’ so often. Then one of my toddler’s first real words–always used appropriately!–was ‘damn!’, and suddenly it sounded a lot less great.

So now I’m working on ‘Goodness gracious’ and ‘oh dear’ and even ‘Heavens!’ and all of a sudden I realize I’ve turned into my Grandma, and yeah, now I’m wondering how she spoke before her kids were born, and if that is my fate, too. We really do become our maternal ancestors? Really? Does this mean I have to dye my hair red when I start to go grey? Am I going to wear housedresses 24/7 once I hit 50? Really?

Oh my.

2 Tiara { 07.24.12 at 8:02 am }

Ah fuck no, I never curse! 😉

I never realised how much I curse until recently as my daughter is starting to aquire language & I really don’t want her 1st word to be fuck…3rd or 4th, fine but not 1st, lol! I’ve switched to saying “crap” & sure enough she is mimicking me…I think we’ll be in trouble once she hits preschool…

3 HereWeGoAJen { 07.24.12 at 8:31 am }

My mom won’t let me curse. And she must have surveillance cameras or something. But I never have so I didn’t have to give it up around the kid. Matt just started swearing in a whisper around her and I look at him like “you know she can still hear that, right?”

4 Blanche { 07.24.12 at 8:59 am }

Not so great parenting moment: hearing ‘dammit’ parroted back after letting it slip. Somehow it just doesn’t sound so harmless coming from their little mouths, you know?

Since then I’ve really tried to step up my game around LO, since I don’t want to be the parent of THAT kid in preschool/kindergarten.

5 Chickenpig { 07.24.12 at 9:32 am }

I remember going into my Grandmother’s kitchen where she was cooking up a storm and her mumbling under her breath because she didn’t know I had come in the room “Dan Quayle is an asshole!” (she was a Democrat and my Grandfather a Republican). I’m assuming that people of past generations had just been taught the circumstances under which cussing is appropriate. And remember, curses of the past are just quaint sayings to us now. (no one is going to freak out if you say “Oh sod off you bugger, go to bloody hell!”…at least not here in the states 😉

6 lisa { 07.24.12 at 9:44 am }

I curse – I just walk into the next room, or go into the bathroom, and let loose. And it makes me feel soooo much better in that moment when those words need to be spoken. I imagine that even when I’m older I will to – I find myself saying things like oh gosh in front of the kids and that is something ten years ago I would have never said. So, it slowly morphs to a language approrpiate for children. But when children are not in my presense I can say what I really feel – no censoring.
I do have a habit, however, of saying “oh jesus” in front of my kids. (no judging please :)) But now that my kids have attended vacation bible school and are starting to learn about church, religion, etc., they remind me that Jesus doesn’t live in our house, he lives with God.
Thanks kid.

7 Brookes4boys { 07.24.12 at 9:48 am }

I say things like “Jiminy Crickets”! and ” Cheese and Rice”! I used to have a potty mouth (my 2 year old once had a habit of saying “Debit” which I finally figured out meant “Damnit” Whoops!) but as I have gotten older it bothers me to cuss and really bothers me to hear other people doing it. My hubby, who is a sailor, and I have had some real issues about it, unfortunately.

8 amanda { 07.24.12 at 9:59 am }

My mom used to swear in front of us all the time. She was a firm believer in the Do as I say, not as I do philosophy of child raising. I swear – a lot. I swear and catch myself doing so in front of my friends kids. They swear. I have no idea how I will stop doing it in front of kids. I don’t want to be like my mother ….

Maybe I need an intervention 😉

9 Esperanza { 07.24.12 at 10:30 am }

I am a walking f-bomb just waiting to go off so I’m sure I’ll be dropping them well into the twilight years of life. I literally cannot imagine a version of me that doesn’t use horrible language.

10 Rae { 07.24.12 at 10:37 am }

We’ve actually been talking about reducing our swearing for the baby. I’m not trying to shelter my child from something they will inevitably hear on the streets and pick up, but I’m also not trying to encourage those words to be among his/her first. I don’t mind swearing when not taken to a trashy extreme and substituted for every other word. When I think about if I’ll curse when I’m a granny the answer is simple…yes! I’m going to, and I’m sure my grandparents and great grandparents did. Only difference is, I’m sure they hid behind the colorful and often amusing Yiddish language.

11 Denver Laura { 07.24.12 at 10:39 am }

I’m actually proud that nobody can teach my child curse words (as I have taught her all of them already). Seriously? They’re words. It’s how you use them that makes them powerful.

I went through a spell in high school where I didn’t curse my entire senior year. I was constantly coming up with different words for things I really wanted to say. It was almost a social experiment to see how long I could go. Needless to say, it didn’t last very long once I got into college.

When my daughter gets older, we will teach her that some words are not appropriate said in mixed company. It’s more of a sign of respect than anything else.

12 Becky { 07.24.12 at 10:41 am }

I have a horrible potty mouth. I realized I needed to reign it in (at least around my children), when a car nearly hit us and all I said was “damn”. I was quite rpoud of myself. Until the kid, who was in the backseat, immediately started saing, “damn it, momma. Momma, damn it”. Over and over and over. As we drove towards his Montessori School. SO, I still cuss like a sailor, and suspect I always will. Just not around my kids. Although, if I’m being honest with myself, probably when they become teenagers, all bets will be off.

13 Manapan { 07.24.12 at 10:43 am }

All I can say is that there’s nothing quite like hearing your one year old try to mimic the word “motherfucker”. I might try to switch to a different language, but saying stuff like “oh my heck” just makes me even angrier and that kind of defeats the purpose.

14 Sharon { 07.24.12 at 10:51 am }

My husband and I have 6-month-old twin boys, and we both curse. We’ve tried to cut back since I got pregnant, but I will confess, we haven’t been all that successful.

I have every confidence I will eventually be able to avoid cursing in front of my sons. . . . I mean, I’m a lawyer and I don’t curse in the courtroom or in client meetings. So clearly I am capable of refraining from cursing in certain settings.

My husband and I have been wondering, though. . . . at what point do we have to genuinely worry that one of our sons will parrot the f-word back to us?

15 A.M.S { 07.24.12 at 10:53 am }

Well, Olivia Moonpie very clearly said, “Dammit!” yesterday when she knocked her toys on the floor so that should tell you about the language use in OUR house. 😉 I have, at least, managed to censor the much stronger words and phrases when I’m in her presence. I just THINK them a lot more!

And I fully intend to be a crusty character of an old lady, swearing up a blue streak and doing all sorts of things that are inappropriate for a woman of my years. I expect you to do the same.

16 A.M.S { 07.24.12 at 10:58 am }

Oh, one of my favorite stories….

My cousin, who is 12 years younger than I am, as a toddler walked up to our great aunt and said, “Aunt D…’shit’ is not a nice word.”

What you have to know is that while she was married to a career soldier, our Aunt D was one of those southern women who never went out unless she was wearing a dress and stockings. She had manners to put Emily Post to shame and I truly believe that she would turn to stone if she ever uttered a curse word. Everyone in the room just kind of froze, not knowing what Aunt D’s reaction or response would be. To her credit, she just looked at my cousin and said, “Why yes, K, it is.”

Kids first cussing stories are one of my favorites!

17 Mud Hut Mama { 07.24.12 at 11:04 am }

This has been a real struggle for me. I definitely have a potty mouth – I didn’t even realize it until my husband started teasing me one night after a meal with my in-laws – “I can’t believe you said that in front of my mother.” When my daughter was little and not speaking, I still didn’t realize how much I curse and then my parents came for a visit and my daughter was sitting on my Mom’s lap in an airplane and when the lights went out just before take off she shouted, “oh for fucksake!” Apparently I curse a lot when the power goes out and our power goes out often. I’ve cleaned it up around the kids a lot since then and thankfully they are not cursing at the moment but I thank my lucky stars that they are not in preschool because I’m sure I would be that parent that gets the letters home – but give it up forever – no way, for better or worse it is a part of me.

18 KeAnne { 07.24.12 at 11:21 am }

I love curse words with the “f” word being one of my favorites. I have been really bad about watching my language around Daniel but I’m starting to try harder now that he mimics us. I’m trying out a few substitutes (like “fraking”), but it’s got to be something that feels the same way in my mouth that a good expletive does. I’m sure I’ll be cursing when I’m an old lady.

19 It Is What It Is { 07.24.12 at 11:44 am }

My girlfriend who is visiting from Chicago with her two boys and I were just discussing swearing last night in the context of her 8 year old, who attends public school, overhearing the F word a lot and recounting it to her. And, her response is that it is not a gentlemanly word and that it reflects how he is being raised if he cusses. So, they attended a family reunion (the reason for their trip out west), with 67 family members, 26 of which were children. And her son recounted the many times that his older cousins used the F word. And, we got on the subject of at just what point (13, 16, 18, 21) do we, as parents, stop making an issue of the use of cuss words when they are not being directed at a person (that is a deal breaker, the line in the sand, we do NOT use cuss words directed at people).

We reached no resolution and had the conversation about the power of words (or, not, because sometimes when you accidentally kick the ottoman and your baby toe is screaming, the only thing you can do is scream, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” to make yourself feel better and why shouldn’t that be ok?).

My 90 year old grandma didn’t like us cussing but she had good humor about it which actually made us want to cuss less.

20 tigger62077 { 07.24.12 at 11:49 am }

I totally curse. I came out of the cursing closet when I was 15 during a fight with my mother. She cursed at me, I cursed back, end of story.

I’ve actually had this discussion recently with my MIL and my husband. I cussed in front of Cole and my MIL was all “you shouldn’t swear in front of him.” I told her it was my child and I would cuss in front of him if I chose to. I then got into a discussion 30 minutes later with husband and he is also vehemently against me swearing in front of the child because “he’ll pick it up and then he’ll use it in school and get in trouble.” Well, people, it’s called responsible cursing. Teach them proper times and places. School and grandparents aren’t acceptable, you can’t swear AT me, but you can swear around me. I’m outnumbered, though, so I’ve been working on changing to the “oh fudge” versions. This is not fun, and I hate censoring myself.

21 tara { 07.24.12 at 1:47 pm }

well, my grandma curses. indeed, when she visited me and college and made lasagna for my apartment mates, i told her thanks and that she was sweet. to which she replied “you’re full of shit”.. in front of my roommates… at a conservative religious school.
ah, grams! gotta love you and your ‘no bullshit’ approach to life.
I curse but try not to in front of the kids. As the four year old brings home some words (I don’t use G-d’s name in vain) I try to teach that it’s not polite or that it offends people more than it’s wrong. I don’t think it’s a horrible thing to curse – at least under certain circumstances.

22 Stupid Stork { 07.24.12 at 3:07 pm }

Love love love this post.

Damn that Adele. Why deprive yourself of such fantasmical adjectives?

I don’t think I’ll turn into a fudging old lady (that sounded dirty).

I half expected when I reached this age to suddenly be a very dignified lady in general and have finally learned to master the art of high heels, but it didn’t come to pass. I’m thinking, at this point, I love the all-encompassing nature of curse words (because really, are there any other words that get your point across so quickly and clearly?) so much that I’ll probably stay fudge-free.

23 Mrs. Gamgee { 07.24.12 at 5:54 pm }

I’ve honestly never been big on cursing. Yes, I say shit and damn on occasion, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear those words coming out of Ginny’s mouth any day, but I have generally avoided the f-bomb (except in situations of extreme stress).

I don’t censor myself in front of Ginny or Pip, and I think teaching them appropriate times and places for ‘colourful’ language is going to be an important aspect of this issue for us. I think, as has been previously stated, they are just words and it’s how we use them that gives them power. And there are so many other, seemingly harmless words that can injure us more deeply than the usual suspects.

All that said, when I encounter someone who peppers their day to day dialogue with a lot of (unnecessary) curse words, it definitely affects how I perceive them.

24 Sarah { 07.24.12 at 7:23 pm }

Perhaps Adele is like me and finds herself incapable of censoring her language for company. I’ve never got into the habit of using any word stronger than ‘damn’ because I know I will use the wrong word in the wrong place at the wrong time on a regular basis. Particularly when I started working at a preschool…

But like everybody else, I don’t want my kid to be that kid. Story from my school: two children were being shown their letters. “Can you think of a word that begins with the F sound?” And of course, one child brightly pipes up with “Fucker!”

25 Justine { 07.24.12 at 8:52 pm }

We try to censor in front of the kids, but we are not 100% successful. I do drive in Jersey, after all. We talk about words that are not appropriate, though, and better ones to use. “Fiddlesticks” will never be one of them. 😉 (And you will NEVER be an old lady who says “Fudge.” If the 90 year old woman who lives next door to me, age has no correlation with self-censorship.)

26 Justine { 07.24.12 at 8:53 pm }

Doh … that was supposed to read “If the 90 year old woman who lives next door to me IS ANY INDICATION, age has no correlation with self-censorship”. 🙂 Apparently age also has no correlation with misfiring neurons.

27 a { 07.24.12 at 9:58 pm }

My non-swearing has come back to haunt me far more than my swearing. When driving, I was constantly calling people idiots…until my daughter called her cousin an idiot. And crap was one of her early words. But, she has an excellent idea of when it’s appropriate to use words. She knows which words she shouldn’t say at school. She hasn’t dropped an f-bomb yet, and I don’t know if she’ll get there. But, she’s creative enough with her language, and thoroughly confused a 4 year old boy when she called him ridiculous.

My husband (who is a huge pain sometimes) gets excited about stuff and f-bombs like crazy. I f-bomb when I get angry (not infrequent). However, he doesn’t believe he does it and constantly criticizes my language…which, since I’m already angry, serves to make me downright irate.

Will I be swearing? Probably, but I’ve dropped off a bit lately. It’s probably due to the poor influence of all the males around who think they shouldn’t swear in front of women. I think I surprised the poor cop today, when I referred to a guy as a “local shithead.”

There’s hope for me, though, because my Blackberry doesn’t recognize swear words as being correctly spelled. But I know that if I type them a lot, Blackberry will eventually recognize them as correct. So occasionally, out of the blue, I will text people “Fuckers.”

28 Shannon { 07.24.12 at 11:50 pm }

When I was still in training, there was an attending who would regularly swear during Grand Rounds. A little old lady, over 80 years old, and she was known to say (very loudly) a whole litany of curse words, which sounded even better with her Eastern European accent.

Everyone at my office is shocked that my son’s first word wasn’t fuck. My parents would be shocked to know that I ever even uttered the word. Which means I really need to stop saying it, because I won’t be surprised if it’s his 10th.

Which reminds me, did you ever see the study that showed that people actually tolerate pain better when they cuss? Seriously, a real study. Why don’t I have a job that involves studies like that?

29 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.25.12 at 12:52 am }


I swore off swearing when my dog got hit by a car, in exchange for her living. I was 15 at the time and she lived 13 more years.

I swear now on occasion, but only among trusted friends. Lucky you!

30 JustHeather { 07.25.12 at 3:51 am }

Binky! You typed binky! Yes! I thought it was only a west coast word. 🙂

Adele is pregnant?! Not sure why I am surprised, it’s not like I follow celeb-news, so anyone and anything can happen. Who’s the father?

I swear, but not that much. I can even swear in Finnish, although I’m much more proficient in English and I am sure everyone would understand me just as easily. (Swear words in Finnish was not the first words I learned, much to many people’s dismay.)
My mom taught us they they are all just words, it’s how you use them that matters. So, my sister was heard using swear words at a very young age, just because she could, and her neighbor friend tattled on her. My mom just shrugged at the girl and then talked with my sister about the use of words. I hope to be the same, but I also hope my kid won’t be on the bus swearing up and down with his friends. There are other words out there to use also.

31 Denver Laura { 07.25.12 at 10:11 am }

I forgot to add my favorite cussing story. Couple years ago, we had a French foreign exchange student. Of course the only French I retained from high school was all fo the cuss words. I I proceed to teach them to the 16 year old. I called it bonding.

Anyway, we were in a restaurant and the kid says S… F… D… Just like that. I almost crawled under the table. I can see a toddler parroting those words but not a 16 year old. I then had to explain that although he could say them in our house, that those were “not polite” words.

32 Ann Z { 07.25.12 at 2:37 pm }

I grew up in a non-swearing household. As far as I knew, my parents never swore (I would believe that my mom still has never swore). Then one winter morning, dad was driving me to middle school and we slid on the ice. I was more surprised by the “shit! shit! shit!” that came out of his mouth than by the truck that hit us (everyone was going slowly enough that there were no injuries). It had never occurred to me before that that my dad even knew those words. I’ve since picked up the art of swearing from friends.

I did give up cursing for one year for lent. I thought it would be a nice way of being mindful of what I was saying. It made it way too hard to sing along with my favorite songs, though.

We do try not to curse in front of the kids. Zoe has, though, started saying, “what the?” I don’t think she’s ever heard the final word of that phrase, so I’m not too worried, but I guess her pre-k isn’t too fond of it.

33 Emily @ablanket2keep { 07.27.12 at 9:12 am }

I never heard my great grandma curse, but I am sure she did as my Grandpa said so. When I got older, maybe around 16, my grandparents let loose. They said I was an adult and I have heard worse so if they swore every once in a while it was no big deal. It was nice how they treated me like an adult and had real adult conversations with me when my mom was still so over protective. I don’t swear around kids. If I injure myself I would usually yell out something obscene, but when I am around kids I have an automatic switch and it turns into “fudge” or “sugar”. Being Norwegian my other side of the family always says Uff da! Which comes out randomly too every once in a while and makes my Hubby giggle.

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