Tuesday, July 10, 2012

U.S. cursing problem on rise; Lutherans have handy remedy...

By Jim Heffernan

The New York Times has reported an alarming increase in swearing by public officials, a trend that tells me that these men (they’re all men) are not Lutherans.

Just recently, the Times reported that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, making a speech that didn’t sound right, blurted into the microphone, “Who wrote this s—t?” The word is so vulgar I don’t even dare to use it on the Internet, although the Internet is well known for its pornographic offerings. The Internet is not Lutheran.

I was reared in the Lutheran church back when swearing was frowned upon almost as much as dancing, beer drinking and card playing, not to mention a whole host of other mortal sins, many of which are described in “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston.

Yet public officials or others in sensitive positions needn’t fear blurting out undeleted expletives if they’d just follow a few substitute curses that nobody cares about, especially their minister or other spiritual leader. Also voters. But before I explain how easy it is to avoid swearing, thereby assuring eternal salvation (provided certain other commandments are strictly observed), let me also mention a few other examples of public swearing by politicians cited by the Times.

There was the time that Vice President Joe Biden didn’t realize that President Barack Obama apparently had a microphone hidden behind his ear (he has pretty big ears), leaned into the chief executive and used the F word, which is actually worse than the S word used by Mayor Bloomberg if I am any judge of swear words (and I should be, I grew up in Duluth’s West End). The F word is the king of swearwords, it should go without saying.

Then there was the time when Dick Cheney, back when he was vice president of these United States, said “F (word) You” to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right in the chambers of the U.S. Senate.

And way back when, devotees of President Richard M. Nixon (he had devotees, honest) were shocked, shocked to hear his cursing on the White House tapes that later were his undoing. Nixon was a Quaker and should have known better.

We Lutherans do not need to resort to such utterances because over the years we have developed a dictionary of euphemisms to stand in for actual swear words, both the ones rooted in religion (taking certain divine names in vain) and simple vulgarities that are often scatological. Years ago I worked with a kid who was adept at combining the two in one utterance, sometimes adding an intimate body part as a third element. He died some time back and I’m sure he is frying in heck.

Anyway, the most popular euphemistic phrase that helps a Lutheran avoid similar fate is, of course, “gosh darn it” or sometimes “garsh darn it” or even “gull darn it.” Now we all know what that stands in for. And “Jeez” is a sly way of avoiding using the name of Jesus Christ Superstar. “Cheese” works, too. At least it always has for me. “Cheese and Rice” if you want to go formal.

For reasons I have never understood, it is considered vulgar to utter the complete words for SOB, which stands for son of an unwed female dog in its literal translation. I once moved in circles that substituted “son of a sea biscuit,” handy if heaven is your destination (and it better be, gull darn it!). “Som bitz” is a little too close for comfort.

Oh, there are so many euphemisms to cite and so little time. I heard one in a TV commercial just recently. A frantic woman raged, “Shut the front door.” So I think I will.  


Anonymous said...

You are hilarious. Thank you for the belly roll...may I suggest a few more, being from a highly religious community myself "frickin'" and "shiz"

Jim Heffernan said...

Hey, thanks for your note. I don't think "frickin" would have passed muster in the Lutheran environment I was referring to. Get this: Use of the word "pregnant" was rarely, if ever, uttered. "P.G." was as far as they went if "in a family way" didn't suffice. I did hear "shiz" a few times under extreme circumstances. Shocking. Thanks again for writing. -- Jim