The salty art of the curse word

George Carlin said there were seven dirty words.

But George never worked cattle with my dad.

Bless his heart.

I know there are people out there who have worked cattle without a curse word passing their lips. They’re the same people who have smashed digits in gate latches as a mama cow is barreling down on them in the alleyway without so much as a whimper. They see storm clouds gathering over freshly raked hay and they just shrug.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, one of those people.

Let me let you good folks in on a little secret. My language arts skills aren’t always used for good. The same creativity you enjoy in this space every other week can be used for evil at the flip of a switch.

I know. I should be more ladylike and gentile. I should be mindful of my language because “little pitchers have big ears,” and “only crass people use crass language.”

Believe me I try. But there are moments when only certain vocabulary will do.

That moment when I go to hit “save” on a final edit of a 40-minute podcast and the computer locks up, requiring a hard restart and losing every single edit. That time when the black steer erupted out of the squeeze chute and tackled me off a stepladder onto the cement floor, narrowly missing the camera. Or, the few brief moments that I cross paths with snakes in the course of my work.

All acceptable times for filter removal.

I try not to curse too often and I’m typically mindful of the surrounding audience when I do choose to let the vocabulary fly. As far as my nephews and niece know, their Aunt Jenni really must like “fudge” and “sugar” an awful lot. And there’s a lot of “Bless your heart” tossed in for good measure. And I’m going to keep it that way as long as I can.

Look, there’s a reason curse words are called “salty language.” It’s because much like too much salt spoils the dish, too many of those words spoil the message that you’re trying to communicate. The public discourse stops in its tracks the minute you throw a curse word into the mix simply because no one can hear past their pearl-clutching.

That’s why, for the most part, I try to live by the rule that my dad impressed upon me when I was a teenager and testing the limits of accepted word choices under his roof. Basically, there were three criteria to grudgingly accepted usage of curse words:

1. Some one is bleeding or on fire.

2. Some thing needs encouragement to operate.

3. Publisher’s Clearing House just stopped by with the big check and balloons.

That last one never happened. But I can imagine if it did, there might be some inventive vocabulary choices on my dad’s part that would make George Carlin proud.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].

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