First off, I'm no literary light or respected social commentator like some of the folks here at Redroom who are in the vaulted world where they are known simply by their first name. Even if I attain a one-name status, I just don't think "Doug" will ever have the cachet of a Maya, Khaled, Ishmael, Salman, Firoozeh or even Amy. Doug just falls kinda flat. I'd much prefer a Warren or Milton or anything with a Jr. or a multiplier suffix like Chatsworth Osborne Jr. or Rexford Newcomb III.
Now, onward to the subject at hand, cussin'. I'm sick of it. Mind you, I'm no prude. I'm not adverse to uttering a "What the fuck is that shit?" in appropriate situations or to having a character scream "faa-ha-kkkkk!" when their parachute fails to open. There are certain words that need to be reserved for their punch value.
I live in a college town and am thus surrounded by a youthful element. When I walk, drive, go to the gym or shop at Safeway, I'm often privy to their conversations and their music. They shout into their cell phones and blast their sub-woofer enhanced music at volumes even my Led Zeppelin-pummeled-ears find excessive. It's not the volume of the music that bothers me so much (thanks to ample doses of the aforementioned Led Zeppelin in my own youth I've lost quite a bit of range, anyway) it's the cussin' in the music and on the cell phones. Note to cell phone users in Safeway: EVERYONE can hear you!
In the late 1950's and early 1960's (my wonder years), expletives were never uttered in public. They were only spoken in private situations and were cherished; held in reserve, only to be used when all other avenues of expression had been exhausted. I readily admit that the restrictive use of so-called toilet words and indeed any reference to toilets did get a bit extreme when talk-show host Jack Parr was famously censored for a joke he told about a W. C. (water closet). I have no desire to return to those times, but I do think a little self-editing nowadays would be entirely appropriate. I'm not saying to eliminate profanity from your vocabulary. Just wait until you really need it. Trust me, the time will come. But, I caution you to think before you blurt.
A case in point follows. I learned my first swear word (or more properly, swear-phrase) in 1959. It came into my possession quite by accident; overheard spoken by an older brother while at my friend Stan's house. I knew this was a powerful and forbidden oath because of the wide-eyed look on my friend's face when he too heard it. He was a more-worldly sort than I and had heard the phrase before, but he was none-the-less taken aback when he heard his brother say it. I took this phrase into my secret vocabulary, silently saying it to myself now and then, lest I forget the words. I knew the day would come when it would be the only way I could truly express my feelings.
And sure enough, the day came. My brother Dave and I were engaged in a one-on-one basketball game that was going badly for me. He won the game and left me as little more that a whimpering blob of bumps, scrapes and cuts. Convinced that Dave had had won by cheating and other nefarious means I ran, tears streaming down my face, to the backyard where my mother was quietly sunning herself and reading a book. Seeing the torment in her son's face she rested her motherly sympathetic gaze upon me.
"What happened?" She exclaimed in the somewhat bemused way she had developed as the mother of three boys.
I saw and seized my opportunity. The time had arrived to pull the right words from my vocabulary bank. "That SONOFABITCH Dave cheated".
The world ground to a halt. Birds stopped singing. The air was still. My words hung in the air, parked and permanently singed in the sky over our house. My mother's face went from concern, to anger, to terror, to profound and eternal sorrow within seconds.
"Is that what you think of me?" She wailed.
"I was talking about Dave, not you." I said, not having a clue what I really said.
Too late. My mother was already on her way into the house. We didn't see her until the next day. I suppose this might explain my judicious use of swear words.
AND another thing. The first review of my 33rd book just came out in the paper here in little ol' Chico