Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mormon Curse Words

How many LDS do you know say "crap!" all the time? How about "frick" "fudge" "fetch"? "Oh my heck" fits in here as well.

What about "damn" or "hell"?

Ahh, I didn't think so. Mutter a "damn" or "hell" and your company's eyes will shoot to you with chastising gleams.

Before I joined the church I cursed like a sailor; after I joined I refused to even say "crap" and wondered why even the staunchest of my friends found it okay to say it. It was interesting and probably my first insight into the fact that even LDS pick and choose. It is the extent of our willingness to rebel and be edgy - and that just tickles me to no end. Mormon rebellion. But back to the topic. There are still those times when you want to curse, but can't so we make up stuff that sounds like it.

And that is when the "fetch" comes out or the very...odd "ohmyheck." I didn't even know OMH existed until my trip to Salt Lake City in October 2002. I saw a billboard with a rather crisp mug of beer - perhaps something a bit more controversial, I don't remember - and beside it were the words "If you just said 'Oh my heck' this isn't for you."

Oh my heck?

Ah, my first foray into Utah Mormon Culture.

My husband's best friend's favorite Mormon curse word is Fetch - and I'm sorry, but it sounds almost as bad as "fuck." "Shoot" said with the right intonation can sound almost as guilty as "shit" too. My mom, a very proud non-member, once got on my sixth-grade self for saying "fudge" because it sounded awful, a little too close to what she knew I was trying to get away with.

Then there's the instance with my four year old son a few months ago. He was outside and, out of nowhere, exclaimed "Holy crap!"

I love telling this story for the reactions. Like you people don't say the same stuff. Anyway, I got up and went to see what the deal was. A fat, ugly, totally unnecessary spider was just hanging on a single web strand from the gutter.

Definitely a "holy crap!" moment. Everyone so far has agreed. At least to my face, haha.

I don't know. After about a year after joining, I got over my "crap" moratorium. I'd mostly instituted it because I knew how I worked, I knew that cursing became as much of a part of my vocabulary as the words "the" and "oh" - you know, pretty common. I could control myself around my grandma, and I had enough respect to not drop the f-bomb around my mom and dad - but around friends? Pretty common. Knowing this, and knowing since the age of nine that I pick up on other people pretty easily, I decided to be extra strict, even to replacing "ass" with "donkey" when reading the scriptures. If I'm around someone or speak with someone with a thick accent for fifteen minutes, I'll pick up the accent. If I read an author with a strong style, I'll pick up on their style. If I'm around someone who curses like it's nothing, then I will too. It just comes out. I've learned it's how I work, and I have to take care. We all have our things; that happens to be one of mine.

My propensity ten years ago to litter my conversation with swear words isn't quite like you might hear among some youth today, but it was bad enough - so much so that an LDS friend of mine from high school mentioned the lack thereof at my baptism.

I understand it's absolutely not a way to speak - it doesn't make you sound intelligent, that's for sure. They're pretty coarse words, especially when you consider the history behind some of them...but I'll admit to saying a few every now and again. I do think they have their place. They can be cathartic. They've power - the kind depends on the situation, but words absolutely have power. And sometimes, honestly, it's the only way to get something across.

So I curse. I have to really watch myself to keep it under reigns, but I believe there can be a time and a place. I mostly gave up because, let's face it: may as well, right? Of course I could decide to not at all, but I've decided to fight other battles for the time being. Right now this helps keep me sane, if that makes sense.

And really, "fetch" sounds ridiculous. "Crap" just makes me laugh anymore because of how many LDS say it like it's not a big deal (but no damn or hell). Stop beating around the bush. Don't be a disrespectful idiot, but if it's what you really mean and the situation allows, then why? Why "fudge" and "darn it"? So you can appear clean? Why all these Mormon curse words - the very phrase infers that they're intended to substitute for curse words.

Now, you won't hear me cursing at church, in front of my kids (except for crap), or in front of friends whom I know it would offend: but it happens. Consciously, I'll admit.

Before anyone asks why I don't curse in front of my kids, let me assure you it's not so much because I don't want them cursing. It's more because they're very young and as such their maturity wouldn't allow them to understand the meaning and implications of their words. There are better ways for them to establish a vocabulary in such formative years. I could explain, yes, but I'm saving it for later. They'll run across it in school soon enough. I had friends in the fourth grade dropping the f-bomb. I imagine that begins much sooner now.

I have a fourteen year old sister who, on her myspace page, curses worse than I ever used to. It shocked me at first, but I soon realized: she's fourteen, she's "being cool" and doesn't realize just how lame and immature she sounds. I thought about bringing it up to my dad and her mom, but they look at her page. They know.

It's a part of growing up. I want to be frank with my kids and explain that there is a time and a place for everything. My sister will grow out of it (hopefully) and reign herself in as she matures. Everyone goes through this stuff. To harp on her for this beyond a talk or two will only make things worse. I know because I used to be that kid. I say let her get it out of her system and learn along the way as long as she has set boundaries enough to not speak like that everywhere.

I'm not trying to condone cursing; I'm attempting to get a discussion going. How many of you will admit to cursing and how many don't, and why? Do you ever wonder about the same things? Do you ever roll your eyes and groan inwardly at it all? I just figure the more realistic about things we are, be it about sex, swearing, or anything else - the better chance we'll have teaching others and being an example. I understand the lack of swearing in our culture makes the instances outside our social network quite jarring. We're sensitive to it, and that's okay, but I'm afraid the extra sensitivity makes us less approachable than we want to be.

Is "crap" really not a swear word? Am I really much worse than those who scream "FETCH!"? I get that "oh my heck" is much better than the alternative - but it makes no sense. That's what gets me - and the fact that everyone knows what it's the alternative for.

In the end, it's all in the attitude, isn't it?


Amanda said...

The one that really gets me is "dang." That one sound worse than almost any swear word to me.

I never considered "bastard," "crap," and "sucks" to be swear words. I said them all the time. My mom disagrees.

I don't swear around my kids because they aren't old enough to pick up on social cues that say when it is and isn't appropriate to use those words. I accidentally called Pres Bush "stupid fuck" in 2002, when my oldest was 18 months old, right before we started the Iraq war. He babbled "stupid fuck" over and over for about an hour. Whoops. That was the end of swearing in front of our children...

What gets to me is that they're just words. In England, "bitch" is a totally appropriate word, because they use its correct meaning. "Shag," while normal here, is (I've heard) a swear word in England. I know my sis-in-law, when she was married to an Australian, was always shocked by the things he thought was totally normal, and my father-in-law frequently uses the french word for shit in casual conversation (he served a french speaking mission, and would never say it to others who understand french, but thinks it's funny to curse-but-not-really-curse). They're just words. I don't like them being overused any more than any other word - it just sounds ignorant. But like other words, there is a time and place.

I've had people tell me that the bible says swear words are bad. My response is - "'Fuck' was a bad word in Hebrew??" Seriously people. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Preface: I'm a life long member.

K. In our house, growing up, we couldn't even say CRAP or DANG or even FART (what was THAT about anyway?)!!

SUCK/S was the first "curse" word I tried out. But being in the habit of not cursing, I've grown up and I just don't say 'em. I think 'em...a lot...especially when I'm pissed at my husband. Which happens...a lot.

So, I love your post. It's dead on...

by the way, my kids (especially my soon-to-be-baptized 7 yr. old) say DANG and HOLY CRAP all the time. My dad flinches a lot when he comes to visit ;)

Lisa said...

Amanda: "I don't swear around my kids because they aren't old enough to pick up on social cues that say when it is and isn't appropriate to use those words."

THAT'S what I was trying to say ;)

As far as words having different meanings in other countries, that's exactly it. In Australia, "root" is the equivalent of "fuck."

So are we cursing?

And yeah, it's just hilarious with the foreign words. I can get away with merde with my younger SIL. We both know what it means, but if I were to dare say the English translation (shit) aloud? I'm sure she'd gasp. It's okay, it seems, if it's in another language.

It's just not as cut and dry as we want it to be. Words are just words, but they do have power. I just happen to think we're kidding ourselves.

lol, oh man. That would've been bad (your boy). Eek.

I was always allowed to say "fart," mostly because my mom wasn't allowed to. My cousins weren't, though, so I had to be careful. I always giggled a little inside when they used their alternative ("bubble").

It's just so ridiculous.

Maren: Up until just now, I didn't realize some consider "sucks" to be a bad word. I guess it's right up there with "shut up" and "stupid" and "I hate you." Gotta teach your kids that the way they use them and the venom behind them means more than anything. It's about respecting people.

Thanks for your comments! :) I was a smidge worried about posting this one.

Laura said...

My favorate curse word is shit. My husband and I try keep our cursing under control and usually just do it around each other - that was until he said shit during a game of flag football with the elder's quorom on THanksgiving. Whoops. =) I was surprised when he told me that most of the guys just laughed it off. Perhaps that was because of the time and place. I realized that maybe most members are more laid-back than I give them credit for.

One of my fave comedians was Eddie Izzard. At first I was totally turned off by the F bombs, but when I learned that it is actually more like the equivalent of crap in Europe - it wasn't such a big deal. Intent mean a great deal. Although I still don't want my daugter to say it!

Amanda said...

Words have power, but not just curse words. We can cut eachother just as much with words that aren't considered vulgar. It all depends on how it's said.

And btw, "bubble" sounds far better than what my mom tried to get us to say. We were never allowed to say "fart," and to this day, I think that's a horribly ugly word. However, the permitted alternative in our family was a thousand times worse: "Beaner butt." Oh yeah. The family shame. Seriously, that tops all swear words for me. I can't bring myself to speak the phrase aloud. Seriously. I think the only reason I could write it was because it's late and I've slept less than 5 hours two nights in a row, haha!

Lisa said...

lol, you're kidding right? Wow!

Eh, I can see how "fart" sounds ugly, but it's an ugly, unseemly thing so it fits rather nice. :D

And totally agree: all words can have barbs on them.

illogically logical said...

In my house growing up "crap" wasn't considered a swear word. My mom, bless her little heart, tried to stop us from saying Fart, but with 3 boys in the house she wasn't successful.

I think swear words have a time and a place. I don't think dropping the F-bomb is ever appropriate, and saying Fetch is just rediculous. That has always bothered me.

I am an active member with a temple reccomend, but I still swear some times. It's usually between my husband and I. Hell and Damn don't bother me, and Jackass, douche & bastard can be heard coming out of my mouth when the situation is worthy of it. I do watch myself around my kids. It's not great when the first time your kid swears, they do it in front of your mom. That really makes you feel guilty.

I just figure, of all the other things I have to worry about, swearing isn't high on the list. If I got to the point where I was dropping f-bombs frequently and my mouth was compared with a sailor, then I'd start to worry.

Amanda said...

Lisa - no, I'm not kidding, and now that I've gotten a good night's sleep, I can't believe I told!! :D

Natalie said...

Ah. Mormons and swearing. Such a fun relationship.

One of my favorite people of all time was a boy I knew who, when he was with a bunch of other Mormons, might just spontaneously yell out, "SHIT!" He just liked shocking them out of their little bubble that made them think a swear word was nigh unto fornication.

For myself, I don't consider swearing "evil", or even really that crude in many cases. But I very, very rarely swear myself, and try my best to stay away from the Mormon adaptations (though sometimes it's hard to hold back those silly phrases that have been ingrained... for a few week period in high school, I accidentally picked up on "fridge" from a friend.... oy vey).

Because I swear rarely, I get what I want when I do. I can only remember using the F-word twice in my whole life. And man, that gets a reaction. Like, people ran in from other rooms, and outside, a sparrow probably died. But those were situations that really called for it.

The one Mormon swear I do enjoy, though, is "trash". As in, "Man, that test totally kicked my trash." I've been made fun of on countless occasions for that phrase, but sometimes, I feel like it just fits. :)

And just 'cuz its been a while... my word verif. says emillemi... sounds like a special flavor of hot chocolate I'd like to try. :)

The Tanner and Bryan Experience said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I've found it interesting enough to comment on. Hope you don't mind :)

I've never "sworn" but I have used all of the substitutes... until recently. I realized that it's not so much the words that we use, but what we are communicating. Paul says "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." (Eph. 4:29) It all comes down to to the cliche question "What would Jesus do?"
I don't think He ever finds the need to use swear words (damn and hell or the like when used in context are not swear words)or anything like unto them.

Lisa said...

Tanner: Why would I mind? Thank you for your insights. I'm glad you find my blog interesting! :) Feel free to stop by and comment anytime.

Kengo Biddles said...

Linguistically they're all classified as expletives. Yes. All of them.

So they're just as much swear words as saying the ones that aren't allowed on television.

What's considered a swear word varies from place to place. In France "je m'en fiche" or "je m'en fous" are both acceptable, although "gritty" and "grittier" ways of saying I don't care.

In Switzerland, saying either of them is like cursing out the Prophet.

And that's within 500 miles of each other.