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Sherry Young: Foul language is lazy, uncultured expression

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 6:39 p.m. MDT

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I love to play tennis. Still tennis, like any sport, can get frustrating. I try to keep a happy attitude and not get down on myself, but at times when I just plain miss a ball, it's just too much. When that happens, not being an expletive-laden woman, I will shout, "Oh sugar!"

That is the word that I should have used one suddenly snowy and slick day while driving home with my four young children in the back seat. They were unbuckled, of course, as seat belts were unheard of in the back seat at that time.

We had gone to the grocery store in Old Greenwich, Conn., in the great long two-door Oldsmobile Dynamic 88. After loading the groceries, the children and I began our way home. The driver ahead of me panicked, then slammed to a dead stop. Fortunately, I have never been a tailgater, but still with that big, heavy car I knew we were in trouble. When I pushed on the brake and steadied the steering wheel the best I could, the car in front loomed closer as our car skidded forward. When it jolted to a stop I heard myself come out with a great, loud swear word.

We just missed ramming the back of that car. I turned to my children in the back seat, whose eyes were big as saucers. They were not reacting that way because they were panicked like me but that they had heard their mother utter A SWEAR WORD!

With those disappointed eyes staring at me right then I vowed to try to always substitute "oh, sugar!" And hey, I'm human and do slip once in awhile but I try. There are many slang words like darn, dang and heck, but when I say "Oh, sugar!" it makes me chuckle and not be so irritated.

What comes out of our mouths really marks us for what we are. Many of us substitute idioms and other words to let others know what we are feeling. It does seem silly as we mean the same thing but it sounds so much better.

Like Mark Twain once said, "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt." Foul language is an uncultured or lazy way of expression.

At dinner the other night, one of our houseguests expressed his amazement by saying, "Heavens to Betsy." It made me giggle because it was a phrase I hadn't heard in a long time and I bet my kids wouldn't have known what he meant by it.

"For Pete's sake!" is an expression of frustration I remember my Grandmother Steed saying all the time. It is one that is synonymous with "For crying out loud!" Similar ones are "for the love of Pete" and "In the name of Pete," which likely replaces profanity.

I wish more people would use the "Pete" ones. I think people get used to the sound of profanity and don't hear how jarring it sounds. Some people just like to use bad language for shock value.

As Maggie Smith in character as Lady Violet said on "Downton Abbey," "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

How right she is, especially if our kids are listening.

email: sasyoung2@aol.com

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