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A Curse on Those Times When 'Dang' Just Won't Do

August 22, 1994|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One day about a year ago, I stormed into my chiropractor's office after a careless driver ran me off the road. Using a torrent of unprintable language, I told my doctor exactly what I thought of stupid drivers.

Then I flopped exhausted into a chair beside his desk and apologized. "Sorry," I said. "I'm just upset. Hopefully no one heard me."

"Don't worry about it," he said with a laugh. "Cussing is good for you."

He told me about his 90-year-old mother, who is in "really good shape," and that she tells people it is because "I don't drink, I don't smoke, but I cuss."

That day was an eye-opener for me. Since then, I've come to the conclusion that cussing is indeed good for what ails you. When I'm angry, a steady stream of four-letter words makes me feel much better.

Some faint-mouthed souls might suggest I take a bubble bath or meditate instead. Sure, that sounds great. But when you're late and caught in traffic or someone has just really ticked you off, turning on the tub or stopping to zone out aren't really options.

Cussing is simple to do, can be done almost anywhere, costs nothing and gives you immediate gratification. If you worry about upsetting others, you can even cuss in your head and offend no one.

I agree that you should never expose young children to cussing. I have a 3-year-old daughter, and when I'm with her it's heck, shoot and geez . But when she's not around, when I'm in the privacy of my own room or talking on the phone to a close friend or relative about something upsetting, the closet cusser in me emerges.

Don't get me wrong. I can go whole days without cussing. When you first meet me, I censor my language. I probably won't cuss in front of you for months.

I also believe that cussing shouldn't be done for cussing's sake. I can't stand movies where every other word is a cuss word. I also find nothing amusing about a comedian who constantly cusses because he or she has no imagination.

Cussing is like anything else--if you overdo it, it loses its significance and can sound silly. But well-placed, well-chosen cuss words can be quite powerful. Just ask my husband, who knows how mad I am by the cuss words I choose. When he hears certain words, he knows things are serious.

I've even taught close friends how powerful and stress-reducing cussing can be. Before we met seven years ago, one friend rarely cussed and had never said a few of the really "bad" words. After hanging around me for a while that changed, to the disbelief of her mild-mannered husband. Now when she starts cussing, he'll say, "You've been hanging around Julie again."

Rather than be ashamed of her newfound skill, my friend told me that when she's angry, nothing makes her feel better than spouting a few choice words. She's found cussing works especially well with her husband. Recently when they were visiting relatives and he sat immobile on the couch while help was obviously needed, she swept by and hissed an unprintable directive.

"In our 28 years of marriage," she marveled to me later, "I've never seen him move so fast."

I know many people would never dream of saying certain "gutter" words, but frankly, I don't know what the fuss is about. The truth is, words are what we make them. People assign significance to "bad" words. We could have easily branded phooey or fiddlesticks with negative meanings, but we didn't. If people didn't give cuss words such a bad reputation, maybe there would be less shock and disappointment when they're used.

I'd suggest to anyone who feels bad about cussing to cast off the guilt and see how much freer you feel when you let loose with a few four-letter words.

And for those who have led cuss-free lives up until now, don't knock it until you try it. The next time you're upset, cuss all alone and see how much better you feel.

You never know. You may find cussing to be a calming influence. If not, I have a few things to say about that. But you'll have to use your imagination.

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