I’ve recently started cursing. Out loud, in front of other people. In my mind I’ve always cursed, but I never let the words escape my lips because I held fast to some romantic notion of perfection and ladylike-ness that is neither true nor attainable, at least not by me.
Cursing is the first door into the adult language world, a door I missed when it appeared in my teenage years. Friends from high school would curse all the time and I would huff and puff, scolding them with a glance.
“What the fuck is the matter with you?” they would say.
“It’s impolite,” I prissed, brushing the crumbs off my pedestal.
In Season 9 of The Simpsons, in the episode “Das Bus,” Bart Simpson and a gang of other elementary–aged children find themselves marooned on a deserted island with no adults. They go mad, as unsupervised children are wont to do, in a terrific parody of Lord of the Flies. But before they dissolve into an amoral abyss of id and violence, they are at first happy about their newfound freedom. They get to be adults, stay up late, be in charge. Bart remarks, “I’m glad we’re stranded! It’ll be just like the Swiss Family Robinson, only with more cursing! We’re gonna live like kings! Damn hell ass kings!”
Similarly, I’m starting to let it all out. Out the foul language trickles, after years of being pent up, held in, pushed back. Bitches be cursin’. Sometimes it’s nonsensical, like damn hell ass kings, but that’s only because I’m inexperienced.
As I get more practiced with cursing, I find that I’m already playing favorites with a few of them. To wit:
Shit is my absolute favorite. It’s biting, monosyllabic disdain. It even requires the curl of one’s lip to say. Whether attached to bull- or standing on its own, there is a certain je ne sais quoi about this delightful poop substitute.
Examples: Stop shitting around with me. Is this shit for real? I can’t believe you’re using such a shitty example. Fittingly, I don’t give a shit about caca.
Variations: Asshole, jackass.
Everything having to do with the ass is funny. It’s funny because of shit (see above). But the real reason I like ass is because it’s gender neutral. Everyone’s got one or can act like one. The sphincter represents the deepest, darkest recesses of our psyche. Because of that, we’re afraid and we mock it. As is only natural.
Examples: That guy is such an asshole! Can I borrow your face while my ass is on vacation? Hey jackass, how’s the donkey?
This one isn’t so much a favorite. However, it’s on this list because the more I attempt to say it, the less scary it becomes. That’s not to say it loses its potency. Whether noun or verb, it will always be a bit sinister. It’s the Nosferatu of curse words, lingering in the dark and threatening violence. If you add fuck to anything, it becomes slightly scarier.
Examples: Fuck, it’s just a word! I’m fucking afraid. Fuck. Cut it out with this fuckity-fuckness. I’m fucked. This burger is fucking delicious, though.
Damn and hell.
These are hardly curse words. They’re in the Bible! Still, they’re imbued with a certain crotchety spirit. They pair well, too, such as: damn it all to hell! When paired with “god,” damn even gets a spiritual boost. Damn and hell are as sweet a pair as your grandpa with Werther’s candy.
Examples: Damn it all to hell! But damning something to hell is a redundant expression. You just need to tell someone they’re damned or going to hell. You don’t need to say both; otherwise, it’s a damned waste of your time. To hell with philosophizing, though! Damn it!
Sometimes only a curse word will do. When yelling at your spouse or kid, saying, “Get your self down here! We’re late!” just doesn’t have the same punch as, “Get your ass down here! We’re late!”
Indeed, language precision is in the sphere of poets and writers and master debaters and cunning linguists. Cursing – arguably the most precise of our language choices – is therefore the apex of what humanity can hope to achieve in written or verbal expression. Curse words are the German words of all our words. Cursing is so powerful and pointed in its aim that if it were a weapon it would be a very sharp, tapered stick.
Cursing, if we want to be perfectly serious here, is necessary to the survival of humanity. I’ll let Lewis Black explain (and sorry in advance about this person’s shitty lack of apostrophes):