Mr. Epic says it's time to stop the book reviews and do a different type of writing. So, here's an excerpt from my reading autobiography. It's titled My Reading Life, or How I Learned to Cuss.
Mine was an extremely conservative family. No one, absolutely no one, in our household used even the mildest of profanity. The only place I might hear the word “hell” was in church. However, as a precocious eight year old reader, I was attracted to those paperback westerns Papaw read. I not only reenacted scenes from the books on horseback, I attempted to emulate the language also. On day in third grade as we stood in the lunch line (I recall being in a plaid jumper and wearing black patent leather shoes, but that may be wrong), I stamped my little foot and proclaimed “DamN it, I’m tired of waiting!”
A boy in my class turned around, stared wide eyed at me, and asked “What did you say?”
I repeated myself, and he responded, “It’s ‘dam it’, there’s no ‘n’, and you better not let a teacher hear you say that.” I was intrigued. He filled me in on a couple of other words I better not say in front of an adult, and let me know that it was called “cussing.” However, he didn’t provide a complete lexicon of cuss words, and about a year later, a book again added to my education.
My older sister and I were going for a swim in the back yard. As we raced down the hill, I yelled, “Last one in is a dirty awld bitch!”
After we hit the water, my sister swam toward me, and in a hushed tone asked, “What did you say?” I repeated myself, and she responded “Where did you hear THAT?”
I replied that it was something I had read in a book. She laughed derisively and answered, “No you did not. That wouldn’t be in a book you read; you heard it at school. And you better not ever let Mother hear you say it.”
I shrugged and continued swimming. I knew that arguing with her was useless. But when I got out of the pool, I went and found the book I was reading, National Velvet, and located the offensive line. In the book the father, or maybe the grandfather, was lamenting the fact that the dog had given birth to a litter of puppies. Ah. So now I knew that the word for “dog that gives birth to puppies” was not acceptable language around adults.
See, reading DOES expand the vocabulary...