Why I Do Declare! Genteel Swearing Considered

Reader Ginny, who plays a most excellent Fair Finley -- remember her motel photo shoot with her husband Chris? -- dropped me a line over the holidays. Ginny is a teacher, and she decided that whenever she's in class and gets frustrated, she's going to "use an old-timey expression."

"So far my kids have heard a lot of "Oh my stars!" and "Heavens to Betsy." I was wonder if you (or your readers!) had any good ideas for me! :)

Might you, dear readers? This seems like the perfect place to ask. The Wilfair series is pretty much devoid of curl-the-toes cussing, although there are a few "damns" and "craps" along the way. The world, with all of these young people who deal with the public at their family businesses, is very much about politeness, even if privately Fair and Monty and Gomery and Sutton don't feel so polite and are prone to letting their frustrations bubble.

Well, Sutton Von Hunt might be a more lavish cusser. That's a kittens ice cream sunshine fact.

I'm not against swearing, though perhaps public cuss-a-thons, when people out of earshot of your group can hear. A little courtesy is always nice in this arena. (But please don't be within earshot when I grab a hot pot handle or stub my foot.)

I did waver on putting "butt" in the title of the mastodon post, below. I'm not a butt sayer, actually -- bum's my go-to word. But "buttly" is said in one of the books -- "Redwoodian"? -- and it doesn't seem too coarse. Also, have you seen "Frozen"? Yeah, Olaf the Snowman refers to his butt going missing several times, and the kids in the theatre looooved those lines. Big laughs.

Ginny, we'll try and come up with a few sassy-but-not-too-shocking sayings. Me? I've taken to saying "why as I live and breathe!" in the last few months, at practically any revelation. But you have to fan your fingers at your face as you say it, or else the impact is lost. Just my two cents!

Glad I don't have to put my two cents in the Swear Jar, though...

source: amazon


Elisa said...

I have a teacher friend who says, "Holy Happiness" and "Holy Frogs a lot". I don't know if those are really old time phrases but they work in a pinch and are pretty entertaining to hear. I am on a quest to bring back the phrase "Great Caesar's Ghost". It flew onto my radar during an episode of the Backyardigans where one of the characters says "Great Caesar's Ghost!" for any little surprise or revelation. It's also in the book The Trumpet of the Swan during the chapter where Louis goes to school.

Jamila said...

It's in "Wilfair" - near the beginning. "Not hitting loud things in a buttly manner 101A. My elective." I love that line. And that's soon after the Brylcreem Boys get chastised for writing butt on a comment card.

As a sailor-mouthed mama, I have a full repertoire of almost swears. Like "Aw shhhhh-ugar!" and "Fffuuu-nky doodle dandy!" I'm also fond of "Son of a nutcracker!" from Elf.

Ginny said...

I LOVE Holy frogs a lot!:) That one's too fun! I love almost swears when I'm at home but I don't trust myself to not make them full swears in front of my kids at work!

Jill said...

I am known to say "Goodness!" and "Goodness gracious!" a lot.

For some reason I also think of "Gee willikers!" and "Golly gee!"

Apparently I like expressions that contain Gs.

Kelly said...

Jamila I'm with you on the almost-swears! My go-to's are Fiddlesticks and Shenanigans.

With my friends and at my old office I'm very very sweary. Not quite Sutton Von Hunt levels, but definitely close. I don't generally have too much trouble switching my brain into family-mode and avoiding any particularly bad words around grandma's and all my younger relatives, but if the whole teaching thing works out I'm definitely going to have to work on it a little more, so I might borrow a few of the old-timey expressions!

I think England is generally a lot swearier than the US from what I can tell. I wouldn't consider damn or crap or hell swear words at all. And there seems to be a lot more casual swearing - not in anger or frustration, just general throwing-a-bad-word-or-10-into-a-sentence-for-no-particular-reason swearing.

do dah said...

I enjoy spontaneously created exclamations, when not actually swearing. The sounds-sort-of-like-a-swear-but-isn't ones I tend to dislike, because I'm a fan of using precisely the words you mean in every situation. Cuss like you mean it!

But I do end up saying things like "for the love of cheese!" If you've ever read the Georgia Nicholson books, there are some good ones in there. For instance, "giddygod's undercrackers and matching pajamas!" I have a hard time remembering that one when I actually need it, though. I'm also a fan of "oh WOW," which can be emphasized a surprising number of ways for different situations (see Cass in the early seasons of UK Skins for examples).

And there's always the good old Southern "bless your heart!" for really annoying/useless people.

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