Swearing to make a change: Getting your point across emphatically can be done without cussing

Lots of folks make New Year’s resolutions, and I'm one of them. I even try to keep them. This year's resolution was to stop swearing. How about that.

I know many of you reading this never swear at all. Good for you. I look up to you. I've even seen my father-in-law bash his finger with a hammer and let out an “aw, shucks” or something similar.

If that had happened to last-year’s me, the string of profanity that ensued would have used up all the special characters on the keyboard. You know, @##%%^^, like that. But no more. I'm really making an effort this year to stop swearing and clean up my language.

Growing up in Brooklyn, I was first exposed to all the Italian swear words (mostly when the relatives came over). Then, as I got into school, I picked up their English counterparts.

The thing about swearing is it’s such a part of the culture. I've heard swearing done so well it's almost like poetry, believe me. But I know just because it’s so common doesn't make it right or even appropriate. That’s why I'm trying hard to make this long-overdue change.

Depending on the media you peruse, your exposure to swearing can basically desensitize you to it. Certain TV shows, as you well know, are full of profanity, but don’t think it’s limited to the “boob tube.”

I read all kinds of books, and I especially like thrillers. For some reason, maybe to make the characters seem more authentic, these books are often filled to the brim with swearing. I guess that’s a reflection on our society, that authors feel the need to make their characters swear to make them seem realistic.

There are so many colorful colloquialisms that feature swearing. It’s fun to use them from time to time. That’s why they are so popular. The challenge is to modify them so they don’t include the swear words, which isn’t always easy.

Say you go to the doctor and you’re really hurting. When the doctor asks how you feel, it can be tempting to say, “It hurts like a %#$#,” especially after you’ve waited over half an hour when you arrived on time.

Better to catch your breath and say something like “Doctor, this really, really hurts.” So there you go. Getting your point across emphatically can be done without swearing.

There used to be a thing for guys about not swearing in mixed company. I always did that and still do.

However, I work in a large office with lots of women and, let me tell you, some of them can swear up a storm. There’s always a little cognitive dissonance when you hear those raw words coming out of a lady’s mouth, but gals can do anything guys can do, right?

One area where swearing is out of control — and everything else is as well, when you think about it — is social media. For some reason, decorum seems to fly out the window when you’re at the keyboard (a lot like behind the wheel).

Why folks who are fine in person behave this way when they are somewhat anonymous online is begging for a dissertation or three hundred. I’ve even had my moments in these arenas, unfortunately, but not many (thank goodness).

Something just sets you off and then you regret it later when you have time to cool off. Taking a deep breath before typing anything you might regret is always the best advice.

I listen to a lot of radio. Virtually every radio show where people can call in is on some kind of a delay, usually seven seconds, to give the host time to “dump” the call.

The FCC has strict rules about profanity of any kind over the public airwaves, which is why this delay is necessary. It always makes for awkward moments when a caller finally gets through but doesn’t realize he should be listening to his phone and not the radio.

No one in radio likes “dead air” and that’s what you get when this happens. Unfortunately, swearing is so common that the seven-second delay won't be going away anytime soon.

I don't listen to a lot of rap music, but I do like a few tunes. I looked for one of them, and there were two versions: an edited version and an “explicit” version.

Thinking the unedited version would be better, I selected that one, and was subjected to an amazing, almost constant, stream of swearing and profanity. As troubling as that may be, in a technical sense, to get that much cursing to line up in a musical way is still interesting.

Nevertheless, I had to switch to the edited one. I mean, I’ve heard it all before but this was just too much in too short a time.

I learned this from our friends at Wikipedia:

— Roughly 80 to 90 words that a person speaks each day (about a half a percent) are swear words.

— Swearing is considered anger management by some;

— Swearing can reduce the effects of physical pain; and

— Some patients who had lost their speaking ability due to brain damage could still swear.

People trying to stop swearing like me can create a “swear jar” where some amount of money is deposited each time swearing occurs. I don't know if I’ll do this, but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one struggling with swearing.

Maybe what I’ll do is promise to open the thesaurus every time I think about swearing, in the hope of finding a better alternative. Then again, this could lead me to even more swear words. Oops.

Let’s finish with just one example based on a true story my friend told me: His wife put $100 down on a car and then came back the next day to finish the deal. When it was all done, the wife noticed that in the final price the dealer hadn’t take off the $100 deposit amount.

When she told this to the salesman, his response was, “I was hoping you wouldn't notice that.” Now what would your response be to that statement?

Last year’s me would have used up all the special characters on the keyboard, let me tell you. A better response would be to ask to speak to a manager, not in the hope of getting the salesman fired (no one wants to see anyone lose his job) but in the hope of getting that $100 back and maybe even another $100 for good measure (I mean, the nerve).

Swearing is a fact of life but one that, at least for me, needs to be a lot less prominent. Wish me luck.