Bad Dad: The Four-Letter Dad


Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone. But swear once at the skee-ball table of a Chuck E. Cheese, and you’re apt to be center of attention in a world of silent dread.

As anyone familiar with my work outside the realm of GeekDad can certainly attest, I have a fairly creative vocabulary. "Creative," in this instance, is simply a synonym for filthy. Meaning that I tend to curse. Regularly.

I am neither proud nor ashamed of this particular predilection, though I full realize that the latter is more than expected, especially since I’m now a father. The simple truth is that words, to me, have always represented a peculiar brand of power, and swear words often prove to be among the most potent.

Want to express the full depths of your empathy for a friend who’s found herself in a tight spot? Try a swear. Need to let an employee know that he’s on thin ice? Insert an expletive. Did your team win the big game? Celebrate with a little light cursing. Say what you will about profanity, it gets your point across.

Hit the jump for more four-letter fun.

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Word-nerds from Carlin to Pinker have weighed in on the mechanics of foul language, but I, ever the functionalist, am more concerned with the full scope of its utility. When, for example, is it acceptable to swear around your kids?

Some would say never, while others understand that the occasional expletive is permissible (though certainly not encouraged).

While each of us surely has his own ideas about any appropriate moments to drop in a dirty word around impressionable ears, I answer to a higher authority: my wife. She stands out as the chief critic of my language, so I figured if the following instances generally get the green light from her, they must be legit.

When genuinely frightened –
When unpleasantly surprised, a well-placed swear word warns others that you’ve reached the crucial junction of fight and flight. Unfortunately, the wife and I disagree as to how to properly quantify such circumstances. She would describe a curse-appropriate shock as opening the garage door to find a full-scale zombie apocalypse. I would say that any occurrence startling enough to cause you to snap to attention warrants a little under-your-breath profanity.

When your kids are in danger –
A properly positioned expletive can punctuate your dissatisfaction, which children often register before they’d note the danger of a situation itself. The phrase "Get the hell away from that!" comes immediately to mind. Useful in keeping your kids away from strange animals, busy streets, and otherwise dangerous apparatuses.

When in excruciating pain –
Have you ever done a face plant on an icy walkway? Took a nasty spill at a pick-up game? Ever been smacked in the stones by a careless toddler with a wiffleball bat? Let the bad words fly; you’ve earned it.

Whilst on a thrill ride –
This is a very specific instance in my case. You see, I don’t like fast, violent carnival rides (a la roller coasters). I find them wholly disconcerting. In fact, I typically start cussing in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl so I can get it out of my system by the time the ride is over.

When gaming –
Okay, this one is kind of sticky, as I think most of us can agree that videogames shouldn’t elicit foul-mouthery from the average even-tempered and positively genteel GeekDad. Still, for whatever reason, they do. (I, for example, swore so much at Resident Evil 4 that I sometimes wonder if Leon Kennedy doesn’t cry himself to sleep at night.) That being said, I think the final caveat might be that it’s not so much appropriate to swear while gaming as it is expected.

These are all merely judgment calls, mind you, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to agree with me. But Bad Dad month is about acknowledging your parenting faults and learning to take them stride.Swearing is mine, and, as my kids get older, it’s the kind of thing I have to become more mindful of.

The idea of strong language around children becomes more problematic, of course, when other people’s kids are in the vicinity. (See my earlier Chuck E. Cheese reference.) And in those cases, I’ve found it’s more polite to hold my tongue, or, if that’s impossible, to have a number of substitute words at the ready. Of late, I’ve began to abbreviate. It lacks the satisfying force of proper cussing, but it helps me cut down. It’s like the profanity patch.

But take heart, fellow potty mouths; vulgarities, like all things, change with the times. The dirty words of yesteryear are quaint by today’s standards, and our big bads will surely pale in comparison to the super-swears of tomorrow.

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