The Reluctant Townie | 7 words you can't say near your 7-year-old

The Reluctant Townie | 7 words you can't say near your 7-year-old

Something I actually said to my children this week, without irony:

"I will always ask you to try before I give you help. Because you'll never know what you can accomplish until you try."

My words were already hanging in the air before I heard them.

Um, what? When did I become an inspirational page-a-day calendar? From where did this quaint platitude originate?

And it wasn't the first time I had found myself uttering these kinds of pre-cut dad-isms. Other recent examples include:

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Be ready for it!"

"A penny saved is a penny earned."

"Never give up. Good hustle, champ!"

I'm not even an inspirationally minded person. Lord knows I've tried to adopt a positive outlook in my life, but I find cynicism fits more comfortably around the waist.

Granted, my children are probably as likely to adopt my philosophy on life as they are to adopt my keen fashion sense of secondhand button-ups and tennis shoes from Aldi's. But there is evidence that they are at least listening to the words I say.

My soon-to-be 7-year-old has been aggressively patrolling my foul language lately, which is baffling to me because she wasn't raised that way. Her mother and I have always been fairly open about curse words — they exist, they are used everyday by people all over the world, their taboo status within our culture is the result of some weird Puritan construct that predates our existence.

Of course, I don't use sexually explicit language in front of my kid (I'm not trying to give her a list of things to Google when I'm not around), but she's been fully educated on the spectrum of basic profanity, the determined hierarchy of offensiveness, from least to worst, as follows:

— "The H-word," H-E-double-hockeysticks, the mildest of all profanity, to be summoned in times of slight annoyance, or to accent a point with a bass note.

— The "A-word," a multipurpose pejorative for buttocks that you shouldn't use in front of your teacher or grandparents. One of the cornerstones of modern dance music. Considered a legal play during a game of Scrabble.

— The "D-word," (no, not THAT D-word), the preferred salty language of Vice President Mike Pence. Moves you into PG territory with the MPAA, and likely a detention with your teacher. There are far more satisfying curse words in the English language, but it will be there for you in a pinch.

— The "B-word(s)," one is offensive to women, the other is offensive to people born out of wedlock who take things literally. Specific curse words for use in specific situations, aka specialty tools. My daughter might get more mileage out of them as a female, as the latent misogyny grafted onto the more common of the two words makes it tricky to wield responsibly as a male.

— The "S-word", we're moving into PG-13 territory with this curse word. The younger cousin of the next word on our list, it nonetheless serves an important function in day-to-day speech in expressing disappointment, surprise or overall disdain. An essential word that leaves an otherwise gaping hole in your range of personal expression.

— The "F-bomb," high-grade explosive ordnance, widely considered the most severe profanity, but also the most useful. Like the Swiss army knife of curse words, it has so many potential uses. It can be deployed as a noun, a verb, an adjective or an all-encompassing exclamation. It can be combined with other curse words like Voltron to form super curse words. I've advised my daughter that I better not catch her using it, but if I do, she had better be using it creatively.

I try to approach profanity with an academic mind. I'm not teaching my children ethnic slurs or sexual profanity — the time will come when they discover that advanced coursework, and we will talk about it then — but I would like to provide them a basic framework on which to build their understanding of the taboo corners of English language.

I don't encourage them to use profanity, and stress that there are always more eloquent ways of expressing oneself, but I also want them to be socially well-adjusted and fluent in the people's tongue. They should possess a well-rounded vocabulary.

The other benefit of this early education in profanity is that it may award them the status of the cool kids on the playground — the oracles of linguistic vulgarity, to be consulted atop the monkey bars for their forbidden wisdom.

Yet, my soon-to-be 7-year-old has been taking me to task for my potty mouth with increasing regularity. I didn't realize I cursed as much as she seems to hear me do it.

"Dad!" she says, in a familiar scene, nodding towards my 3-year-old with an intense frown. "Ahem! You will teach her bad words."

"So? I taught you bad words."

After a recent dinner during which I dropped a perfectly ethical and above-board S-bomb, my daughter reeled in her displeasure, and took it upon herself to issue an ultimatum.

"Dad, if you say one more bad word, I'm not going to speak to you for the rest of the night!"

There was no one to appeal my sentence to, as my wife couldn't disagree with our daughter on principle.

It was a bunch of F-bombing B S-word, if you ask me.

So to you, all my parents all across the land, take it from me, children just don't understand.

Ryan Jackson has a stockpile of F-bombs built up from years of writing a "clean" humor column for a family newspaper, and he can be reached at

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