Language is so powerful, it can put a curse on you.

My late great-aunt Chapel firmly believed that “sometimes there’s no substitute for profanity.” Clearly, we’re related. I love the salvo of a well-aimed f-bomb, the way a decisive $h!# lingers in the air.

I’ve written about my appreciation of expletives before, and mentioned that I try to refrain from abusing cuss words in front of my children. Well, if I’m being honest, I’ll admit that sometimes those delicious four-letter words sneak out the other side of my mouth when the kids are within earshot. Okay, maybe a little more frequently than sometimes. Shit: the truth is, I let imprecations fly with such flippant abandon, my poor babies’ eardrums are probably calloused by now.

Worse still, it seems that they’ve inherited my fondness for improper argot. They know, however, that they are only allowed to cuss if they obey the following rules:

  1. the cussword must be used in context and with appropriate syntax
  2. you may only swear at home or in the car, and only if no other adults or children are present
  3. you will not teach or encourage others to cuss

So far, the dedicated at-home cussing seems to work well. They’re good little rule-followers, those two. They get the foul language mostly out of their systems, and I’ve only heard of a few “accidents” from my friends—who are all parents of my children’s friends, and who all thoroughly disapprove of my permissiveness in this area but who tolerate it because I’m an eccentric writer with mostly good intentions, and besides, with a potty mouth like mine, what else could they expect?

The other night, my daughter asked about the etymology of bad words. I only knew the origin of one: batshit. True story: in 1958, my father and a fellow lifeguard were having a slow day at the Port Arthur Country Club pool, so they decided to create the most absurd, unlikely word and note how long it took to get back to them. They were surprised how fast “batshit” did the 360. Now, 54 years later, it’s not uncommon to hear it. In fact, my friend Greg Ruth used it in an email a few weeks ago.

“Let’s make up our own cuss word,” my daughter said. After less than a minute of consideration, she announced:


“Vuco!” my son repeated, and they fell into a heap of giggles.

They tried out all the permutations they could think of and agreed that it’s got universal application. Best of all, they can use it with impunity—and so can you. In fact, you should: research proves that cussing is actually good for you. So I hereby break the above rule #3 and encourage everyone to replace their menagerie of dirty words with “vuco.” Maybe 54 years from now, all the foul-mouthed kids will be using it.