posted by Joe Anaya on August 15th, 2011

The other day, I overheard one of my 10-year-old’s friends using the F-word. This particular boy has older brothers and is also advanced in the use of words relating to sexual anatomy. I calmly stand in the doorway and explain how, “In this house, we try not to use those words.” I knew I couldn’t say, “don’t” use those words because my kid has learned most of his swear words from my wife and her daily battles with, well pretty much anything electronic, i.e. computers, cell phones, TV remotes.

While this day was inevitable, I was hoping to hold off the use of swear words at least another year. I remember growing up and hearing my dad shout fake profanities after smashing his knuckle while trying to loosen a rusted bolt. “Jimmeny Crickets!” and “God Bless America!” were two of his favorites. At the time, I thought he was just a classic corny old man who didn’t know any better. Then when I went to a football game with my dad and a couple of his friends, I was shocked to hear him use all manner of swear words as easily as he slipped in and out of his native Spanish. It was like his mother tongue.

I didn’t understand his need for a secret vocabulary until I had a kid. When amongst my friends or playing cards with the guys, there is a veritable smorgasbord of swear words at my disposal. But being a man of moderate manners and some self-control. I have spent the last 10 years mostly successfully not swearing in front of my son. “Holy Moly!” and general gibberish like “Hahcky-Macha!” are current substitutes. But now the inevitable schoolyard influence is corrupting my kid.

The boys dutifully say, “Okay.” But shortly after, I hear the friend say, “What the F?” He doesn’t say the F-word, he just says the letter F. Now, I’m in a predicament. He didn’t actually swear, but it sure feels like swearing and sounds vulgar coming from a 5th grader. I’ve already “corrected” someone else’s kid once. I call my son out to the living room and ask him not to use “What the F,” even though it isn’t technically swearing. He agrees.

But now he uses, “What the–,” all the time. Leaving the last word to be filled in by the listener. Of course, all I hear in my head is his friend’s little voice saying “What the F*#k.” It just doesn’t sit well with me, but I’m starting to feel like a prudish hypocrite. Fortunately, that’s when my wife comes home. She hears him using “What the–,” and really doesn’t like it either. To my relief, she has no problems with double standards and the habit is instantly squelched. At least until the kid teaches him some new swear word.

File Under King of the Castle