Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Big Bad Words

FP comes from a long line of swearers.  I didn't realise how bad his swearing was at the beginning of our relationship because

a) we were young and swore often because it was kind of 'cool'
b) he swore in French.

But my husband, and his whole family, are big swearers.

Although I knew certain French swear words (merde, for example) before meeting FP, he and his family have definitley been the people who have taught me the most 'gros mots' and if you sat at the dinner table with them one evening and counted the number of bad words that came out of their mouths I'm pretty sure you'd be shocked (or impressed, depending on your own opinions on cursing).

Because of them, I've found myself in more than my fair share of embarrassing situations during my ex-pat life in France.  You see, my in-laws swear so much in every day conversation that certain bad words are so indistinguishable from acceptable words that during my first week working at my first job in France I said I was a 'connasse' (stupid bitch) when in fact all I meant to say was 'oops, silly me' (or more likely, 'I'm an idiot').  Roll on a few years and you'd have thought I might have learned the difference between acceptable and unacceptable words but alas...I was working with children, teaching English.  One of my students (age 6 or 7) was doing something revolting and I told her that it was 'degueulasse' (minging, gross,'s not a swear word as such but shouldn't be used with kids).  Yeah.  She cried.

Ah bad words, what would life be like without them!

In my experience as an English teacher, swear words are probably the funnest vocabulary lesson ever and without a doubt - although I'm still not sure the exact reason for this - the naughtiest words are so much easier to retain than any piece of 'useful' vocabulary for an English student.  People are fascinated by bad words in a foreign's true!  I know I can't be the only one who sat at the back of the class at high school, giggling, with a German dictionary open at 'scheisse'.

Ten years on from high school and I still occasionally think swear words are funny.  There are certain times and places where it can make me laugh, like in a stand up comedian's show or if FP is telling a story and uses a 'gros mot' for emphasis.  I've also been known to swear A LOT when I'm angry.  Otherwise, I come from a family of non-swearers where the odd 'shit' or 'shite' is acceptable when emotions are running high but we never go further than that.  I recently used the 'F' word in front of my mum for the very first time while I was driving and panicking and I cannot begin to tell you how ashamed I felt, even though my mum just said 'calm down' and later revealed to me the word has also slipped out of her own mouth when in the car without my dad who, it has to be said, would be shocked to hear either of us use the f-bomb.

And as I'm getting older I'm realising I've been turning into my dad.  Without the beard.  Okay, so I still swear if I'm annoyed but I'm trying to change that habit.  There's a little baby boy in our house, about to start learning how to talk and I'm very aware of that fact.  He already understands the word 'dog' (he'll 'woof' like a dog if you ask him to) and 'dance' (he'll bob up and down rythmically) and I really don't want him to be a baby swearer, in English or in French.

And so the time has come to start changing FP's bad habit of swearing.  When I told him this he looked at me the way a dog looks at his owner when he's sitting on the loo - you know, head cocked to the side, 'whatcha doing?' written all over his face - and said "but Linsey there are no other words in the French language to replace a 'gros mot' quite so elequently."

"There are loads of words to replace swear words."  I said.  "Crotte, mince, zut..." I listed off on my fingers.

He looked at me wide eyed and pointed an accusatory finger my way.  "You want me to sound like a dafty *!  No one uses those words above the age of 5 and below the age of 85."  He hmphed**.  After a moment he asked me what words I'll be replacing my own swear words with.

I looked at him, all dignified and said, "flip, sugar, oh dear..."

FP smirked.  "We'll see," he said and turned back to the TV.

It wasn't long before I got the chance to use my new swear word replacements.  That evening I dropped a full wine glass all over the kitchen floor.  There was red wine & broken glass everywhere and not only that but it was the last of the bottle!  The frustration built up inside me like a bomb about to explode.

"OH F-"

"Ah-ah" FP interrupted me.  "No swear words."  I looked desperately from him to the baby and back again.

"F-F-F-FLIP FLIP FLIIIIIIP!"  I said through gritted teeth.  "OH FIDDLESTICKS!"

It really didn't make me feel better at all.  Not the way a good old fashioned 'shit', 'shite' or 'f**k' would have made me feel better.  And I suppose it was at that moment that I realised I had two choices : sound like a dafty everytime I needed to swear or have a baby swearer.

 I still haven't quite made up my mind on that one...

* dafty = idiot in Scottish slang
** yeah, I did just make up a verb!


Biggest fan said...

Definitely sound like a dafty!! If I had to do it for years, you can!!!

Princesse Ecossaise said...

I still remember you so often saying 'oh shhhh - sugar!' ;-) So I shall be doing the same... really don't want a baby swearer!

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I'm pretty sure there are more "gros mots" in French than in English. And they are tougher to pick out because they aren't all (or nearly all) four letters long!

Princesse Ecossaise said...

You're right! And the French seem to be really unshockable when it comes to gros mots...we can be watching tv at 6pm and hear words I really don't want my son to hear & no one else seems shocked. And yet when I taught French kids & their mum's found out they'd said these same words they got into trouble. I suppose you have to teach them it's an adult word but if they hear adults use it all the time around them then they're going to end up using it.