X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse #AtoZChallenge

X is for X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse. Twenty-fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Before I moved to Endwell, N.Y. at age seven, I led a relatively sheltered country life on our family’s farm near Altamont, N.Y.

My second grade school photo. Fresh from life on our family’s farm, I was innocent and wide-eyed — and unused to fowl language — when we moved to Endwell, N.Y. in 1957.  Scan: Molly Charboneau

The four adults in our household — my parents and maternal grandparents — were probably trying to set a good example for me and my younger brothers, so I don’t remember much in the way of colorful language.

But all of that changed when we moved onto our working-class street with 50-or-so kids two blocks from the Susquehanna River.

There, my brothers and I became River Rats who lived on the other side of the railroad tracks below Main Street  — and that’s were I learned to curse.

Dad sets the tone

At our new home, my dad was in charge of household projects without my grandfather as a buffer. So he had sole responsibility for painting, repairs, lawn mowing, car fixing, you name it — and it didn’t take much for him to let fly with a few x-pletives deleted when a project went awry.

https://pixabay.com/vectors/painting-room-paint-brush-bucket-24439/
Dad let fly during household projects. At home, Dad was responsible for painting, repairs, lawn mowing, car fixing, you name it — and it didn’t take much for him to let fly with a few x-pletives deleted when a project went awry. Artwork: Pixabay

In one famous episode, Dad was painting the outside of the house during the summer and something went wrong. Maybe he stepped in paint or messed up the window trim — who knows?

Whatever it was, Dad started cursing — along the lines of “goddammit” and other choice words — and came stomping red-faced into the house.

Dad wasn’t a drinker, but he’d been a bartender in his parents’ Adirondacks hotel — so he could think of only one solution. He made himself a boilermaker.

https://pixabay.com/vectors/swearing-profanity-cursing-curse-294391/
One neighborhood dad cursed like a sailor. My father could not hold a candle to the yelling dad up the street, whose x-pletives deleted were over the top. Artwork: Pixabay

“What a mistake that was,” Dad told me years later. “Between the heat and the alcohol, I had to go straight to bed in the middle of the afternoon. Well, I never did that again!”

He did, however, continue to utter a string of x-pletives deleted during almost every household project throughout my childhood — a number of which I made a mental note of.

Another dad ups the ante

Yet my father could not hold a candle to the yelling dad up the street — the one whose windows we kids waxed every year during our fall Halloween mayhem campaign.

Yelling Dad’s x-pletives deleted were completely over the top — true “cursed like a sailor” outbursts, which I will not repeat here.

And we kids got to hear just about all of them as he spent miserable evenings scraping wax off his windows when trick-or-treat season ended.

My third grade school photo. Don’t let my cross and first communion dress fool you. After a year on our working class street, I had toughened up and learned to curse. Scan: Molly Charboneau

I listen and learn

I know I should have been shocked by the sudden exposure to Yelling Dad’s rough language — but oddly, I was impressed.

This was not the run-of-the-mill swearing Dad used at our house — which Mom was already afraid we children might pick up.

Yelling Dad’s curses had a raw edge to them that was somehow more authentic — a primal howl of frustration that he had yet again been outwitted by a bunch of kids and our annual childhood pranks.

Meanwhile, we kids gloated, listened and learned. Then, out of earshot of our folks, we practiced some of his choicer phrases on each other — and that’s how I learned to curse during my elementary years.

Up next: Y is for Youthful pastimes: Parties, skating and dust-bowl biking. Please stop back! 

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13 thoughts on “X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I imagine there were no shortage of swear words where dad worked yet I never heard them at home. I’ve made up for it since. Your yelling dad story was very funny as was all of you practicing despite that “butter wouldn’t melt” photo 🙂

  2. A big thank you to everyone who visited and commented on this post! I had a lot of fun writing it and I am glad the humor came through. Nice to know that my father and Yelling Dad up the street were not the only fathers who uttered x-pletives deleted during onerous household tasks 😉

  3. Really funny, Molly! And from the comments, I gather we all have stories of some ear-popping family member. I disliked it so much, I more than discouraged it in my 3 boys. One day I heard my youngest say to my oldest, “ it’s okay to curse…Mom isn’t around”.
    To this day, my sweet husband tempers his words as he works on the “honey-do” list.

  4. Made me laugh! Yes, you’d have caught on quickly in your new environment. My dad had built himself a little ‘office’ in the basement where he could close the door. I remember him saying a few things. Maybe he thought we couldn’t hear! But I bet Mum told him off about it later after we were sound asleep.

  5. Great read. I don’t recall much swearing in my house growing up, but I manage to make up for it now…LOL!

  6. I don’t remember my grandparents ever cursing or my parents but my father must have as the day I said the F word in the back seat he slammed on the brakes. After yelling to not do as he did but do as he says… I shot back with but you say it so I hear it. It was probably the last time I let him hear me! Now I have to watch my language in front of the granddaughters but Pop doesn’t stop his word “stupid” …. they go home and tell mom that Pop calls drivers stupid!

  7. My Dad did his fair share of cursing doing home improvement projects too. He still does on occasion. I picked some of it up but didn’t use it too much growing up. It felt too strange to use the words in front of my parents. Once I became an adult, that changed. Weekends In Maine

  8. Why does your post remind me of the movie “A Christmas Story” and the Dad who cursed whenever his boiler malfunctioned. I think of the scene when his older son helped him to change a flat tire – until son uttered the dreaded “F” word. The parental reactions were hilarious. Oh, those innocent days – not so innocent right below the surface.

  9. I can’t remember my parents or grandparents cursing ever when I was growing up. I heard it at school but never really picked it up, aside form a “shit” when something goes wrong.

  10. My Dad usually cursed while driving. He hated slow and inconsiderate drivers.
    In our little town we had a guy with a horse and wagon that picked up the garbage. Apparently my Nana was walking my 3 year old brother who said “Nana, don’t step in the horsey s—t!”
    I swore once and my mother washed my mouth with soap. I still don’t like to hear swearing, but I do say oh s—t a lot.
    When I heard my kids swear I made them look in the dictionary and find 10 words they could have used instead of the swear word. They pretty much didn’t swear in front of me after lol. My ex was French and their swear words are all religious words, it means nothing for them to use English swear words, so I had to curb his vocabulary quick once the kids came.

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