When I was 11 years old my parents sent me to Mansfield University for camp. Gifted camp, or "Tifted and Galented" camp as we used to call it, spending three weeks lisping and lurching among the cheerleaders and those college students unfortunate enough to spend the summer as our counselors and instructors. I took photography and painting classes, studied astronomy (I still remember sobbing in the dark in the planetarium, listening to Elton John's "Rocket Man" blasting on the stereo and wondering why the boy I like liked wouldn't look twice at me.) and lived for drama class and play rehearsals. Yep, even then I had the theater bug.

I found out years later that my parents had hoped that I'd have a healthy appreciation for the arts but grow up to be a doctor/lawyer/indian chief. You know, one of the jobs where you buy your folks a car or a house to thank them for putting up with all of your teenage drama. Life didn't quite work out that way (although I have a slightly unhealthy fascination with the Law and Order franchises and enjoy jury duty a more than I should) and I got things a little mixed up. Sorry mom & dad; no new house or corvette. But lemme ask...did you ever have me tested for dyslexia?

ANYway, the other subject I majored in while at camp was definitely not on the curriculum. But it was one in which I excelled.

Like a sailor.

Imagine, if you will, a pudgy soon-to-be-sixth grader with mousy brown hair and a gap between her front teeth walking around her dorm room saying "asshole" in as many different inflections as she could think of, a la a b-list (c-list? ok, amateur) actor trying to figure out a line reading. And then trying it out on her peers in the cafeteria that evening.

Oh, yeah. Dale Carnegie I wasn't.

Using a string of as many verboten words as possible to describe a moment's irritation was not only something to strive for, but something to master. I knew that swearing made me seem older, cooler, dare I say sexier. And it wouldn't get me in as much trouble as smoking or drinking, two things that I wasn't really into, anyway. Heck, no one ever got sent home for swearing!

Re-entry to the family home, however, was always dicey. Dropping the f-bomb in momma's house was most definitely not allowed, and would likely have been turned into a "teachable moment" about sex or something equally humiliating if the word actually made it out of my mouth.

So it's with great f*$&ing glee that I stumbled across Steven Pinker's article in the New Republic. (Thanks, BookDaddy) He talks about the origins of swearing, why the more taboo words are physical/sexual/scatological rather than violent (which, why is that?), and the religiosity of many of the curses. And he throws in one of my favorite [ok, one of the only ones I know] Lenny Bruce quotes.

F*$#ing brilliant. :)


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