Montana is incredible in a number of ways, with innovative thinking at the top of the list. On a drive one afternoon during a visit to that fair state, we saw a tipped-over outhouse that’s now cleverly used as a junction box for telephone and electrical wires.
The wheels in my mind started to spin as I thought about the ways we express ourselves—communication. The coin dropped, and I heard it click.
It’s been said that foul language is the mark of a limited vocabulary and a poor imagination. A person who can’t hold a conversation without the use of expletives is oftentimes referred to as a potty mouth—the outhouse connection!
I can remember having my mouth washed out with soap on a few childhood occasions. And I can still hear my mother’s wise advice: Make your words sweet and tender today, for tomorrow you may have to eat them.
Have you ever had your mouth washed out?
Not really. It’s very inventive indeed! Strangely enough, swearwords in my native language always sound more insulting to me than in English, but that is probably because I grew up with them.
Olga — Now that’s an interesting perpective… swearwords in DIFFERENT languages. Thank you for broadening the discussion 🙂
No soap here, but I have observed the language getting coarser. I save up my expletives for special occasions. 🙂
Shirley — I’m absolutely confident my jaw would hit the floor if I hear you swear!
No, but my mum wouldn’t allow swearing at home. She used to say that if we wanted to swear, we could do it outside (outgouse all over again).
Fatima — Good for your mom!
Fun fact: Thomas Crapper, a plumber, owned the first bath, toilet, and sink showroom. I don’t think he had a limited vocabulary.
Marian — Thank you for sharing, I love it! 🙂
Sure have. By today’s standards it’s probably considered child abuse, but it didn’t do any long term damage.
Craig — You’re a prolific writer. Who knows, maybe it even INCREASED your vocabulary! 🙂
Ha ha, but maybe not in a way Mom intended.
I’m sure I must have had my mouth washed out with soap at least once. It sure was threatened a lot. It’s funny, because I don’t remember knowing a lot of bad words when I was a kid. Maybe I was just a “smart mouth.” 😀
Patricia — Like you, being a “smart mouth” in our house qualified for having one’s mouth washed out too.
Oh yeah, not only was it washed, but I was made to bite it. I had bubbles coming out of my mouth for days. Ivory does not taste good folks. However, expletives, in my humble opinion, are not the problem as much how they are used. I know many words that are not expletives that have caused more harm to my belief system than an expletive. Perspective and judgements about those words will be my lesson today. Thanks Laurie!
Delphine — YES! Thank you so much for adding that rich layer of perspective.
I love what you say: “It’s been said that foul language is the mark of a limited vocabulary and a poor imagination”… I couldn´t help thinking of Shakespeare´s insults. ((He certainly didn´t lack imagination!) … I didn´t have my mouth literally washed out when I was a kid.. but I remember some teachers threatened us saying they would wash our mouths with bleach. So yes, that had a sort of graphic effect to me those days… Quite tough!. Great post dear Laurie 😀 Love & best wishes 🙂
Aquileana — Bleach? Yikes! That threat would definitely have worked on me 🙂
LOL, several times. And what a lovely and wise saying from your mum. 🙂
ReadInPleasure — See? We we’re probably separated at birth 🙂
My parents were very clear in our formative years, “no swear words.” My father was a Marine who fought in WWII yet it was rare to hear foul language from him. We were raised Catholic, at school consequences would be swift if we broke any rules.
I do believe that swearing, using vulgar or foul language is unnecessary, usually destructive within communications, and a sign of limited vocabulary. I’m no saint, so I’ve slipped a few times (never using any extremely vulgar words).
I rarely will even forward a post with such language. I broke that rule yesterday. I forwarded David Wolfe’s post, it read, A Winter’s Poem “Shit it’s cold. The End.”
My excuse, I think the devil made me do it. Ha!
Audrey — You (and the devil) have me cracking up this morning!
Oh Laurie, I can swear with the best of them I am afraid! 😉 But never had my mouth washed out with soap. We were just given limits – no swearing at school and not in front of your grandmothers. I did have a family childcare worker try this with my daughter when she was about four. That was it. The child was removed and placed in a group daycare and thrived.
One big surprise for me growing up was when I went to work in our small sawmill with my father and realized that he swore all day long… But not at home. I had no idea! I was 14 years old and it was good reinforcement that there is a time and place for everything.
I never get too excited, upset or concerned if someone is swearing…. Name calling and belittling or shaming another in any way though gets my attention, immediately.
Terrill — I loved what you learned from your dad at the sawmill, “…there is a time and place for everything.” Great lesson!
No but I probably should have as I have been told that I cuss like a sailor 🙂 It does have its place at times. The singer Pink comes to mind as she is pretty saucy, but is an amazing communicator and one of the kindest souls (check out interviews of her sometime on YouTube)
Gigi — PINK is a great example. Thank you for sharing her here 🙂
I remember it was threatened a lot – though for sassing and meanness, not for swearing, which we didn’t do – but I don’t think I ever had my mouth washed out with soap. Maybe my brother, Ted, did. I’ll have to ask him.
Cindy — Like you, “sassing and meanness” counted in our house too. That was definitely crossing the line, and crossing the line came with consequences.
No, I haven’t, although as an adult there have been times that it should have been, and I’m pretty sure there will be more of those times. Occasions like something I’ve been working on on the computer for hours, and failed to save, when – yep! Crash time. Followed by words.
Carol — Great example. And like you, I can identify with the use of foul words on the heels of a computer crash.
No, never. But a few swear words and the like used sparingly and appropriately work for me. When you do get, shall we say over-indulgent with the potty words and potty-like words, then there is a problem.
Sharon — I think swear words get much more attention when they’re used as you said, “sparingly and appropriately.”
I think today there is “profanity pollution.” So much of it around us so much of the time. I hope it is a pendulum-swing social practice, and that soon people will learn to save them up for when they pack the most power.
Arlene — I love your term, “pendulum-swing social practice.” And yes, I hope it swings back, too 🙂
My dad could swear for ten minutes without repeating himself (possibly an exaggeration) but only at machinery. There was one exception when a hired man ogled me and I complained. Never in Mom’s hearing.
LakeAfton — Oh my gosh, I love the hilarious descriptor of your dad: “He could swear for ten minues without repeating himself.” 🙂
I didn’t have my mouth washed out with soap but it was threatened. I know some highly imaginative and clever folks who swear so I don’t think the saying works anymore. Although it may have once. There is a time and a place. That is a clever use of an outhouse!
Darlene — Your observation may well be right, “I know some highly imaginative and clever folks who swear so I don’t think the saying works anymore.” 🙂
Love your mum’s wise words!
No, I never had that done, but I was threatened plenty of times! lol (and that was only yesterday!)
Great pic! Despite the potty, you have gorgeous scenery over there. 🙂
Have a lovely day!
Sassy Brit — “And that was only yesterday” has me laughing! 🙂
I spent a lot of my time in fishing communities, and some of the language was “colorful”.
I recall one engineer after crushing his finger in a machine let go a string of non-repeating expletives that went on for several minutes, and seemed to me to be quite high up on the creativity scales.
On another occasion I was in a bar in Greymouth and a skipper came in after working on the engine of his vessel and someone asked how it was going – his reply was:
“The f*ck’n f*cker’s f*cked.”
I believe everyone in that bar knew both exactly what he meant, and exactly how he felt about it.
So language seems to me to be a very context sensitive thing.
How I talk when speaking to a ladies church group about environmental issues is very different from how I talk to a pub full of fishermen.
Provided I don’t get the two mixed up, it seems to work.
Ted — “Provided I don’t get the two mixed up, it seems to work.” Oh boy howdy, you’re absolutely spot on! 🙂
I rarely swear and almost never if anyone else is around (usually only at mechanical things that are in rebellion). Expletives just don’t feel or sound right coming from my lips. But I know all the words and I learned each and every one from my mother . . . who swore like the proverbial sailor.
Donna — Your mom? Oh my gosh, I love it! 🙂
Never. I was a good girl. : )
Leanne — Of course you were! 🙂
I never had my mouth washed out. And I never got chastised for saying bad words. Interesting, now that you bring it up. But I never heard my mom or dad say a ‘bad’ word. First time I heard ‘shit’ or the four-letter f word was in college. I lived in a sheltered world. But that’s not a bad thing. I used my words to express my dissatisfaction up til 18 with adjectives and verbs, not ‘potty talk.’ 🙂 And to this day, I have a difficult time with potty mouths. Just not necessary. Although when I became friends with a French man in college, I did think “Merde” was kinda cute. 🙂
Pam — I’ve got a face-splitting grin knowing you thought “Merde” was kinda cute 🙂
Laurie, your Mom’s expression has become a by-word in our home, reminding us that no one is ever right ALL THE TIME. As for a good old-fashioned mouth washing? Oh, shoot, yes! As a matter of fact I still can’t stand the smell of yellow Dial soap. Did it help? I should say so! My tongue would be black as pitch had my mother not done such a fine job of keeping it scrubbed clean.
Sandi — I expect that yellow Dial soap is just as bad as the Lava bar soap my dad used for washing his hands after car maintenance—the same soap my mom used in my mouth. It about took my tastebuds off. Nasty. Just plain nasty!
I’ve never used foul language in my adult life :), but I had when I was a child, getting some scold was all.
Byungafallgren — If being scolded was all it took, you were a great child! 🙂
I was sort of good kid. : )
I dam ( whoops ) well should have done I’m sure . 😂
Not my mouth but my face , neck and ears .
At twelve / thirteen I went though a dirty stage …washing was fools . So one day my Dad dragged me to the bathroom , filled the sink and scrubbed me …then threw a towel at me and left. There was snot and tears everywhere I can tell you but wow wee did I feel clean …really clean and that , you will be thankful to know , is how I have remained .
Cherry — Oh my gosh, I’m howling with laughter at the idea of you going through a “dirty stage.” It’s hard to imagine, that’s what makes it so funny. 🙂
Dare I say thank you for the memory, Laurie? I remember it well and now see the act as a form of child abuse, though I believe the great aunt who did it to me believed she was doing the right thing. But then don’t most abusers have their own justications for the abuse? Provocative post. Great photo.
Janet — I’m glad you enjoyed this post. You’re absolutely right in that “most abusers have their own justifications for the abuse.” That alone is excellent food for thought.
Laurie, I’ve only read about people having their mouth washed out with soap, never known anyone experience it -that sounds horrid! We wouldn’t swear at home, the odd occasion it slipped out my mother just had to give me THAT look and I felt so small! Really don’t feel the need for it…unless I hurt myself then it’s another matter! Interesting comments and post! 😀
Annika — I know “THAT” look well. According to my son, my “look” has the ability to curdle milk 🙂
Good for you!! 😀😀 I’ve perfected it as well! Never had to raise my voice to my son, my silent look is much more powerful and he knows I rarely use it!
I only had my mouth washed out with soap once and that was enough! Since then I’ve never said a bad word since. Laurie – Your blog is awesome! I can’t wait to meet at our San Diego event in July.
My grandma tried once, but I was a squirmy little thing and it never happened. I can cuss a pretty good streak on occasion. I blame my miner father for that tendency.
Jeri — I can easily picture you as a wigglie youngster. Woosh! You’re gone 🙂
Swearing was absolutely not allowed in our home when I was growing up. As a result, ever since I reached adulthood, it is one of my guilty pleasures. Unintended consequences!
Lissa — Now you’ve got me laughing! 🙂
Swearing for me is called sewing and giant frustrations….it is such a good release I don’t worry about it….and it frees me up to think creative thoughts and solutions….I no longer try to sew any more….but do get frustrated and swear sometimes….like when we left our hostess gift 300 miles away and with the release, I was able to think of a creative solution to that dilemma It also lowers my blood pressure right away….that is a good thing.
Patricia — I love your perspective. Healthy! 🙂
Ha, love this post!!! Well as to your question, oddly enough no, though I well recall other disciplinary tectics back in the day and they weren’t exactly easier!
Sam — I can imagine we were both recipients of some of those “other disciplinary tactics” back in the day. Unpleasant business, that!
No soap in the mouth, but my mother threatened to send me to a Catholic school if I didn’t clean up my language. A pretty good threat, actually. Cheers!
JB — Clever mother, yours! 🙂
Oh, yeah. When my wise old grandmother adopted me, she told me the rules, and she told me what would happen if I broke the rules. I broke all the rules, but it only took twice before I decided to obey each rule. Soap in the mouth is absolutely horrible. Child abuse, I say. Child abuse!……..LOL
Russel — Your comment made me laugh. Thank you! 🙂