Thursday, June 4, 2009

Help for potty mouths

It’s no secret that we live in a world prone to excess.

We can’t help it; it’s just in our nature to go overboard. Especially with addictions, which is why rehabs and self-help gurus abound. Take the show Intervention on A&E. This show started out in its freshman days dealing exclusively with substance abuse. People bring this mediator with his entourage of cameras in to confront a family member that has fallen off the wagon.
It’s branched out now to shopaholics, out-of-control gamblers, people with OCD, women addicted to abusive men, and even one lady who couldn’t get enough pastry. Our voyeuristic selves were in their glories. Interventions for all!

But this takes the cake: Interventions for people who curse too much at work. Yep.

There’s actually a faction of folks who have made curbing your cursing a profession. Numerous studies have been done (one out of Harvard!) and books have been written. There’s even a Cuss Control Academy based in Illinois, who will send out an expert to perform an intervention at your workplace to help clean up the foul mouths.

Is this really necessary?

Then I got to thinking, and decided to unofficially keep track of the people who work around me, convinced that none of us needed our palates cleansed with Zest.

Holy %@$! … was I wrong! The worst offender? Yours truly. Might I need –gasp! – an intervention?

But what actually constitutes a curse word, anyway? What’s the difference between a swear, rough language and just plain infelicities of style? Is it when the juicy four-letter words make their first appearance? Or is it limited to the seven dirty words on the famous list of the late, brilliant George Carlin? Maybe it’s broader, like all the stuff you wouldn’t dare utter in church.

We had this debate in my house a couple of years back. My husband and I marveled at the amount of times – after a stressful night on the job – those pesky four-letter words came tumbling out. And thus the Swear Jar was born. The idea was to kick some money into the kitty every time a curse word flew, and force ourselves to watch our language.

In fairness, we included all the words you couldn’t say on regular T.V., figuring we’d get a meal out of it at the most.

The jar went up during tax time. By March we’d funded an entire three-day jaunt to Orlando for four.

I should have known when the Swear Jar theory failed on The Brady Bunch that our clan was doomed. I’m no Florence Henderson.

So why do we curse in the first place? Experts say to be abusive, to be bravado, to emphasize a point and to release strong emotion. They also say that there are underlying reasons, like fear and ignorance and negativity. I say pffttt! to that. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it out.

Of course, you may see me on A&E. You never know.