Swear not by the moon...

And now for something completely different.... I always thought I knew what the bad words are. The 4 letter ones you never say (unless of course, it's the middle of the night and you stub your toe twice on the bed frame as you are stumbling around, breaking your toe. Yeah, that deserves four letters), and the ones you don't want your kids to say, like stupid, shut-up, etc. But I gotta say, these days I'm a little stumped. So Jacob got into the habit of saying, "What the heck?" from the neighbors. I sort of ignored it, and frankly, wasn't all that concerned. But then another mom (not LDS) said, "I hate it when the kids say that. Everybody knows what they really want to say, and heck is a pretty poor substitute." Oh. Um, ok. Now I have to worry about the kid saying, "heck"? Great. So now Jacob can't say, "What the heck" around these people anymore. I told him just to say, "Oh my gosh", or "Oh my", or "Holy Smoke," or even (cringe) "Oh my heck", because Grandma says that a lot, and I'm not up for him giving Grandma a lecture every five minutes about how that's a bad word. Grandmas don't like lectures. Then Jacob said, "Can I say Holy Heck?" Hm. I didn't like that one. But how is it different than the others? I couldn't figure it out, but I told him not to say it. And Jacob keeps asking, "Why are these bad words?" I don't go into long explanations, and he's satsified with "They are just not nice words." But if "what the heck" is a poor substitute, then how does "Oh my gosh" fit into that paradigm? "Gosh" is also, I would guess, a pretty poor substitute for what should go there, I suppose. Yeah, I know, I'm hedging here because I'm not sure anymore what is ok to tell my kid what to say and what's not. And, sadly, I feel I can't tell him that some words I use are bad(ok, crap is really the only one, I promise), because I use them far too frequently to be a good example. I don't think "oh my heck" is inherently bad, other than the fact that you sound like an ignernt Utah hick when you say it (sorry, grandma, but it's true), but maybe I'm wrong. How far do you go in the rules about bad words and good speech? I'm reminded of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo tries to swear by the moon of his love for Juliet: Juliet: Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb.... Romeo:What shall I swear by? Juliet:Do not swear at all, or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self...and I'll believe thee. Ok, so maybe I should just read Shakespeare to him and tell my 4 year to swear by his gracious self. Oh yeah, that'll work.


Blogger Maralise said...

Thanks for the post, Heather. I am interested to hear everyone's opinions on this subject.

For me, I hesitate to put a "bad word" connotation on phrases that are simply less culturally accepted than others but not necessarily swear words. Like you said, there is nothing inherently wrong with "oh my heck." I don't want my kids to swear either. But I hate to tell them that something is wrong when it's not. Some words just express opinions and ideas better than others.

I think it might be helpful to take the positive approach. Introduce exclamatory phrases that are more detailed, pertain more to the situation, and explain better how one feels than the general "oh my heck."

Everyone has a different opinion on what their kids should and shouldn't say. That's their right. For me, there are A LOT worse things than saying "freak," "heck," or "oh my gosh." So, I guess I just try to keep that perspective. I would hate for my kids to think that I abhore fake swear words more than real sin.

Thanks again!

5/05/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Beata said...

I personally think words like "heck," "gosh," etc. are okay. I've known people who have the same reponses as the lady you mentioned, but my reaction is usually "you can't please everyone." Truly, no matter what your child says, they could potentially offend someone, so I think it is more important to teach them the truth in the important things, then worry about if he's going to say "heck" or not.

For example, it's probably more important to explain to him that bad words are "bad" because they offend others. Or because they have vulgar meanings. Or whatever other reason you can come up with (I don't know the reason why they're "bad" either). I've heard some people say that bad words are immodest. That reason confuses me, but to all their own. It's too easy to get caught up in the arbitrary strict lines that church members draw instead of teaching the real principle behind it, and I think that's what's important.

One last thing: When the lady said, "Everybody knows what they really want to say, and heck is a pretty poor substitute." My response would have been, "At least he's not actually saying 'hell.'" And did you say that your child is 4? S/he probably isn't thinking of substituting anyway.

5/05/2006 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

I think some people are ridiculous. It's not like your four year old really wants to swear but is substituting "heck" for spicier language. It sounds more like the other person is finding excuses to feel superior (e.g. "WE don't say that because I am a BETTER MOM/MORMON").

My two year old has started saying, "Oh my gosh!" when things surprise him. I think it's cute.

OTOH, my kindergartner has taken to saying, "What the ... !?" and trailing off, never finishing the sentence. She does this in imitation of me, and it does sound like she is just about to curse. I'm trying to break us both from it.

5/05/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger nestle said...

So I really hate it when people say that they hate it when people use heck... etc. Reason being is this when did they become a bad word? Because they replace something else? Seriously if that's as offensive then I'll just go ahead and use the real words and see which is more offensive. Does this mean you can't say "oh my goodness?" like my 3 year old daughter. Or how about "star above". When I grew up "fart" was a really really really bad word. One that got our mouth washed out. I think if you want to use rules like that for your family that's fine but confine it to your own personal family. Do not use your same reasoning on anyone else. That's not that lady's call to say that.

5/05/2006 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger nestle said...

OK I appologize if that sounded a little harsh. I recently spent time with my sister who doesn't let her kids say anything like that and it really really bugged to have her and her kids gasping every other minute because I said "Oh my goodness" and "dang it". I got HUGE scowls and lectures of not to use "bad words" in front of her kids. Um yep. Annoying is one word for it. I think we need to teach our kids what we want them to believe but then also explain that other people may be different and they need to realize what is bad for them others may not consider bad at all.

5/05/2006 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We say holy cow a lot. And dang it. And darn it. Come to think of it, I should just be happy my kids aren't letting loose with dammit and hell, since I use those way more than I should.

I just can't get that worked up over it.

5/05/2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

One thing that totally gets my back up, think irrational, is when people get offended when I cuss.

Not when people ask me nice to not do it (like my best friends object to certain words) or when I go too far on the blog and say really awful things.

But like when I say sh*** and somebody throws up in disgust and says, "I can't believe somebody cussed on a Mormon blog."

I love Jacob. A little boy going around saying "what the heck?" If I were his grandma (note subjunctive) I would pull him close and whisper, "it's really 'what the hell' but don't tell anybody Grandma told you the truth. Humor them. It'll be our secret."

When people ask me if Utahns really say "oh my heck" (think Nieliah on Survivor), I say, no, we say, "oh my hell."

Don't 86 me, I'll never cuss again. Here.

Nestle, I agree with you. I think it's silly to worry about these small words.

Oh, in Relief Society, my best friend, who was the president, chided us, she said,"I think it's hypocritical for people to say Gosh darn it, when we really mean (AND SHE SAID THE VERY WORD, I myself was shocked). We all looked at her big eyed and never said those words again.

I have 5 best friends, don't get confused.

Jacob "What the heck? Where is my snake?"

5/05/2006 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

My Russian monk friend told me of a nun he knew, a wonderful woman, who was dying of cancer. At the really awful times, she would groan out, "God's Gumdrops." I don't think God gave a rat's ***.

5/05/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Heidi Ann said...

We have a friend who only says, "Oh, my stars!" At our house the most popular one is, "Oh, Man!" I also have heard people say silly things like, "Snot!" or "Pickles!" An old boyfriend's mom (they'er LDS) that if you swore in a British accent it was OK.

5/05/2006 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

My grandma had a necklace, made of 18 k gold, that said "Oh Sh**" Seriously. She wore it all the time! I learned early not to read grandma's necklace out loud...

That aside, we are in the same boat- trying to figure out what's ok and what's not gonna fly. Jeffrey has started with "What the..." and trailing off like someone else mentioned (picked up from a friend), and I hate that, so it's been 86'd. But then I have also told them not to say "Hate"... Eric says "Oh Goodness" and I think it's about as cute as can be from a two year old, and about as inoffensive in any age as possible.

I've got to work on my "crap" problem too- the other night Jeffrey asked me, while getting in bed, what we should do with all the crap in his room. Proud mama moment... and another impromptu explanation of why some words are not nice. He suggested next time I say "crap" maybe he could wash my mouth out with soap...


5/05/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger a. nonny spouse said...

When I was younger, my YW president--whom I really admired and loved--once gasped when I said "crap." I didn't want to offend someone I thought so highly of, but really--gasping? Crap? It's ugly, but it sure isn't, well, an uglier word.

On Tuesday night at mutual, I heard one of the Miamaids saying the YW president was "eccentric" because "stupid" and "shut up" are bad words at her house. The girls said, "I love her. She's so eccentric about stupid things like that."

I don't know where the middle line is. I still have a year before my baby will talk. I think.

5/05/2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Em said...

You know - Shakespeare is also full of all sorts of "nasty" words - just check this out:


Take that, Juliet.

5/05/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Lacey said...

I say shoot a lot. My two year old starting repeating me, but she would say it just because I asked her not to say it. She would also go around saying shoot, shoot, shoot. It drove me nuts because it reminded me that I should react in a different way then using a substitute swear word. Now we like to say ah man, or dowh (like Homer Simpson). I don't know what is bad out of the non-swear words, I just don't like her repeating my words that I know are substitute swear words.

5/05/2006 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

I love you, I love you, I LOVE you people, Today I feel like I have been released out of Mommy Prison!!! I hate play dates for this exact reason!!! I have 4 children, 10, 8, 4, & 6 months. And I cannot keep up with what is inappropriate at whose house and around whose children. I try really hard to have my children say only nice & good things, but I realized that is an alternate universe where there is no TV, and well, ultimately nobody else. All the Big Bad Words get an automatic soap wash out (is that still legal?) And on my 8 year old son, he often says it was worth it, because he was really mad when he said it.
This issue drives me crazy, especially when other Mothers try to control what other kids say. The other objectional phrases that offend other Moms are: “I Hate that”, “idiot” (thanks Napoleon), "stupid” And really, it could be anything. Now I realize these are not good words but as long as they are not directed towards anyone, I am fairly lenient. It’s all just so very subjective... but I can feel it coming on when I look over and the Moms eye is twitching and her color keeps shading into a darker red by the minute, and then the last straw is broken, and she has been rubbed the wrong way for the last time, and she gently chides my child “we don’t call Lego stupid in our house” Then she looks at me for my approving nod, to say ”Thank you, you taught me a really good lesson today.” Then I go home feeling really good about myself and about being a mother, and I think of ways to avoid that play date again! Ahhhhh! This is a total vent! I find it all but, impossible to stop the trickle down effect of my older children, to the Younger. Not that I am an advocate for cursing children, I always remind my children it doesn’t matter what words other children say, they could be cursing a blue streak around them, but they have to use the best words they know! I just wanted to share my love for you all, I now feel like I am not alone!! And if anyone else has conquered this mountain, please share your cure!

5/05/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

What a good topic. My 6yo's best friend learns all the REAL bad words from his teenage brother. Which means my 6yo learns them, too. He is an envelope-pushing kind of child, to put it mildly, and every day we are being re-tested as to which words are okay and which are not. It is a BATTLE, I tell you! I am certainly not worrying about heck and gosh. How would we quote Napoleon if we couldn't say those words? See, they have an important function.

Also, handy little tip, if you have a kid like my envelope pusher who tends toward pica and actually enjoys the taste of soap, hot sauce is a good alternative. Also, vinegar.

5/05/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandmother used to boast that she taught all of her grandchildren to swear and to play cards. I think this may have been because one of her sons-in-law (my dad) NEVER swore, and the other (my uncle) was unironically nicknamed "Angel" because he was such a good kid.

Luckliy, I picked up "Oh, man" from a girl I dated in college. The relationship didn't last, but the substitute cuss word did.

5/05/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Beata said...

It's hilarious how some grandmothers are the worst corruptors of little kids. My husband's grandmother is the first one to have a mountain dew at dinner(caffeine is not acceptable to my husband's mother's side of the family, said grandmother comes from husband's dad's side of the family). And she would offer it to every else too. She also would punish my husband when he was little but force feeding him whipped cream - and supposedly it worked! Though personally I eat whipped cream out of a tub by itself anyway, so I don't imagine that it'd work with me.

Okay back to my point, several of you have mentioned that there are so many different standards that each set of parents keep that it's hard to keep up with everyone. This is the main reason I think that it is first and foremost important to teach your child principals and not just lines. As a child, I would never do something if I was told to do it, but I would always do it if I understood why. Maybe I'm quirky, but that's what worked for me.

I want to echo anne's comment that I love you all people. I've been frustrated with the people at my ward lately, and now that I've found some "liberal" mormon blogs, I'm much happier that there are indeed people out there like me!

5/05/2006 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

"I've been frustrated with the people at my ward lately, and now that I've found some "liberal" mormon blogs, I'm much happier that there are indeed people out there like me!"

Wow, we're liberal? What the heck?

Annegb, you are my hero.

Thanks for all the comments.

5/05/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Establish your own rules for your family. (We have no potty words, shut up, or stupid, no swear words, but fake swear words are ok)
Explain that different families have different rules.
Tell them that Mrs. Soandso's family doesn't say "heck." It is polite to follow the rules at her house.
It is permissable for a parent to get tired of a kid's expression. If suddenly that is all that is coming out of their mouths, tell them it isn't appropriate to keep saying "oh my heck" over and over again because it is bugging people around him. (My kids pick up expressions all the time, occasionally I hate them because they keep saying them so I say enough).

5/05/2006 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

I remember when my handicapped daughter who has very little speech started using this phrase to exclaim after all kinds of small happenings: "Oh shee. . . . ." Knew I had to rethink my language. . . . .

5/05/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

What about 'sucks?' We use it a lot and one of my friends was shocked to hear my daughter use it (as in, that really sucks!). She was about 8 or so. It doesn't have overtly sexual tones to me, but it did to her.

On that note, she came up to me yesterday and said, mom, is "f...s" a really bad word? My husband and I sort of laughed nervously and said yes... why? Apparently, a fancy font in the yearbook had made Mrs. Jucks' name look very offensive. It's sort of funny when they don't even know what the 'bad words' are and they are almost 10!

5/06/2006 02:10:00 AM  
Blogger Starfoxy said...

My coworker told me about spying on her 2yr old daughter trying to put on a sock. The sock kept getting caught on the girl's pinky toe and she just couldn't get it on. After trying for a while the little girl gave up and said "d*** sock!" It was really funny story to me.
Anyhow I think the safest way to keep your kids from offending people is never letting them speak in the public at all until they're in their mid 20's. That is why the pinnacle of polite society also strictly held to the "seen but not heard" mentality.
I am all for teaching kids to have a wide and varied vocabulary that never has to wear out a word or phrase. My mom used to say that compulsive cussing was a sign of stupidity because the person couldn't come up with anything else to say. My favorite is "Forsooth!"

5/06/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

It's funny how a word we will use everyday (heck, suck, crap, insert-favorite-word-here) takes on a whole different sound and meaning when our 2, 3, 4, or whatever aged child uses it.

I will never forget the day #2 (at 2 years) yelled "OH MY HECK!"

Of course, we laughed, but it really got me thinking..."hmmm...now I know why mom hated those words...now I know that I'm turning into her...hmmm..."

I guess the sound of a tiny little angelic voice saying "Crap!" is jolting...it doesn't really go together. :)

P.S. DH served his mission in Australia and he said it was hard to get used to the idea that "damn" and "hell" was used frequently in Testimony Meeting, but of course, don't ever say the "b" word! (Rhymes with muddy)....

5/06/2006 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Melinda said...

In nursery, I smelled a bad smell and asked the kids if anyone was poopy. A little boy solemnly announced that "poopy" was a bad word and they didn't use it at his house. So I asked if anyone was stinky. Same solemn announcement. I know that kid has a younger brother who isn't potty-trained. I'd love to know what word they use. "Uh-oh, looks like bitty baby had a bowel movement!"

Growing up, I had a friend who was not allowed to use any alternate cuss-words at all. Her sole exclamation was "wowsers", from Inspector Gadget. They were also not allowed to drink root beer because root beer is the same color as Coke and they needed to avoid the appearance of evil.

IMO, substitute swear words are much more culturally acceptable than the real thing. I say "darn" and "heck" all the time (yep, I'm a Utahn), and I actually mean "darn" and "heck". I don't mentally substitute in the real words. If anyone tells you that a substitute cuss word is the same as the real cuss word, tell them that for you there's a big difference because you obviously don't have a dirty mind like they do.

5/07/2006 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

My husband never cusses. He will not say poop. I will say what have you been doing? And he says,"cleaning up the dog manure in the yard."

I should add I probably wouldn't really tell Jacob the truth about what he should say.

My step-son and his ex-wife cuss quite badly, as a result, my grandchildren cussed. The older kids knew not to use certain words, but Rowan, age two, didn't have that discretion.

This precious darling curly headed big-eyed little girl used the f-word, often and in context.

We did all kinds of things to break her of it, never mean. She finally stopped, but it was just sad. She'd be in her playpen in our room in the middle of the night, wake up uncomfortable and comment on her condition. Tiny little voice.

I have only cussed in front of my grandkids one time. It was an accident.

Some city guys were doing highway construction and I stopped and one of them kept yelling at me to take the detour, but a car was coming. Nobody knew what to do and he kept yelling at me.

I'd had a long day. (Maxwell was in the back seat, age 5).

I opened my window and yelled out, "There's a car coming, ***hole!" And he looked behind him and said, "oh, sorry, just a minute."

There was silence in the car as I negotiated the turn. Then, I asked Maxwell, "did you hear Grandma say a bad word?" (hoping he hadn't noticed). And he replied quickly, "yeth, you thaid ********."

Dang. So I said, "well, honey, that was very bad of Grandma and I'm sorry. You can tell on me."

"Oh, I will never tell on you Grandma."

"No, honey, I don't want you to lie for me. It's okay. I deserve it. You tell on me."

He swore up and down it would be our secret until the day he died.

Then a half hour later, he said, "Grandma, remember you said that bad word?" He reminded me over and over for a very long time.

I know I've shared that before, but it's funny anyway.

Joseph Smith (shared this as well) said, "I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, than the long faced hypocrite."

Kids know what's a crock.

5/08/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

"Fat" is a bad word at my house. As in, if you have another cookie you'll get fat. I don't want my girls growing up with body issues. I know it's not a traditional 'bad word', but I think disrespect comes in various forms. So, while I don't like Oh Gosh, stupid, etc., there are words that seem more offensive/hurtful.

I liked Melinda's comment about substituting words-she thinks heck and means that, not something else. I totally agree.

5/08/2006 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Mark B. said...

Ah, the beauty of an unexpected "bad word"!

Like the lovely Japanese young woman, soon to be baptized, who wondered, in our English class, what "bullsh**" really means.

Or my companion, about 16 months later, telling me that his sheep rancher father told them that "people who smoke tobacco are the ignorantest basta**s in the world."

Or the district clerk, a few weeks ago in the district offices, who told me (when I was having difficulty finding a paper I had put down two minute before):

"It looks like you've got CRS."
"CRS. What's that?"
"It's a precursor of Alzheimers."
"Really. Never heard of it. What's it stand for?"
"Can't remember s**t."

Or the lady in testimony meeting, describing a conversation with her employer (she's a nanny).

"When you're done with that, would you take the curtains down and clean the windows?"
So I told him, "Hell no!"

Of course, none of this helps in telling your kids what words to avoid.

5/08/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous jamisue said...

annagb your my hero too. I love people who, like me, aren't afraid of calling a spade a spade. Having been accused by Heather O's dad of having a "salty tongue" and having been laughed at by her sister when she heard my 3 year old say "holy crap" I feel all warm and fuzzy when I hear these stories. Oh, and I accidentally let "hell" slip in a temple recommend interview with the Stake President, so I'm probably not the one to give advise here.

5/09/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger sid said...

I certainly feel that parents should decide to draw the line about what is right in our childre's communication. But it is where to draw that line that becomes difficult. My wife and I decided that there were many words we didn't want our children using, and we have referred to them as garbage can words. If you start early, you can draw that line as far to the right as possible, hoping that later when they rebel, that heck is as bad as it gets. I still chuckle when my children approach me and tattle on their friends. "Dad, so-and-so said the 'H' word, or we heard someone say the 'S' word." What we find funny is that, in our home, the "H" word is hate, and the "S" word is shut-up!

5/10/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Jamisue, I thought Dad said you had a potty mouth!

I said "Crap!" really loudly in the temple once, so I'm not sure I'm much better. I got a stern "remember where you are look" from one of the matrons, and lots of giggles from my friend I was with.svzmxv

5/10/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its ok to use the word "heck". I am from Utah, and that is such a Utah word...especially a Mormom Utah word! Its the "intent" of your heart. When you are saying a word that you know you shouldn't say, you are intending to say something offensive.....that's what makes it wrong...not necessarily the word itself...

7/16/2010 07:31:00 PM  

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