Before I moved to Paris, you could be forever forgiven for thinking that I grew up in a Christian family in a small town in the south. Now that I no longer need to drive, my swear words have diminished considerably. The idiocy of that BMW driver interrupting me on the freeway exit ramp or the shyness of turning during the amber light at the intersection by the SUV driver obviously talking on the phone would get me into trouble. road rage apoplectic fits. A sailor might reasonably suggest that I might want to back down a bit.
My parents never swore. Or rather, they did, but they used the kind of bland Protestant curses like “shoot” and “shit” that were all the weight of a bag of cotton candy. A childhood of listening to the albums of mom Barry Manilow, as well as the much more rigorous application by the censors “Standards and Practices” of the three television stations protected my ears from all that is vulgar. It’s always a recurring holiday joke with my husband, who grew up on a farm as a non-practicing Catholic, for us to sing along with Ray Conniff’s bland but seriously festive singers “Oh By Gosh By Golly, It’s Time For Mistletoe And Holly. “For me, the worst insult I could have for calling my brother when he was boring was that he was ‘a dumb idiot.’ Yeah, that really taught him.
My evolution with swearing started in high school, shy at first, as I learned the many possible permutations of f ***, but I continued to stumble upon the correct delivery, adhering to grammatically correct usage of keep the full gerund suffix “-ing” instead of the more authentic “-in ‘.” I might as well have had “nerd” stamped on my forehead.
In college, however, I felt more comfortable with a series of epithets among my friends for certain professors. As the alcohol flowed, so did the crass poetry of my choice of insults. Fast forward to driving as an adult in Los Angeles, and my speech turned into a fire hose of profanity.
So when we moved to Paris, speaking French every day, I realized that my ability to vent my frustration by cursing had been reduced to resembling my eight year old self, the equivalent of calling someone a “stupid idiot.” . The ‘pardon mon français’ joke, which I used to use in the United States to excuse an insult, was now a limp explanation as to why I couldn’t properly express what I was looking for in a hardware store. (“I’m looking for a long tool that has the plus sign at the end to turn something … (blushing) … forgive my French”).
Fortunately, the French have a whole menu of curse words to participate in, and the more refined and archaic terms that might have been used by a grandmother in the 1950s are still commonly used, as are “shoot” or “shit” in America. , so we can use “chop” instead of “shit” in a polite society. It gives me the smallest chuckle to surprise someone while I’m in line somewhere “chopping”. Likewise, every time we yell “mash”, instead of the violent “damn”, I smile, remembering how I used to let go with a curse of “fudge” in my house. parents.
In 2019, the winner of the Miss France contest threw a slight curse of “sapristi” during the live broadcast on national television when her name was announced. This exclamation “sacred cow”, favorite of the adventurer Tintin from the 1920s, has toured French social networks. A message on Twitter teased that the new Miss France was apparently 87 years old. Another joked that she looked like President Macron speaking to his wife (much older, former schoolteacher), Brigitte. “Sapristi” made a cultural comeback, popping up everywhere as a sort of retro-chic hipster accessory.
As I get older and calmer, I’ve found it more civilized to trust old-fashioned swear words. The bourgeois blasphemies of past generations resonate as a sort of educational marker for those within earshot. While my older gay friends are still reluctant to hear me use the French equivalent of “queer” (queer), they’ll smile when I notice someone dressed like a bigre. And if, after my second glass of wine, I exclaim that this particular bottle was damn good, the tightening of its pearls is done for camp effect, if not ironically.
The message I swear! first appeared on Georgia Voice – Gay & LGBT Atlanta News.