Episode One is finally here! Full transcript below - but here's the helpful notes and links you might find interesting.
Swearing is Good for You by Emma Byrne. This is the book I got most of my information on the history and etymology of cursing for this podcast. An excellent read. And the audio book is definitely worth a listen.
Our sponsors this week are Cannasmack. Hemp-oil infused beauty and skincare products. I'm an actual user of their products and would be happy to answer any questions. Enter promo code momma cusses for 10% off your order.
Our intro, ad break, and outro music is Stuck on You by The Fox Sisters.
Intro Music: Surf Rock
Hello! I’m Gwenna Laithland, and this is The Momma Cusses Podcast – the podcast dedicated to all the cussable moments in parenting.
Disclaimer: The Momma Cusses Podcast may have curse words, profanity, or adult topics. Okay, it will definitely have those things. If you have sensitive littles listening with you, now might be the time to pop on those headphones or go hide in the bathroom with your Grown-Up Juice.
This episode is brought to you by Cannasmack. Do you remember those Lip Smacker lip balms everyone collected back in the 90s? You know the super waxy ones that came in crazy flavors, and you wore them on a lanyard? Well, I found the grown-up version. And when I say grown-up, I mean all the way grown-up. Cannasmack Lip Balms and Skincare products are hemp-oil infused. Yeah, that hemp. Hemp oil is crazy good for the skin and doesn’t have the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Cannasmack is proudly mom-owned, and I stan a mom-run company. All of their products are Made in the US, 100% certified cruelty free, and absolutely amazing. I use the lip balm daily and swear by it. You can check it out by visiting Cannasmack.com to see all their products. Enter promo code Momma Cusses for 10% off your order. That’s C-A-N-N-A-S-M-A-C-K.com and promo code Momma cusses.
Alright, let’s get this shit going.
I once made a joke on a TikTok that my tribe consisted of mom’s who can’t dance, sneak liquor into their coffee, and whose children’s first words were likely to be cuss words. It was a joke. Lots of people found it funny. I know I did. My eldest’s first word was juice. But because karma is a bitch and the universe has a really fucked up sense of humor, my joke became my reality.
I’m sitting at the table with my twin 18-month-olds, and we’re just having lunch. My son, who is not the picky one, was being particularly stubborn about eating the butter beans I’d served with the chicken nuggets. Now at this point, neither of my kids were really talking. They had a few words and mimicked us all day long, but they were just being slow about the whole intelligible communication thing.
I looked at my son and asked, “What’s with you today? Normally you eat this shit up.” He threw more beans on the floor in response. My daughter, however, 2 minutes younger and thirty years smarter than I give her credit for, looked up with her saucer-sized blue eyes and said, clear as day, “Shit.” I stared. She repeated it. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Naturally, my eldest heard her sister cursing like a broken record, and encouraged the whole thing. It feels somehow wrong to hear a barely verbal toddler chanting shit. So my teenager thought it was riotously funny. I think technically the littlest’s first word was eat. Followed by please. And then…shit. Well, fuck.
Here’s the thing, I have no qualms about cursing. I mean, obviously. The podcast is called Momma Cusses. But I wanted to take this episode to look at cursing, why we curse, when we censor our words, and how we raise kids to respect language and its power. I’m going to teach my kids to say shit. Here’s why.
We know words have power. And, for a whole bunch of reasons, some words have more power than others. Crap rarely holds as much strength and imagery as shit. They mean the same thing, but one feels so much bigger. Worse, maybe. The word crap is totally acceptable to 99% of the English speaking population. But shit is very taboo. This gives it even MORE power. It is almost like speaking a forbidden tongue to curse, especially around kids. My own mother was horrified when I recanted my youngest shitty tirade at the lunch table. Generally speaking, we’ve decided that crap is acceptable, and shit is a no-no word.
Curse words are often relegated to grown-up words. And yet, almost every adult has a story of learning to curse in the dark corners of elementary playgrounds or behind the gym of the middle school. Cursing, as a child or pre-teen, feels rebellious because the words are taboo.
Many times breaking a taboo is seen as deviant or dangerous.
Think about that for a second. As a species, we’ve decided that cuss words, particular arrangements of sounds that fall out of our face holes are deviant or dangerous.
Why is that? It has a lot to do with where cussing comes from. Cursing, at its earliest, was exactly that, a curse. Yeah, the ill wish, hex-bringing, that lady has a wart and killed my cow kind of curse. The fear surrounding the “bad words” was wrapped up in the fear of witchcraft and evil-doing. No one wanted to be damned to hell. And worse, no one wanted to be accused to damning someone else.
Another mark against swears comes here. It wasn’t terribly long ago that the widely held belief was that cursing was not only the sign of a weak mind, but it was actually bad for us. Since most cursing is typically done in anger, frustration, or other negative emotion, a person who cussed often must be a very negative or stressed human.
There was a study done by a dude named Richard Stephens out of Keele University in the UK. The study began as an examination as to why humans do things we know are bad for us. And the prevailing thought was that cursing was, in fact, bad.
He had a group of 67 students place their hands in buckets of ice water and keep them in there as long as they could stand it. And they got to do that twice. In one of the tests, students were allowed to swear while in the other was no cussing allowed. Stephens had initially hypothesized that if swearing was bad for us, students would give up and remove their hands from the ice water earlier in the bad words allowed test. Turns out, nope. While allowed to swear, the participants lasted an average of 50% longer.
Good news for me, cuss words serves a legitimate purpose. They alleviate stress and relieve tension, both physical and mental. Curse words are a viable and important outlet for pain, distress, or fear.
So if cursing is so good for us, why are we so sensitive about shit, but don’t give a shit about crap? It’s back to that taboo thing. We just can’t shake the idea that bad words are disgustingly bad.
Hold on to your butts, folks, because I’m about to whip out a Harry Potter quote to make my point here. JK Rowling gave Albus Dumbledore a lot of really great, insightful quotes. But this one is probably my favorite. “Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself.”
When we talk about cursing, the refusal to teach our kids how to properly curse often results in creating a sense of fear around the words. We create a forbidden fruit by telling our kids, “We don’t say those nasty words.” And forbidden fruit is always tastiest. Thus we end up with playground potty-mouths. Eventually, we learned to self-censor, mostly by pissing the wrong people off with our language and deciding the punishments weren’t worth the cussing. At least in front of our parents, grandparents, and teachers.
I am a proponent of a whole different ideology. To me and in my family, there is no such thing as bad words, only bad intentions. If the words shit and crap mean the same thing, there’s no reason to choose one over the other. And most of the time, if you’ve dropped something heavy on your foot, yelling Fudge! Really isn’t going to feel as nice as a good, throaty fuck. And as Mr. Stephens proved with his ice buckets, it isn’t going to relieve as much discomfort either.
Childhood is a tricky time. Most of us look at our kids and think, “man, you little shits have it good. No bills, no real responsibilities, three hots, and a cot.” But I’m guilty of forgetting just how hard it is to be a kid. Children are learning a lot of shit, all at once. Not the least of which is emotional control. Feelings are a lot bigger in tiny bodies.
Cursing can be a valid outlet of expressing those big feelings.
Remember, swears can help dampen anger, fear, or pain. That shit is hard to control when we are an adult with even a vague notion of how to process that. When you’re 8, cursing, encouraged carefully, gives that developing little brain a mode to parse out their feelings more efficiently and regain control more quickly.
Here’s where the line is drawn, however. You can say I feel like shit, or I feel like crap. Both of these are fine and communicate roughly the same idea. What you can’t do is call someone a piece of shit or a piece of crap. Doing so, no matter the curse word or the PG language, is trying to hurt someone’s feelings or diminish them as a person, and that’s just not okay. (Well mostly. There are some folks who just ARE pieces of shit, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
Once you start using curse words as insults or name-calling, you’ve crossed that line into bad intentions. I’m trying not to raise tiny douchebags. I don’t care if you say curse words. I do care if you call people names to be a dick or get a rise out of them.
We run into a different problem when we talk about cuss words and teaching kids how to use them carefully and appropriately—cursing actually pretty hard to define. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but it’s time for our Momma Cusses How-To Moment. Today – how to take your toddlers to the grocery store.
Old Timey Rag-Time Music Intro
· First, do not attempt to brave the grocery store solo with toddlers.
· If this is unavoidable, arrive at grocery store. Understand that the day you choose to shop, everyone within a ten-mile radius will already be there. Park a mile and a half away.
· Load children into toddler cart. Enter store. Realize you forgot both the diaper bag and list in the car. Wing it. And quickly, before someone poops.
· Spot old lady at produce section. To avoid unwanted baby questions and/or touching, do other shopping before grabbing bag of baby carrots.
· Remember the toddler cart has all the grace and finesse of a stoned arthritic elephant. Run into something with the distant corner at least sixteen times. Wonder who the hell gave you a license to operate vehicles 8 times the size of this god-forsaken toddler cart.
· Wander through store making babbling sounds in response to your children. Realize you sound like a lunatic. Decide this doesn’t matter because at least they aren’t screaming.
· Pretend you don’t smell the poop. Pretend you don’t know exactly which spiteful child did it too. Shop faster.
· Return to dairy section three separate times because you left the list in the car.
· Return to produce section for carrots. Realize the same old lady is still standing there. Decide between the poop and the ticking time bombs still magically cooperating with the shopping experience you have to brave the old lady for the carrots.
· Succeed in carrot procurement. Proceed to check-out line.
· Notice children are getting hungry while you wait to load the conveyor belt. Head that catastrophe off by shamelessly opening squeezie pouches of applesauce from cart.