By Rachel Birdsell
Prague High School in Oklahoma is refusing to give graduating senior, Kaitlin Nootbaar, her diploma until she writes an apology to the school for using the word “hell” in her valedictory speech. You might think that Kaitlin told the administration to go to hell, or that going to Prague was utter hell, but that wasn’t the case. What she said was, “People ask me what I want to do. How the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times.”
Oh, Mama, get the soap. Little Kaitlin’s a potty-mouth.
Even if Kaitlin had told the administration to go to hell, she should still get her diploma. Her diploma was earned, not by what words she did or didn’t say during her speech, but rather through maintaining her grades and completing the coursework necessary. Frankly, I think whoever decided to hold Kaitlin’s diploma until she apologizes is a juvenile prude and possibly has a bit of a god complex.
There’s nothing wrong with letting a hell slip now and then. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with letting any word slip now and then. It irks me that words are not only considered to be bad, but are considered to be so bad that they’re profane. I’m not sure who decided that words could be bad, but if I could, I’d slap the hell out of them.
You know what else annoys me? People who will only almost cuss. It’s silly that people think that darn is okay, but damn isn’t. Most of the time when you use a substitute word, you’re thinking of the other word, so just say it. Let it out. It will probably feel good. When I bang a knee on some piece of furniture, I’ve been known to let out a random string of curse words that would make a longshoreman blush. I’m convinced that it eases the pain at least a little bit. Not only do I think it’s healthy to cuss, but at times, completely necessary.
Of course, there are situations when having a mouth like a sailor isn’t appropriate. You probably don’t want to bust out, “What’s up, bitch?” to the Queen of England, at least not the first time you meet her. Use discretion. My only other rule about cussing is not to have every other word out of your mouth be a cuss word. But I have that same rule for any word that’s overused in a conversation such as “like” or “man.” Other than that, let loose with a good round of swearing.
The thing is, there are so many things in this world that are truly profane — cancer, starvation, homelessness, the Tea Party — that in comparison, it seems trite and almost obscene to deem words as profane. Words aren’t the problem. If I empathize with you and say I think it sucks that you’ve been going through hell, you’d think I was being sweet. However, if I instead ask what the hell your problem is, you might have a few choice words to throw back at me. I think it boils down to this: If the intention behind your words isn’t bad, then the words aren’t bad.
And for you who think that people who swear do so because their vocabulary is limited, you should start cussing more. Sometimes, there just isn’t another word that will do. For instance, no matter what surrogate word you come up with for the word that starts with “f” and rhymes with duck, it will always lack the oomph of a good f-duck.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org