Censoring My Sailor Mouth

I appreciate a well-placed curse word. I really do. As a writer, of course I believe it best to make the creative choice. To find the word that most accurately and originally sums up how the sky looks, or the bonfire smells, or you feel. Sometimes, that word happens to be shit. Neither shoot, shucks nor any other namby-pamby substitution will do. Especially not frick. Too similar. Just say the damn word.

Unless you have a young child. Roy is a total parrot right now, and no utterance goes unnoticed. So to save ourselves the embarrassment of having to lay claim to the adorable tow-headed one-year-old littering the playground with profanities like a mini Gordon Ramsay after a couple of shots of Jameson, Clint and I have tamed the trash talk, at least until our kids are able to comprehend the difference between “adult” language and “kid” language. In moments of sudden pain or disappointment we substitute toned-down versions of our old, reliable profanities. No problem. Totally worth it. Done.

Except. The other day, Roy’s fumbling around, trying to pick up one of those unwieldy over-sized cardboard picture books and I hear him mutter, “Crap!”

Sure, it was the substitute. But is crap really an acceptable word for a pre-preschooler?

And then today, after we get done running errands:

Me: Aw. I forgot to pick up grapes.

Roy: Dangit!

Yeah, our toned-down versions don’t exactly sound like toned-down versions when hurtled out of the mouth of a 1-year-old.

And so the hunt for effective, satisfying, yet totally G Rated expletives is on. Wouldn’t I already be using such pseudo-cursewords if they existed? I may well have to make some up.


Photo credit: “Fancy” Auntie Libby



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  1. by Joanne

    On October 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Emerson was sent home from daycare one day with a “I said a bad word today” note. When he told us what it was, we both giggled. Apparently “what the?” with nothing after it qualifies as close enough to a swear word to discipline. We never say “What the hell” or the other more colorful version of that sentence. We thought it acceptable that our kids say the same thing. I guess not everyone does.

  2. by Betsy

    On October 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Nowadays I get reprimanded by my 4yo, “Mommy, we don’t say dangit!”

  3. by Jackie Flaherty

    On October 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    We still say horse feathers and fiddle sticks.

  4. by Berit Thorkelson

    On October 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Joanne: “What the…?” is naughty, huh? I better start a serious language cleanse.

  5. by Bubbe

    On October 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I’ve been working on saying “Rats!” and “Yikes!” around Roy. I’m hoping those are acceptable for the little parrot.

  6. by Eve

    On October 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I have been trying the old “shut the front door!” or “brown paper bag!” as substitutes. I was not aware of my language issue, until I had a child.

  7. by Jennifer

    On October 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Breaking our then-two year old from the habit of saying, G*ddammit! was a lot of fun. Whoops. We finally taught her to say, “Oh dear!” instead, but even at 2 she could tell it was not nearly as satisfying.

  8. by Lynn H

    On October 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    My son said that it was not the end of the world if you slipped ACCIDENTALLY near your toddler or Grand toddler…..just say candy bar, peanut butter, juice, or park or some word that your toddler knows and really really likes. They will focus on the “liked” word instead of the “no no” word. It seems to have worked pretty well since I have slipped once or twice and both hubby and son have also slipped and Grand hasn’t cussed one time! And she’s a parrot too!

  9. by Berit Thorkelson

    On October 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Lynn, I love that tip. Although I suppose you have to be careful about overuse, otherwise juice could morph into *@!%juice…

  10. by Nina G.

    On September 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I like: “Sugar Puss”, “Duke(s)”, “Ginger Snaps”