The No Cussing Challenge

By Heather Joy

I was unaware of my mother’s aversion to cuss words until I got my father a bit tipsy and asked him to teach me some. And this was just last year. I am, by no means, a sheltered 24 year old unfamiliar with the English language’s colorful lexicon of profanities; in fact, every other sentence I utter has some sort of cuss word. Rather, my parents are both Deaf and I figured that it was about time I incorporated some cuss words into my sign language. After all, my parents deserve to know that I’m a tactless bitch as much as any other asshole.

My mom put a stop to this conversation right quick, and it turns out, she is not particularly fond of any graphic signs that seem too literal. I must now refrain from the gesture of “scissoring” when discussing with them my work on lesbian culture. Needless to say, I will not be sharing any of my glorified blowjob stories with her so she’s the one really missing out here -— although, the sign for “handjob” is pretty similar to “milk”, which could make for some interesting narration.

[On a side-note, I feel compelled to share with you my new favorite sign, China, which is actually considered more politically correct than an older version that signaled has to do with eyes. Ridiculous.]

I suppose I should have known better. I mean, she hasn’t used her hearing aid since I stood behind her and yelled “Fuck” to elicit a reaction; I just figured that she didn’t like the volume or my manly voice. But seriously, what’s her fucking problem —- aside from having a belligerent radical feminist for a daughter? More importantly, why do we, as a society, express such ambivalence towards cussing? This should be the issue, rather than the sheer expurgation of such words from the nomenclature, a fervent subject as of late.

The movement against cussing ineluctably links words to action, profanities with violence. It is gaining momentum due to the efforts of a bright-eyed 14 year old, McKay Hatch, who has written a book on the subject and is currently making the talk-show rounds. He implores us to take the “No Cussing Challenge”, which goes as follows:

Your words become your thoughts.
Your thoughts become your behavior.
Your behavior becomes your character.
Your character becomes your destiny.

Hatch suggests that we use alternative words as demonstrative of our frustrations -- for example, “oh, pickles”. Yet, the use of a “cleaner” word doesn’t exactly vitiate the negative energy. There is still an inclination to say something. Moreover, I do not want pickles to determine my destiny. And pickles can be very dirty.

I am not challenging this quixotic young man, but the milieu in which he has found success. The talk-shows that he goes on are predominantly aimed at adults (Dr. Phil, Fox News, The Early Show) and the No Cussing Club has 20,000 members worldwide. Parents are eating this shit up, thus fostering a new generation of feeble-talking youth (which I guess would make them feeble-minded, according to the pledge).

Maybe having kids running around while flagrantly cussing is a bit discordant for anyone's sensibilities, but it is also really funny. A lot of kids do not have experiences that entail use of a stronger word, hence their tendency to cuss incoherently. But for others, cussing does add an extra dimension of meaning: we can articulate the degree to which an event is negative/positive or use a conjoining ad hominem to illustrate that a subject is not worthy of meaningful discussion. Sometimes we need that. My computer should be laid out in shambles on the other side of the room, but because I cuss at it like it’s my mom it’s perfectly fine!

I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that “words do matter” -- it is one of the most recited maxims of feminism -- but it is unsettling when groups try to enervate the power of words by banning them. The intentional use of cuss words is not a mere product of the witless, and censorship is most certainly an attempt to impose a moral standard. We do not all support each other, so why lie through fake niceties? More importantly, we need to acknowledge that we are artful beings and we give words their meaning; they are not static fixtures by which we should feel imprisoned.


  1. Where can I find this field of cussing? Sounds wonderful!

  2. It is wonderful.

    I'd like to apologize for the "read more..." link appearing as a real link, by the way. I have no fucking clue why it didn't work. Blogger gets fucked sometimes.

  3. Make friends with a Deaf gansta. You'd be amazed at the things you'll learn.

  4. Welcome to our website! Or should I say welcome to our picklin' website?

  5. This article is perfect. Take a note Hot Rod! THIS is how you're supposed to muse on a topic of interest!

  6. Heather, this was really lovely to read.
    You write so well, with just that perfect amount of Fing wit and GD charm.
    But maybe i should just write 'fucking wit and goddamn charm' to be more supportive.
    Either way. Looking forward to hearing more from you. Also, looking forward to seeing you across the canyon of doom (!!!) every now and again.

  7. what a wonderful and refreshing article. though i know cussing maybe shouldn't be used ALL the time, i do use it all the time and enjoy the kudos to it.
    also, i had a deaf friend once that i wanted so badly to ask about dirty gestures, but he was a christian so i thought it inappropriate.
    good job heather joy!


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