Random Thoughts

Permissible swear words

... some swear words are acceptable

by Dorothy O'Connor

It was clearly understood in my childhood family that using swear words was not
acceptable. If there were any doubt about it, I learned at age six that my parents,
especially my mother, really meant that rule. At that tender age, exposed to a
school playground for the first time in my life (no public kindergartens then), I
heard an interesting word I'd never been aware of previously. I decided to try it
out at the dinner table. It is a four-letter word that begins with “sh..” and I
don't mean “shun.”

So, as we family members were enjoying our meal that evening and chatting amicably,
I threw out my new vocabulary word. Much to my great astonishment, my mother,
usually sweet and gentle, grabbed me and literally washed out my mouth with a bar of
soap. Ish! Yuck! It took forty years before I even dared to utter that word again.   

My one and only sibling, a sister, two and a half years younger, and I enjoyed each
other's company most of the time. But we were normal kids and did have an occasional
squabble. How to express annoyance at the sibling? Couldn't swear! We used our
imaginations and invented a word. That word is  pilgog, meaning something like “rat
fink.” As the years went on, we created variations on the word pilgog.

First, in order to turn a “pilgog” into an even more odious creature, we inverted
the letters and came up with the noun “goglip.” Hurling that word at each other
signified that we were really and truly disgusted by our sister’s behavior.  

We were content with pilgog and goglip for a while until adolescent hormones started
raging around in our bodies. Then we needed even stronger words to express our
aversion to the sibling’s existence. At that point we invented “icklegob,” a
variation of pilgog that conveys strong animosity.

Pilgog, goglip and icklegob got us through to adulthood. Now we are sweet old
ladies, both in our eighties. We don’t find it necessary to swear at all. But when
one of us is bothering the other to come up with a recipe or a long-forgotten name,
the expression that is used is “PESSSSS!”

February 3,2012

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