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On Sunny Lane: Bad Words

When I was a little girl, my mother told me I shouldn’t say bad words.

She heard me say some of those bad words because they were words that she and some friends and relatives used in their conversations.

Pointing this out to her did not change her admonition to me. In fact, it became one of the 15 commandments that she added to the original 10.

Some of the words referred to bodily functions, so I was taught alternative words to use. It was okay, because everybody knew what I meant. Maybe, they used those terms, too, when they were little.

Other words referred to a very unpleasant place where people go after death, where, Mom assured me, people who use bad words go, Another referred to the process by which people get there.

Mom’s techniques were scary, but effective.

Some words, especially one, were worse than others and I don’t think I ever heard the ultimate bad word used among family members. That was something I heard from the tough boys at school.

I wonder how it was decided that some words were taboo. I doubt if it originated with my mother.

Did a group of mothers get together over coffee one morning and decide to restrict their children’s speech just for the fun of it?

Did a bunch of cave women misinterpret the grunts of their cave husbands and give them a slap?

Did some gladiators standing around their chariots come up with some words they thought would make them sound tough when they were not gladiating?

The fact is that some words and phrases are usually reserved for certain circumstances, with certain people.

However, I see and hear these words used more and more in social media, in movies and in TV sitcoms. If the words were once used for emphasis, they have become so commonplace that they seem to have lost their punch. And the ultimate taboo word, that was once reserved for the ultimate feeling of anger, is now used liberally.

If it is now common language, where does a person go from there? Does he/she resort to violence or calm down? Or come up with a new bad word?

Or does someone wash the person’s mouth out with soap?

Don’t look at me. That stuff tastes awful.


Dorothy is the author of two books—“Miles and Miracles” and “Getting It All Together “. You can purchase a book or make a comment by emailing her at

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