Strange Charmed Life Reaction and bad language

Dorian E. Gray israfel at
Tue Apr 10 14:11:00 EDT 2001

Philip said...
> > "cuss words" is a new term to me.
> Interesting.  I've met it a lot, but mainly in US books.  OTOH doesn't
Jamie use
> this term near the beginning of Homeward Bounders?

I think "cuss", like "ass", is mainly American.  The rest of us say "curse"
and "arse", but the latter, at least, seems to really shock Americans.
OTOH, they don't at all appear to mind "bollocks", "wanker", etc. (maybe
they don't understand them?) and tend to get very confused by "balls".
(Yeah, I'm generalising, but generalising about the Americans I know.)

> At some point - I don't know exactly when; prob. teenage - I made a
> decision to moderate my language.  I chose the time-honoured method of
> mild expletives with the same initial phonemes as the rude ones I wished
> replace:
> Bother for B****r

I say "bother", too.  I recall phoning a friend once and getting his mother;
the conversation went along the lines of

Me:  "Could I speak to Aidan, please?"
Her: "I'm sorry, he's not here at the moment."
Me:  "Oh...Bother!" (in a very irritated tone of voice)
Her: [lengthy and startled silence]

Aidan told me afterwards that I had shocked her deeply.  Some people are
> Fiddlesticks for F***

I've taken to using "firetruck" in that instance, if I don't want to use the
original - like when I'm talking to my mother, who has only recently begun
to use the very occasional f-word.  (When I was growing up, her usual method
of expressing exasperation was to chant "Hell, damnation, blazes hell,
blazes hell!")
> I had difficulty with Sh** - neither Shucks! nor Shame! seemed to work for
me -
> but I eventually ended up with "Shostakovitch!"

Ooh, that's good!  I may steal that.

> Recently, I've found myself saying "Puke!" rather a lot.  I'm not sure
where I
> can take that, although I rather like Janet Chant's "Purple spotted
> dalmatians!"...

I'm currently fond of "blast", "balls", and "pox".

> Finally, one more word that has different rudeness values in the UK and
the US.
> I had seen the term "fanny" used in American books for years before I
> it meant something quite different - and far less rude - in the US than in
> UK.  Quite a revelation for me!

Oddly enough, I learned the US definition first; it was years before I
learned what it means on this side of the Atlantic, and I've never quite
been able to believe it!  Of course, I don't know anyone who actually uses
the word.  The c-word is more popular here.

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at

"Fashion exists for women with no taste, etiquette for people with no
--Queen Marie of Romania

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