Friday, April 12, 2013


By Terri Lively

“Mom! She just called me a butthole.”


“(Darling daughter)*! Did you just call your brother a butthole?”

Blue eyes round, a little scared, lips almost in a pout. “Yes.”

“Where did you learn that word?” But I know. She’s been hanging with a 5 year old and an 11 year old this past week that are both on the ornery side. I am pretty sure she learned it from them because I don’t use the word butthole.

I have to admit, it does roll off the tongue well and technically it’s not a swear word. In fact, I might start adopting butthole into my vernacular again. Its kind of a PG-13 swear word. But still, not great coming from your five year old.

No answer from the guilty.

“(Darling daughter), did you learn the word from the (naughty boys whom I blame for her corruption) boys?”


I am shocked. She usually doesn’t lie to me. I know she learned it from them. But just before I launch into my speech about honesty, the story continues.

“The (naughty boys whom I blame for her corruption) boys did call me one but I already knew the word butthole. I learned it from (darling son). He was naked and he bent over to show it to me. He pointed at it and said, ‘See? This is my butthole.’”



Swearing is one of those things that I just can’t give up. I have a “do as I say not as I do” policy as it pertains to swearing. I have a long list of swear words that I use on a regular basis. Usually, I keep it under my breath but not always.

As a result, my kids know all the swear words. They are, in fact, a little obsessed with swear words. They talk about the S-word, and the F-word, and the D-word. My daughter’s favorite is the A-word. She likes to spell out “a-s-s” so you don’t have any questions about which word she means.

It’s not just my kids. When they are with their friends they compare notes about which swear words they know and what letters they start with and what rhymes with them. It is, to say the least, a bit concerning.

Swear words are one of life’s little pleasures for the potty-mouthed. I like a well placed swear word here and there. Sometimes it’s excellent punctuation to a thought. Sometimes it’s stress relief. Sometimes I use them to communicate how frustrated I am getting and how close to snapping my last nerve that my kids are.

But they are, alas, inappropriate. Now it isn’t just the actual words that get admonished. Even the substitutes are garnering negative attention.

My nephew was sent to the office for saying “freaking.” That is a bit extreme. This is completely G-rated in my opinion. The fact that freaking is substituting for the F-bomb should not play into this equation. I would like to call that school and show them what real swearing sounds like but I bet they already know. It is a public school after all.

It doesn’t just happen to the kids. My friends got all freaked out at school pick up the other day when I said “effing.” This is my G-rated substitute for the queen mother of all swear words. But I said it in front of kids, who got a big kick out of it and made a big deal about it. And then, my little butterfly daughter, was like “ I know what effing means…it means…”

“Stop!” my friend cried, interrupting my over-informed 5 year old. Probably good she did. I wouldn’t put it past (Darling daughter) to use the F-word to make a point. Acorns do not fall far from the tree.

I remember when my niece and nephew were little the fit my sister-in-law would have with my dad when he would swear in front of them at big family functions. He doesn’t edit himself for anyone. In a way I admire him. Back then I thought my sister-in-law was uptight. I have since apologized for not being sympathetic enough when her kids were little.

My father is a fantastic swearer. I would say that I definitely learned from the best. He has some swear words that don’t even make sense. And then there are the colorful phrases. Some of those don’t contain a single swear word but are filthier than the floor of an adult movie theatre.

My mother never swears. She had a shirt in the 70s that had a picture of a grumpy looking frog on it that said “I’m so happy I could just” and then a big red bar. She didn’t want to wear the swear word so she ironed on a red bar over the word. Looking back, I think I would have just advised her to pitch the t-shirt. But I think she wore it to show dad how to be a good example. This effort was not a success.

In elementary school, we had letter jackets. For real. I had one and I wore it all the time. I even had pins on it. I can’t remember what they were for, but I had pins. I remember one time my grandma asked me what the SF stood for on my jacket. I told her “super fart”. Mom grounded me for a week.

That is what started a long career of swearing. Because before the shaming and the disappointment, before the shock and the judgment, before the punishment, I knew I saw in my grandma’s eyes just the slightest bit of amusement. And when you are as big an egomaniac as I am, that’s all it takes.


So I understand the sexy joy of well-placed swear word. I know the titillating thrill of saying something raunchy and surprising the listener. So I definitely understand the attraction for my daughter of a word like butthole. But I am the mom after all.

“(Darling daughter), go to the naughty step.”

“Okay,” dejectedly trudging to the naughty step.

When I looked at her retreating back, I allowed myself to smile, amused in my most Beavis way at the funny word butthole. And I hope in my heart of hearts that she didn’t see me.

Because the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

* Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.