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AMY KIRK: Using choice words on the ranch

Cursing is a touchy subject with me. I'm not fond of the language when it's used excessively but I'll be honest, I'm only human and sometimes I lecture and harp on my husband about his cussing.

It's OK when I do it because there are times when expletives are acceptable. I can tolerate saying bad words, but I use them with discretion. Of course when I do it, I choose the milder versions, if swearing can be categorized. I love how a ranch wife friend of mine handled the swearing issue with her kids. When her two sons were middle school-aged, the only time they were allowed to use foul language was while moving cows.

I can tolerate expletives to a certain extent. The times I consider it acceptable to resort to offensive language would be finding cows out and new stretches of fence to fix, the neighbor's bull or cows in with our cows, finding thirsty cows standing around empty tanks, hitting my head on the rafters in our attic, banging my shin in the dark on misplaced furniture -- things like that.

The thing about profanity is that it's out there too much, being excessively abused instead of brought out for special instances, so cussing loses its punch. Inappropriate language is all around us. It's not very virtuous, but any normal person, like my husband and me, has spoken the language to some degree. For the most part, today's society has become immune to the shock value of swear words, and their use is not only acceptable but, unfortunately, has become the norm in our country. My old-fashioned ears have an exceptionally low tolerance quota for listening to high-potency profanity.

While hanging clothes on the line one time, my ears had reached their daily swear-word quota coming from in front of the open shop doors -- inside closed shop doors where I can't hear it is a different deal, and I consider it off limits to nag. What I heard was an air attack of F-bombs being dropped so I went over to call a cease-fire. The mechanical repairing techniques that were being applied on our windrower weren't fixing the problem, so my spouse fired a full metal jacket of profanities at it to convey his frustration since things weren't going his way. I asked him why he found it necessary to pick the one word I despise the most to vent with.

He answered with something about how his word choices and the decibels used are how things get done, or in this particular case, get fixed, and that speaking such offensive words helps improve the situation.

I liken my distaste for the concentrated spewage of swear words to the way husbands dislike their wives excessively harping, criticizing, nagging and lecturing repeatedly all at once. Husbands squirm, cringe and sometimes walk off to get away from and avoid hearing it. Likewise, it's hard to listen to cursing when it's overdone, used in excess and abused, and I react similarly when I hear a torrent of cursing.

Hearing an excessive amount of profanity at once makes me think of a sewer that's backed up. We all rely on the sewer system, but sometimes too much. I guess that explains why swearing is called "foul" language.