You might say today’s post is a bit of a rerun. It involves a certain relative of mine who has been “trying to clean up [his] vocabulary.” In his quest to quit cursing, he’s taken to replacing letters in certain swear words in an attempt to “improve” his language. Why he feels compelled to do this, I don’t really know. I can only guess.
I know I’ve written about this before. In fact, I’m just now looking up when I last wrote about this topic. I see it was exactly two months ago to the day– June 30, 2020, when I wrote about how my cousin referred to “chicken shot” instead of “chickenshit”. But that post was about a memory I found on Facebook in which he and I had butted heads over a National Rifle Association ad. This cousin– I routinely refer to him as “Timmy”, although that is not his real name– got into an argument with Bill and said that his argument was “chicken shot”.
Naturally, I rolled my eyes at that, since I think it’s a waste of energy to clean up one’s language in such a way. Words and language usage do matter, of course, but I personally don’t believe in “bad” words. All words, even the really offensive ones, have a legitimate usage somewhere. Every word can be used in a non-offensive way. That includes the infamous “n-word” that gets people riled up. Try reading a slave narrative without encountering that word. Try listening to Stevie Wonder’s brilliant song, “Living For the City” without that word. Even certain episodes of 70s era sitcoms employ the n-word in a way that is useful. Sometimes the right word really is one that shocks and offends. Aside from that, I have a serious problem with black and white thinking on almost any subject, as well as issues with authority. So when it comes to language use, Timmy and I will probably always butt heads.
But never mind the n-bomb. I don’t want to get into that discussion today. I want to write about my cousin’s use of the non-word, “fike”, and how it makes him seem kind of “fake” to me now. And that makes me sad.
I don’t understand using a non-word like “fike” when it’s clear that one actually means to say “fuck”. In this instance, Timmy wasn’t even swearing. It’s not like he was saying “fuck you” to someone, trying to debase them. Even our sweet grandmother, a woman I never once heard utter a “bad word”, sometimes quoted her mother, who would swear on occasion. In my mind, Timmy wasn’t cursing in the above example. He was quoting someone else. Mind you, he also referred to using a weapon on someone who was cursing. Frankly, I prefer someone who swears, to someone who is overly casual about using weapons. Isn’t it a bit “fucked up” that Timmy writes that he would have shot more of them for using “bad language” and taking pictures? But he wants to clean up his “vocabulary”… Hmm…
Seems to me that if you change letters in a word so that it no longer spells the bad word, but it’s obvious that the bad word is what you really meant, you’ve actually accomplished nothing in your goal of “cleaning up your vocabulary”. The thought was still there, and we all know what your intent was. If Timmy really wants to upgrade his vocabulary, he should say something else or use a different, but legitimate, word in the “bad word’s” place. But I suppose that’s too much to expect from someone who thinks that guns are less offensive than four letter words are.
You see, Timmy used to be a lot of fun. Yes, he got into trouble a lot, mainly because he drank too much, got into fights, and brought his guns into places he shouldn’t have. He’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie, too, and I think that influenced him to put himself in situations that made life more difficult for him and his loved ones. But when he was younger, he was free-spirited and loving. I remember him as kind to me when I was a little girl. He used to be one of my favorite relatives. I rarely got to see him when I was growing up, because he grew up in Texas and I grew up in Virginia. It was rare that his parents would bring him and his brothers to Virginia for our annual Thanksgiving shindig.
Years later, when my uncle retired from full time work, he bought a home in Virginia and resettled there with his wife, who passed away about ten years ago. Timmy and one of his brothers followed their dad east. I got to see and know my cousins more… at least the ones who came east. For awhile, Timmy was still fun. But then one day, he publicly declared himself an alcoholic and found religion (although I’m not sure he’s found Jesus yet). And now he’s drunk on religion instead of booze. I’m glad he quit drinking. His drinking legitimately got him into trouble. But it seems that he’s now traded alcohol for being a religious wingnut.
I find Timmy hard to talk to nowadays, mainly because he’s adopted this holier-than-thou smugness and seriousness that he didn’t used to have as much. He won’t say words like “shit” or “fuck”, and he’ll get upset when someone curses on his Facebook feed, but he’s ruder than ever in the way he talks down to people. I’ve seen him do it to Bill, but he is especially condescending to women– particularly women he thinks are too liberal. It’s clear to me that he looks down on people who are liberal and thinks he’s “smarter” than they are, to the point of not being willing to listen respectfully to what they have to say and learning from them, even if he disagrees.
Bill and I were talking about this yesterday. Bill thinks that sometimes, when people decide to change their lives by giving up vices such as drinking alcohol, they feel like they have to make amends for everything “bad” they did in the past. They worry excessively about offending God somehow, and they start going into overdrive, trying to become “better” people. But they don’t really recognize or change their behaviors, nor do they realize that by trying not to offend a perfect being (God), who should be above being “offended”, they annoy everybody else. They just change their obsession to something they think is more acceptable. In Timmy’s case, I think he traded boozing, cussing, and partying with being really pious, to the point of being obnoxious and insufferable.
I know that people involved in addiction recovery have a term known as “dry drunk” syndrome. Basically, it refers to a person who has stopped drinking or using drugs, but is still engaged in the negative behaviors and psychological maladies associated with their addiction(s), except for the drinking and/or drugging itself. One thing I’ve noticed among the alcoholics in my family is that they tend to be very controlling, overbearing, angry, and smug. That quality doesn’t go away when they stop drinking, although if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure that any of the alcoholics in my family ever permanently gave up the sauce. I know my dad was never able to. But they know they have a problem with booze, which only adds to the guilt, frustration, and “demon” load they’re already bearing.
One thing I’d like to tell Timmy, though, is that carrying weapons and “shooting” people who swear and take pictures is not Christlike behavior. It’s all well and good that he wants to clean up his vocabulary. If he really means it, that’s commendable. But I would much rather hear him let loose with a blue streak of cursing than see him champion gun rights people who have no qualms about shooting people they think are “punks”. And to be very honest, I suspect that Timmy has certain people in mind that he wouldn’t have issues with dispatching somehow. He would never admit it, of course, but I know he holds certain people in disdain. Again, it’s not very “Christlike” behavior, nor is it an admirable attitude. I’m sure God appreciates that one of the world’s flock has decided to say “fike” instead of “fuck”, but I’m sure he’d rather Timmy cuss than be violent. But I suppose not taking take the Lord’s name in vain is easier than not wanting to be violent.
Anyway… I know that Timmy really meant “fuck” when he wrote “fike”. And seeing him write “fike” is annoying, especially when he claims he’s only trying to “clean up his vocabulary”. As a self-identified English language snob, I wish he’d simply find a more creative but legitimate way to say what he means and mean what he says. And I wish he’d stop glorifying guns as he proclaims his love for Godliness. It’s just a load of horseshit… or “chicken shot”, if he prefers.