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Uplifting Profanity
by Kevin Bennett

There was one week during childhood where I learned enough new words to out-cuss any jab on the playground. Words like "Shih-Tzu", and "Brothel," and one that's got four letters and begins with an 'f'—but not the one you think.

It started like this:

Monday as I got off the bus, I asked the driver about a word that just kinda came to mind: "What's a Shih-Tzu?"

He snorted: "A fecal emporium," and drove off.

That night I asked Dad: "Dad, what's a fecal emporium?"

"…A zoo full of crap?"

"That's a Shih-Tzu?"

"Er…no, but if the zoo only had that kind of dog, it would be," he laughed. Mom slapped him. Mom was always slapping people.

Dad's got humor, that's for sure. I was playing with my soup the next night, and had all the fixings to one side and the broth to the other, and I slapped my hands on the table and called out proudly: "Dam!"

Mum's hand goes on automatic for that kind of language, and it nearly knocked my baby teeth out. I howled: "A beaver dam! A beaver dam!"

Dad piped up: "Y'know, honey, a brothel."

Before I could ask what a brothel was, dad ducked so quick his plate impersonated a catapult and the cats had a head-on collision going for it, fighting over the meat and rolling into a plant which hit Mum, who made a sound like a goose that'd been goosed and went for the frying pan while Dad beat it up the steps.

Wednesday we were at the China-King uptown, and while we walked past the buffet Dad read from a dish: "Peking Pork," then turned with a grin; "They oughta' call that zipper-down, son."

I didn't get the joke 'till I was fifteen.

But the principal profanity came when I got home Friday looking troubled. The folks could tell, and thought they'd wait me out. Dad would shrug his shoulders, Mum would squint at him. Finally Dad asked: "Son, what's the—"

"I know the f-word!"

Mum was shocked: "Where did you hear it!?"

I played with my peas.  "Dad says it all the time…"

She turned very slowly, and I saw frying pans in her eyes. Dad went pale and his Adam's-apple jiggled. The cats got ready for catapulted meat—they figured the word was built on them. Looking at mom from the corner of his eye, Dad said: "Well… what is it, son?"

 "Are you sure you want me to—"

"For goodness-sake!  Say it or I'm lasagna—you won't get in trouble."

I leaned forward conspiratorially, looked around the room suspiciously, then whispered: "Fart."

The folks leaned back. Mum put a hand to her mouth and Dad mirrored her. I wondered why. When Mum spoke, she sounded choked up: "That's certainly a vulgar, nasty, horrible word."

"That's right, don't you use it—now, eat your peas; Mum and I will get desert."

I didn't know the wailing sounds from the other room were laughter 'till I was fifteen, either.