Meridian readers have lots to say today in an effort to help an ex-sailor clean up his language.  But first, we have a thank you letter from “Wounded,” who wants to let us know how much she appreciated your letters on forgiveness.

Will you please extend my gratitude to your readers for their sensitive, thoughtful, wise, honest, and spiritual comments to my question about how we learn to forgive others?  I can’t even begin to express the peace I felt when I realized that each of those people who responded, and quite possibly many who didn’t, prayed for me.  That knowledge has blessed me in so many ways, and their wise counsel has given me great hope and helped me to realize many things. 

  1. The Savior will take my burden.  I loved that each person brought the process of forgiveness back to Jesus Christ and laid it at His feet.  My testimony of Him has grown immensely and I felt the Spirit testify so strongly while reading those comments. 

  2. I am not alone in my challenges.  Even though I sometimes feel that I am making this journey alone, the realization that many others have struggled and been so greatly blessed has given me hope.  Each letter felt like a personal message of love, hope, and healing just for me. 

  3. Finding that peace takes time.  I think sometimes I want the blessing and I want it now.  But hearing so many say that it will take time has allowed me to look beyond this moment and not be so hard on myself.  

I love the Lord, and I love that all of you helped me to feel His love as you honestly shared your own personal trials and helped me feel hope in mine.  Thank you so much, and please know that I also prayed for each of you, asking the Lord to continue to bless you as you have so richly blessed me. 
Thanks, Wounded.  I’m sure the people whom you have thanked are glad to know that their time in writing wasn’t wasted, and that their advice found root in your soul.  May God bless you on your journey.

Now, on to a lighter subject.  Get out your bars of soap, and see what our readers have to say about four-letter words:

I have a swearing problem myself.  Growing up I heard it all around me, but I did not succumb until I was in culinary school and became a chef.  Sailors have nothing on chefs.  When I converted I got rid of most of it, but there was some residual swearing that would pop up like an unwelcome visitor in times of stress. 

When my kids started annoying me with the unacceptable responses of “So?” or “Whatever,” I made them a deal.  We had a white board above our kitchen table.  Every time they caught me swearing they would put a mark by my name, and every time I caught them I’d put a mark by theirs.  That way we could work on this together.

At that time we lived in an icy place with a driveway that sloped down.  I had to back out of this driveway in a large SUV.  Most of my verbal slips involved sliding backwards on ice.  I thought I was off the hook because it was spring and there was no more ice.  One day I was backing out fast and did not see the car parked behind me across the street.  I backed right in to it and naturally I let fly a bit.  My kids were overjoyed because they had caught me swearing.  They were very cheerful while I went in and knocked on the door to find out whose car it was and exchange insurance information.  I will never forget their joy at my slip-up.

I do think there may be a genetic component, which my daughter picked up.  Her paternal great-grandfather was famous for giving talks with lots of long pauses because he swore so much it was difficult to speak in church.  We even have a talk recorded, pauses and all.  He was in a bishopric in Utah so I don’t think it was a fatal flaw.

Only one of my kids, my daughter, has picked up a swearing habit.  None of us has trouble with the Lord’s name in vain because we know what it means — likewise the F word — but there are so many others out there.  Sailor needs to know that lots of us struggle with this, and it is just part of our ongoing self-improvement.  I think many other things are more important, and he sounds like a very good person.  We can work on this like we would our food storage, one bit at a time with both progress and backsliding.

Formerly Foul-Mouthed in California

Because I watch a lot of cooking competition shows, Formerly, I can certainly attest that chefs may give sailors a run for their money. 

I was most interested in the joy your teens got from the time you slipped up when you, well, slipped down(hill).  It’s good for kids to see their parents aren’t perfect, especially when the parents repent afterwards and try to do better.

I like Zsa-Zsa Gabor’s solution.  She substitutes “bad word-bad word”  for swear words.  That still got her arrested in Paris where the police don’t like folks “swearing” at them, but it is better that the actual words.

I use the word “rats” as a substitute.  And I remind myself that I’m choosing to lose control when tempted to swear.  That thought usually reins in my vocabulary.

Hope this helps others. 


I confess to having used “rats” myself, Donna.  But even more I like Zsa-Zsa Gabor’s “bad word-bad word.”  It brings humor to a situation that would otherwise have none.  Zsa-Zsa may be smarter than most people give her credit for.

When I think about swearing, a few things have surprised me — particularly that there is a Mormon version of swearing. 

A friend went to live in a place with a high concentration of Mormons, loved it there, served in leadership positions, and otherwise thrived.  Upon return to our area, we had occasion to visit at a church function and I was taken aback at my friend’s altered vocabulary.  The incredibly frequent use of “Flip” this and “Frickin’/Freaking” that, that peppered this friend’s conversation, was disconcerting. 

We talked for ten or fifteen minutes, and the language used was an accurate equivalent and intonation of what the mainstream word would be. I was surprised to note that the conversation also  felt pretty close to the equivalent verbal assault it would have been were this individual using the non-LDS version. 

As Latter-day Saints, perhaps we might give pause to considering other words often used in our culture, and their root, or what we are trying not to say and how we are still indirectly or unwittingly saying it.

My nonmember uncle, whose conversations is liberally sprinkled with uses of Heavenly Father’s and the Savior’s names both deliberately in vain,  and as casual exclamation, once switched up and in the tone of an epithet,  spat out “Joseph Smith!”  In so doing, he unwittingly demonstrated that anything can be used in the tone of a curse, (though he may also have been attempting to cause offense by implying that Joseph is our Jesus).

The point was made quite clearly for me that substitutions still convey profanity.

Think about some of the things you hear someone say who liberally sprinkles his conversation with the Lord’s name in vain.  How different are, “Oh Brother!” “Oh Man!” “Cripes!” “Gosh!” “Holy DInah!” — and others?  Essentially this is the Mormon version of swearing.  Aren’t “Brother,” “Man,” and “Cripes” really simply watered-down or indirect versions of our heavenly brother and Saviour’s name?

As someone once said, “Those that don’t believe in gosh are going straight to heck!” “Crud” and “Crap,” as well as “Oh Sugar!” (also frequently used euphemisms), are merely that. 

President Kimball said something like, “Profanity is the attempt of a feeble mind to express itself.”

For me it is about being/becoming articulate enough that I am able to communicate without epithets and exclamations that, at best, are inane exclamations, and at worst are our LDS culture’s versions of acceptable cursing. 

Another thing I have found interesting is how our mind automatically substitutes the intended word when we read a substitute.  Everyone has seen that email that circulates regularly that shows a sentence that you read effortlessly and accurately despite the fact that the sentence is missing vowels or misspelling a number of words. The point is that even thought misspelled, our mind makes up the difference to interpret the meaning, particularly with commonly used words.

In an effort to improve our viewing experience, we purchased a program called TV guardian, which edits out profanity on television shows by muting the audio and substituting a written text when swearing occurs. It was interesting (and somewhat humorous when the word doesn’t fit well) to see the words they chose to substitute for commonly used curses. For example the ‘f’ word is replaced with “Wow,” “sex” is replaced with ‘Hugs,” and references to a body part are replaced with “form.”. 

Even though the words are meant to omit the language, and omitting them enables the viewer to avoid physically hearing them, we still know (like it or not) what was intended. 

It is also important to avoid subjecting ourselves to poor language.  Movies, even decent ones, manage to slip in regrettable language and innuendo quite frequently. 

For this reason, we use a couple of excellent resources (one is Clear Play, a device hooked up to the  PVR or DVR that enables you to download an edited version of most movies with filters for everything from gore and violence, to sex scenes and language). It is very effective and makes watching a movie with your family risk-free.

We can do better.  The first thing is to just spend a few days noticing what words you or your family use. Then examine what they are the equivalent of, and finally, with that knowledge, focus on becoming more articulate.  Say what you mean, convey your enthusiasm, dismay or surprise with words, not slang. It’s surprisingly less difficult than one might think.

I learned another little tip that from a darling girl in my Activity Days class a few years ago.  (Her parents review movies for families and provide an online review called Parent Preview that is an excellent resource to  help you avoid movies with inappropriate content.)  Class members were telling stories of their week relating to the lesson, and hers included someone using bad language.  Instead of saying he used the “s” word or whatever, she said “He used the mystery word.”

I was curious and asked her about it.  She explained that her older sister learned this tip in seminary from her teacher, Thad Mandin, and her sister had taught it to her.  (Never think Seminary doesn’t sink in!)   Together they chose not to use the initials of bad words and instead, they say “mystery word.”   This conveys that inappropriate language was used, but doesn’t cause the listener to recall/think/complete the word they way using an initial does.  Brilliant, eh?  

I cannot say that I have never sworn.  If suddenly scared, or about to hit a car or something, I have been known to use a “mystery word” myself.  It is involuntary — at least, that’s whatI thought until I was once again with my Activity Days girls on an outing and my hand was accidentally slammed in the door. Believe me, it hurt like — well, it was intense. However, in the millisecond of reacting to the pain, I did recall who I was and whom I was with, and did not use a mystery word.  So I know it is possible. 

Perhaps part of our being a “peculiar people” can include omitting euphemistic cursing as well. Certainly clean speech sets us apart in the most positive way.

My only question now is what about things like “Good Heavens!” “Thank Heavens!” or, “Oh my Goodness!”  Are these harmless, or are they also euphemistic replacements for the common vernacular substituting “Heavens” and “Goodness” for God? If these also apply, and I think they likely do, then our sailor brother is in good company with more Saints than he might have thought and we can work together on this issue. 

What’s your opinion?


Curious, right now I’m too flummoxed to have an opinion!  I had never heard half the expressions you mentioned in your letter.  I guess it comes from living on the East Coast, but the expressions in your letter (and in other letters today) were completely foreign to me. 

I love “mystery word,” though.  Like Zsa-Zsa Gabor’s “bad word-bad word,” it adds a little humor to a situation, and there’s certainly nothing your mind can substitute for it in an effort to fill in the blanks.

I have one suggestion to avoid swearing. When I was about 10 years old and I had yet not come in contact with the LDS Church, my mom and I used to attend a Protestant service on Sundays, where — just as Christians everywhere do — we sang hymns.

At that age, I had a potty mouth that can be compared, in Book of Mormon language, to the filthiness of the river that Lehi saw in his dream.  My mom solved the problem one day by asking me, “Is that the same mouth with which you sing hymns at church on Sunday?”  I could see her point.

Years later, I have become a high school teacher and bishop. So, whenever I hear a non-LDS student use foul language, I simply ask him, “Is that the same mouth with which you eat?” Or, “Is that the same mouth with which you kiss your mom or dad?”  (Surprisingly, some of them say, “Yes!”  Then I just say, “You could do a little cleaning anyway.”)

At church, if I happen to hear someone swearing, I say, “Is that the same mouth with which you partake of the sacrament and sing ‘I am a child of God?’” I have noticed that these people have watched their mouths more carefully from that moment on (at least when I’m around).

Bishop Gabriel A. Cánepa
Hipolito Irigoyen Ward
San Luis Argentina Stake

Bishop, your letter reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s counsel (1 Corinthians 8) that — and I paraphrase — we’ll be accountable far more for what comes out of our mouths than what goes into it.  I like your mother’s suggestion that we are profaning our bodies when we use the same mouths that we use to pray when we swear.

  It’s worth thinking about.

Avoid, if possible, the company of others who use bad language.  It is definitely contagious.  I was raised not to swear, but have at times had jobs where my co-workers did.  On those occasions I found I started slipping some of their words into my conversation.

On the subject of substituting words, I agree that it’s not the perfect solution — especially when the substitution is easily identifiable for the original word.  My husband sometimes says “Good Godfrey,” but what is really unfortunate is when he sometimes substitutes adds in a name of one of our children who have the misfortune of having names beginning with “D.” (He might say “Godfrey David,” for example.)  They really hate having their names turned into swearwords. 

So, I would suggest, when substituting, use something totally silly and having no consonant sounds in common with the offensive word.  (I have to admit, though, that “sugar” certainly sounds better than its counterpart!)   “Cragusflaget cretisfram” is one of my favorites.  Hopefully, the total silliness of it will be enough to diffuse the anger that often is behind the swearing in the first place.


Wow.  I’d never heard of “Sugar” as a swearword.  Now I’ve heard it twice in ten minutes!

 I totally agree with you about swearing being contagious.  I picked up a swearword from my sister, years ago, because she has the cutest little squeaky voice with a Southern accent on top of it, and the word sounded hilarious coming from her.  I used it for years, until it occurred to me that I have neither the squeaky voice nor the Southern accent, and the same word that sounded so endearing coming from her did not sound endearing at all when it came fro me.  Later I told her I’d picked up that word from her, and she said, “Kathy, I stopped using that word twenty years ago.”  That’s how long a habit can last once you pick it up!

I’m a person who needs to work on this too.  I normally don’t but sometimes I’ll use the “d” word around extended family or friends if they’ve used it first.  I feel really stupid admitting this because basically I was trying to feel like I fit in.

One day I was reading scriptures when 3 Nephi 12:34-37 struck my heart.  As I was pondering on verse 37 about, “whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil,” I realized that it’s about controlling our tempers and our tongues.  It is part of self-mastery and letting our spirit rule over our body.

Another article that really helped me was Elder Holland’s talk from April 2007 General Conference called “The Tongue of Angels.  This reminds us of how powerful our words really are.

I hope this helps.

Not Swearing

Mesa, Arizona

Thanks for a suggestion pointing us to a great talk, Not.  Also, It’s a help to be reminded of the Savior’s words on the subject.

Here’s another viewpoint on the matter:

I believe David is aiming too high.  Language is a fascinating thing.  It is perhaps the biggest cause of misunderstandings.  The same word can have different meanings to different people; if one is offended by a word that doesn’t offend someone else, who is right?

Substituting for swearing is not necessarily using a synonym.  I might have to agree that saying “horsepucky” is a substitute for the more common term regarding male bovine feces, but I consider it preferable and much less offensive.  I believe substituting for a cussword is an act of respect.  It demonstrates my consideration to all listeners.

Back in my college days, I studied German and picked up on a great “cussword” that I used very extensively.  It was donner vetter.  I loved it.  It means “thunder weather.”  Where is the harm in that? 

When I’m really P.O.ed, (No! No!, That means “put out” — where is your mind?) I like to use a string of words; it helps calm me down.  I get rid of steam, vent, and gain control just to say them in “proper” sequence.  I blurt out “Pick! Bite! Barf! Frump!”  By the time I get to the last word, I’m in a better mood and haven’t hurt a soul.

I say substitute your heart out, and be creative.

“Mule-Skinner” Mel

Love your sense of humor, “Mule-Skinner”!  Your string of words brought a smile to my face.

I spent my high school years among a culture that used swearing frequently. I did use substitutes, like “yay-who” (spelled yahoo), and “Ki-use” (spelled cayuse) as funny terms to lighten the mood, and then deal with the issue at hand.  (I later found that “Cayuse” was an Indian tribe, as well as their breed of horse, so I stopped that.)

I had a young man, while in high school, who took no small pleasure in trying to embarrass, harass and otherwise make my life difficult. In the locker room, one time, he stepped onto a bench and proceeded to act like a monkey.  I said, “Look at this classic example of a Neanderthal!  Note the low brow and pronounced jaw.”  It took the steam out of him.

The moral of the story is to broaden your vocabulary.  Join Toastmasters International and learn to express yourself in front of others.  It will improve your vocabulary and critical thinking skills.  They practice impromptu speaking, as well.

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