Paul Chappell

You make a good point, Paul, that when we broaden our vocabulary, we’ll have more thoughts to draw upon for self-expression.  Toastmasters is a good idea for those who need it.

I too am ex-Navy and am very talented at picking up new vocabulary!  I only tend to swear when I am angry. So, I just work at not being angry or frustrated. Incidentally, since l am no longer easily angered or frustrated, I find that I am much happier and healthier.


Now there’s a solution, Ex!  If we don’t get angry, we don’t even have cause to use the words!  And as you point out, if we aren’t angry our lives are better all the way around.  Well done.

Much like your parents, Kathy, it was my first child who inspired me to watch my language.  She determined the days of the week by her activities.  One day she asked me, “Is today, cartoon day?”  “No,” I replied.  “Is today church day?”  Again, “Nope.”  Scowling, she declared, “Not that d***ned ole Captain Kangaroo again!” 

I knew exactly where she had learned to string those kinds of words together and was stopped in my tracks!

I must admit, I come by it honestly.  My grandfather loved to take my youngest brother on farm chores.  The four-year-old would come home with a vocabulary that could stop adults in their tracks.  My mother laid down the law. “Rex,” she said, “I’m not going to let that child spend all day with you if he’s going to talk like that!”  

To give my grampa credit, he cleaned up the language.  This was no small feat considering it often takes blue language to restart a tractor.  Then, the inevitable happened.  Four-year-old Tiffer came home and announced, “You know, Mama, we don’t say S-O-B, unless we’re really, really mad, do we?”

During the years I worked as an international corporate trainer, I was asked to teach communication skills.  In many countries they were faced with the same dilemma.  I found that “stopping” didn’t work; replacement did.  Replacing bad words with good made the shift possible.

The best little axiom I’ve ever shared:  While many may be offended if you do swear, no one will be offended if you don’t!

JeanneLauree Olsen

JeanneLauree, that Captain Kangaroo story is a gem.  You’re right — you offend a whole lot fewer people by not swearing.  That was a great axiom.  Thanks for sending it.

 Our last letter today talks about an incentive program for breaking yourself of the swearing habit — or any habit.  Here it is:

I got rid of swearing long before I joined the Church and also discovered a very effective way to stop other bad habits if you are serious.

Just let all your friends know what you are trying to do and challenge them to help you. The wheels are further greased by adding an incentive bonus. Let them know you will pay them one dollar every time you use a cussword (or even a substitute) in their presence.  You can change, raise or decrease the amount according to your motivation level, but I know you will stop long before you go broke.

This system had several positive motivators for me.

First the more people I told, the more incentive and commitment I felt to stop.

Second, It made me very conscious of swearing. I no longer could just prattle on and disregard my choice of words. Swearing is a choice, even when you do it “automatically.”  The brain becomes wired to install those words for you almost instantly. It takes a bit of time to disconnect those words, but when you become aware of them, it can be done.

Thirdly, putting dollars on the table made it fun for everyone, even if it was costly for me at first. After awhile everyone was waiting as intensely as I was to see if I would swear.  The support was fantastic as well as hilarious.

And last of all was the feedback when I finally quit.  It was a win-win for everyone.

Much later I tried the same system while living on the West Coast and studying plants for a horticultural certificate. I told my kids what I was trying to accomplish and offered them fifty cents (my budget was much tighter then) for every plant they could point out while we drove places, that I could not identify with the Latin name. There are a lot of plants that grow in people’s gardens on the Coast but I was able to stop paying after two months.  I learned a lot of names and things about new plants and passed my exam.

Best wishes for success in kicking your habit.

Doug Garrett

Thanks for a great letter, Doug.  It makes me want a get a job so I can pay people the incentive money! 

Okay, readers, we’re on to a new topic next week. 

Until then — Kathy

 “County library? Reference desk, please. Hello? Yes, I need a word definition.

Well, that’s the problem. I don’t know how to spell it and I’m not allowed to say it.

Could you just rattle off all the swear words you know and I’ll stop you when … Hello?”

Calvin & Hobbes

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