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There's no such thing as a 'Bad' Word

A Letter to Khalil


“I sure as hell can't tell you we learned about hell unless I say ‘hell’, can't I?”—Bart Simpson

As soon as you started running around with the kids in the compound where you grew up in, it became inevitable that you started throwing things at each other besides, karate kicks, punches, sticks and stone.  Pretty soon "words" became part of the arsenal.  Having been a kid once, I know well enough that no matter how much it is "don't say bad words" is repeated, a bad word is ultimately exchanged.  And no matter how much we say that "sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me", we know how words can be used to commit premeditated murder with precision.

I explained to you when you were in grade school that there is no such thing as a “bad” word. The real reason why I taught you that is because I wanted you to feel safe with me when I ask you to share “stuff” which you may have heard. Ultimately, our communication with each other was paramount and “bad” words should never get in the way of our transparency with one another. I have heard all the “bad” words in my lifetime and nothing out there really freaks me out anymore and I assured you that your mentioning them would not get me ballistic and end up washing your mouth with soap.

I still remember our “bastard” conversation? I keep repeating that in my lectures because I think it captures our experience and understanding. You asked what “bastard” meant and I simply explained that it described someone who had dubious paternity. As an insult it puts into question the integrity of the mother hinting that she may be sleeping around with multiple partners either because of loose morals or maybe even as a profession. You followed up by asking if it was the same as “son of bitch,” to which I replied in the positive. That is an allusion to the female dog (bitch) whose mating habits allow for multiple partners. But then again, I wondered why the poor bitch gets the flak; we are at the end of the day insulting the poor bitch because, come to think of it, mating habits of cats and horses are just about the same as dogs, but you never hear of anyone calling a man “son of a tabby” or cursing a woman “you mare!” No, the poor bitch has to get it. Much as we are both cat fanciers and prefer kittens to puppies anytime, we have to stand side by side with dog lovers and protest to redeem the dignity of the bitch. Mabuhay ang bitch! Ipaglaban ang dignidad ng bitch! I digress.

That’s the same for the poor bulls as well. What is so wrong with their shit that it becomes a cuss word?” Like isn’t our own poop, the horses’ manure and the crocodile’s dung just as disgusting? Like “dung” is also a four letter word as well and sounds like “damned!” Oops…

Lots of times we simply insult animals. “Eat like a hog.” Like if we did eat like pigs we would probably be healthier because pigs are known to chew their food well. Then I heard you say something like “having the attention span of a weasel.” Come on, with your attention span? You are insulting the weasel.

Speaking of “bad” words, one that had me wondering for so long is the word “procure.” French in origin, it simply means “to purchase” or “to rent out.” It has a specific use though and that has to do with buying the services of a prostitute. These days it is almost used exclusively by the government and the military (“The Air Force procured new fighter planes”) which leads me to think that there is always something illegal, immoral or shady when the government “buys” something.


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