Let’s start the week with a burst of energy, by exploring the expletive. Any more, we seem to have chosen the glorious F-bomb to underline just about everything we say. Things that I used to get my mouth washed out with soap for, children are videoed and promoted saying on YouTube. So much emotion comes into being with the choice of these words; so many memories of reprimands and raucous laughter. But are these words either appropriate or as powerful as they used to be?
Here I go back to the saying “familiarity breeds contempt.” This adage, dating back to the days of Chaucer, explains that the more familiar we are with a person or, in this case, energetic expression, the more likely we are to find fault with it.
I remember the first time another driver flipped “the finger” at me, I was totally shocked. The other driver succeeded in not only getting my attention, but upsetting my day, as I was so taken aback by the rudeness of being flipped off. Recently though, I’ve noticed that this gesture has become so common, people don’t seem to use it as much any more. It has become a gesture for unfortunate, emotionally challenged people who haven’t matured to better behaviors (or, as my mom used to say “low class” people). Passé.
The F-bomb, however, is found everywhere. It is written on bathroom walls, whispered among teens, and even found in the lyrics of popular songs. The writers in my critique group use it sprinkled like a fine spice in much of the writing there. I’ve used it even in my Daisy Arthur books (if you’re offended by this word, please skip chapter 24 in Faith On The Rocks). Why? Because the F-bomb captures current culture.
The problem for writers comes in when they use this word to describe characters who are supposed to be intelligent and suave, or let those characters use the word in their dialogue. Characters are described as much by their word choice in dialogue as in what they wear or how they behave. Word choice matters.
Daisy Arthur is not as verbally gifted as my mother-in-law was in her day. RMM was the kind of person who could chop you up finer than a paper shredder, walk away before all the pieces fell, and do it all without a single swear word.
So Daisy uses words like “darn!” or “doggone it!” or perhaps a “sugar” thrown in here and there. In some ways it may make the character seem a bit old fashioned. But what the Flip? Daisy’s my age for heaven’s sake. What is she supposed to say?
Have you a favorite expletive that isn’t so common? Want to share? Perhaps Daisy could pick it up as a new expression for her to use in the second Daisy Arthur mystery, “Sliced Vegetarian.”