Colorful Language

When I was a little kid, my dad used to tell me and my brother jokes, or use provocative turns of phrase (mostly provoking his mother-in-law), that relied on some mild but forbidden-to-children vocabulary. He knew how hard it was for us to stay bottled up and not shock the general public (or my mom’s folks), or cause our teachers to be up in arms. We were only moderately successful in not driving the conservatives to their fainting couches.

We attended a Protestant church (for a relatively short time), and I remember the following conversation when my dad came to get us from Sunday school, where the teacher had us all wait until the rest of the kids had gone:

Bluenose:  “Your sons used the s-word in class today.”

Dad: “You lucky bastard.”

Bluenose: “What?”

Dad: “What was it? Sin? Suckling? Boys, did you say ‘swine’?”

Bluenose: “You know what I mean.”

Dad: “Boys, don’t say ‘shit’ around Mr. Smith. It’s not in the Bible.”

Us: “Okay, Dad.”

Dad: “Say ‘sodomy’ instead. That’s a Bible word. Say it: Sah-dah-me.”

Us (chanting and marching): “Sah-dah-ME! Sah-dah-ME! Sah-dah-ME!”

Bluenose is not happy.

Dad: “See? A little ‘shit’ isn’t so bad, is it?”

Bluenose: “I will report this to the Bluenose Board.” [I paraphrase here.]

(In the background: “Sah-dah-ME! Sah-dah-ME! Sah-dah-ME!”)

Dad: “You should tell them I told you to ‘fuck off’.”

(In the background, sudden silence as we stare at Mr. Smith.)

Bluenose: “Why would I…” as the light dawns.

Dad: “Fuck… off.”

So, yeah, my dad was not the reason that we went to church. 

He offered us the right amount of scaffolding to help keep us from feeling ostracized and muzzled. Crucially, he had learned this from his father. Dad would also tell us about some of the things that grampa would say in order to: a) amuse his well-belovéd son, b) tease our grandmother (although she might have preferred the word “annoy”), and c) establish his radical visibility in a world that didn’t know ‘autism’ by name, and where Tourette Syndrome wasn’t much older than he was.

So here’s the song about my grampa’s sayings (that we heard about a lot).

Here are the lyrics.

And here is the obituary.

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