Warning: @#$%! language ahead!
When my sis and I were little kids, like in scores of other households, swear words were a complete taboo. Although at that time, we were still in the infantile stage as far as our swear word vocabulary was concerned. We had never even heard of the f-word or the s-word or the a**h*** word and their variants. Instead we used words like idiot, goose, fool, ninny and idjit (the last two were borrowed from some Enid Blyton novel - they have roughly the same meaning as fool and idiot) as insults. When we were really upset, we used to use bloody-fool and bastard.
Now, while the former set of words were still considered to be in the realm of decency, my parents did not like us using the last two words. Using them resulted in a terrible scolding or a sharp slap on the back from mom. This, of course, made it into a useful blackmail tool. Whenever one of us inadvertently, between ourselves, during a fight, used these words, the other would gleefully pounce upon it and say "Ha, I am going to tell mummy!" And thus would begin the pleading and the bargaining for silence!
The funny part in this story is not that we did not know the meaning of bastard then. Yes, we did not know the meaning. But even more interesting was the fact that we did not even know the spelling of the word. Hence we both spelt it as "basket" based on what we thought the villains said in the Tamil movies (bastard used to be a very favorite bad word for villains those days). I even used to wonder why "basket" had such an bad reputation when used as a swear word and not when in normal usage! Ah, the innocence of childhood!
Anyways, as I grew, my swear vocabulary also grew. As in, I at least knew the meanings of the common swear-words. Somehow I still couldn't bring myself to use most of them myself. Yup - I even stayed away from the s*** word! Even now I remember what one of my English teachers in school said. "Why dont you translate 'bull-shit' into Tamil and use it? If you think it sounds bad in Tamil, why do you think it is cool to use it in English?" Hmm, something to ponder about!
And then it was time to enter college. Of course, colleges have their own unique lingo which adds much color to any language. I used to find some of the insults very funny without them being offensive. My hostel friends, especially S, came up with their own specialities "Soplaangi" and "Gulbeku" are two insults which I use with great relish till date :-)!
When I set off to the US, my English teacher's words were still ringing in my ears. To my shock, as soon as I landed here, I realized that the word "shit" was something which people used for describing anything and everything. "Shit man! I forgot to read the journal paper." "Oh shit, its my cooking turn today!" "She really said that? No shit!" and so on! It was not long before the s-word became a very well-used part of my everyday vocabulary.
And then of course, there was the great f-word. In India, among my circle of friends, you could see the looks of horror on everyone's faces if this word came out from anyone's mouth. Whereas, in Davis, among other people, it was one of roomie R's favorite words! I remember our friend V once brought down a heavy book on her head to stop her from using it! I think the she stopped using the word only as long as the ringing lasted in her head :-)! In any case, pretty soon, I no longer cringed upon hearing the word. But surprisingly enough, it did not enter my list of "usable" words. Till date, the only time I ever use the f-word is - in my head - when I am driving and another driver makes me mad! The a** word and its variants I use when I am really, really angry - but otherwise those are off-limits too!
Using swear words is a way to vent off steam. A much better way than hurting someone or causing property damage. Still, somehow that childhood training is so ingrained in my head that I cannot use filthy language without getting a very yucky feeling! Same with reading any book or article which contains too much foul language. Like one of the characters in the Flavors movie (before the character is encouraged to drink and lose all his wordly inhibitions), the number of times I repeat the swear words from my limited allowed-swear-word vocabulary rather than their intensity is an indication of how frustrated I am!
BTW, here is the disclaimer: Let not all the above declarations lull you into a false sense of security that I am Ms. Goody-two-shoes or something, because I am NOT. Or maybe you can get lulled - at your own risk ;-) X->!