I like to think I somewhat understand the power of words. It's something I think about a lot, why a particular story strikes me or not. It inevitably gets down to the words.
My kids could probably repeat verbatim my policy on cussing. "It's just words," I tell them. "To me, those particular words don't hold a lot of power." (This is because they're trash words, almost on a par with qualifiers or adverbs.) "But you must be aware that words, and especially THOSE words, hold a lot of power over other people. So my advice is to not cuss at all because it'll slip out when you least expect, or want, it."
My kids saw FABULOUS MR FOX and I guess they inserted the word "cuss" every time one was appropriate in dialogue. Well done, writers. The kids thought it was HI-larious.
My kids have/do cuss. I've called them on it myself. When they've tattled on someone else doing it, my first response is: "Oh, and let me guess, my little angel never joined in, right?" My oldest, who inherited my husbands ability to lie (as in, none at all) always collapses into giggles. When the second one is old enough, she'll look me in the eye and tell me "No, Mom, I didn't." And I'll believe her because she's that good. At lying, that is. But I have no illusions that they haven't inherited my potty mouth. And the husband? He's turned cussing into an art form.
I always like to tell the story, and I probably have here, too, when I lost my purse in Target. I picked up the wrong cart and pushed it an aisle or two away, distracted because we were looking at toys. And then I realized.
"Kids, I lost my purse!"
And both kids (something like 6 and 3 at the time) said, "SHIT!"
In the toy aisle.
I just laughed (after I found my purse).
Now don't get me wrong. I love the word fuck, from the act to the versatility of the word. What other word works in so many grammatical, er, positions? But as for power, using the word fuck, even in unusual circumstances or polite company, isn't going to shock me. It's not a word that has power over me.
Yesterday at a store I listened to this guy on the phone talk about this "bitch" he'd met and fucked at a party. He just went on and on and on. It was all "bitches" this and "hanging with my homies" that . (I mean, seriously, haven't we given up talking like that yet? I thought that went out at least half a decade ago.) It was all big talk, obviously for the sake of whoever he was talking to. But after awhile I could tell "bitches" is just how he refers to ladies, and that he actually liked this "bitch" and I was laughing to myself, thinking you better not call her that to her face or she's going to break your heart, homey. But maybe not. Maybe for their culture "bitches" is a compliment. Or maybe he'll give up talking that way cuz he just found the love of his life. How do I know? And after all, it's just a word, with all the power or lack thereof attributed it by the receiver.
Which leads me to think of power and and that everything everyone does all day long must be a struggle for power. I wonder what it would be like if everyone removed power from the equation, not only in the form of words, but in all non-verbal language and action. Would it be boring?
Fuck, I bet it would.