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Hyperion April 27, 2000

#5 And the horse on which you rode in

“When angry, count ten. When very angry, swear.” ~Mark Twain

Most of us like to swear on occasion but are unable to do so or feel uncomfortable for various reasons, such as: a) Our work environment is such that swearing would not be conducive for sales, teamwork, or our continued employment; b) We cannot escape our upbringing, much like an abused kid or a Lutheran (I am NOT making any comparison) and we feel guilty every time we give in and cuss; c) We are constantly harassed by our mothers about our language even though they have been known to say a swear word or two (this is a much bigger problem than you would think); d) We are the Pope.

Swearing can be good for us. It relieves tension and helps us get through our day without resorting to violence or declaring sanctions. And MOST of us swear. This is the only serious point I am going to make so listen (read) up. Swearing is a state of mind, not a word. Someone who says “Drat” or “Fiddlesticks” in a moment of anger or vexation is just as guilty, if we can use that term, as someone using one of the more known epithets. In fact, many times someone who uses a four letter word is just using the word out of habit like a teenager saying “whatever” or our brother-in-law incessantly saying “um” after every third word until the tension gets so great we either have to beat him to death with a large stick or….swear. In these cases one could make the case the “swearer” is less guilty than the do-gooder saying “fooey” and “darn”.

I am not making that claim. What I am saying is that swearing is a natural thing for humans to do when the situation calls for it. Unfortunately, though, because of perception and surroundings, it is not always advisable. Therefore, what I have done is to supply you, dear reader, with some alternative swear words that you can use without fear of reprisal. No one will know what you are saying! As an added benefit, you could start a completely new trend among your peer group at school, church, or the Miami Herald.


This comes to me by way of my friend and coworker T.J. Dolan. He says “Elian!” in a rising voice, as if he were looking for him at sea (ok, bad joke). The trick here is to elongate the “ahhn” as much as possible, so it comes out at “Eliaaaaaaaaan”. It may sound stupid, but try it and see how fun it is! Along these same lines, “For the love of Elian!” works great for many occasions and has the added benefit of irony. Use it in place of “For _________’s sake!” and I think you will see the same benefit.


This comes from the show Seinfeld. George Constanza’s father would say this as a plea for deliverance from whatever trial he was experiencing. Let’s say you are at a fast food restaurant and the worker behind the counter was just released from jail, has been sniffing glue for several years, and is trying to flirt with the cook (if you think this is exaggerated you haven’t been out much). Instead of using the normal swear words when your order of a hamburger, large fries and a coke comes out as two fortune cookies and marinara sauce you can yell out “Serenity Now!” and feel imminently more satisfied.


Winfield S. Scott was a commander in the U.S. army in the 1800’s and was much disliked for, among other things, his utter pretension. Nicknamed “Old Fuss and Feathers”, the term Great Scott came into vogue as a mockery for how important he thought he was. You could still use that, or you could update the expression for today with something like “Great Trump!”, “Great Perot!”, “Great Rodman!”, “Great Regis!” or even “Great Roseanne!” (this last one has an added feature of a double entendre). You can even fill in the name of an arrogant boss and chances are he/she will think you are giving a compliment. Two more choices with the Great theme are “Great Dane!” and “Great Ball of String!” The former is, of course, a dog, and I just think it is funny. The latter is a book my father read to me repeatedly as a child and although he never let on in my presence, I have it on good authority that he became so sick of the book that even to this day if you were to hold the story in front of him he would have some sort of Vietnam-type flashback and get very angry and be forced to swear. And the circle is complete.


When someone lies to us, we sometimes accuse them of being full of “crap”, if I may use the mildest of the terms. On occasion we throw in the lineage of a cow or horse, for reasons I am not altogether sure why. Personally, the manatee or the spotted owl would seem to be much better choices, but then again if I were in charge we would never be burdened with the curse of Daylight Savings Time, so, what are you going to do. But I digress. Rather than getting scatological when someone withholds the truth from us, wouldn’t it make more sense to compare his or her actions to something equally fake? This is where “Purple Horse” comes in. Other than My Little Pony action figures and reckless drivers, everyone knows purple horses are not real. It would be a perfect epithet, and much more appropriate in front of your grandmother (unless she collects My Little Pony action figures or lives in Florida, in which case she is by definition a reckless driver).


This word is pronounced Pizzmire, and means ant. However, it sounds cool. Spoken in a broken off fashion the desired effect of swearing truculently is achieved. This could work with many such words. Look up something obscure in your dictionary and then adapt it to swearing.


This phrase comes from Psalms 137:1 (“By the Waters of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion”) More recently Stephen Vincent Binet wrote a science fiction short story about someone in the future going over a post-apocalyptic New York and finding religious significance in skyscrapers and everyday sights. It is an evocative expression that will make you sound smart and give your swearing a little cachet. Use it when something upsetting has happened but you do not want to resort to raw emotion. Oh, and read the story (both the Binet and the Bible).

OH MY ______

People have been saying “Oh my God!” and the like for a while now. It never made much sense to me. It seems somewhat selfish, for one thing. One thing to clear up: this does NOT violate the Third Commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of thy Lord God in vain”. This commandment refers to swearing to God, as in “ I swear to God I will never eat another piece of chocolate as long as I look like a beached whale!” Apparently, in Bible times, Swearing by God was serious business, and if I recall correctly some guy had to kill his daughter because of it. Therefore, unless you are Kathy Lee Gifford’s father this is NOT a good idea. Saying “Oh my God”, however, is not a sin. However, you may still offend people. I suggest you pick someone famous from history and try him or her. “Oh my Genghis Kahn!” is a good choice. “Oh my Monte Cristo!” is another one, unless you are in a Benigans restaurant and then confusion may result. You can also combine this with Elian Gonzalez for a double whammy (see above)


Sometimes you are truly vexed, frustrated, and upset to the point of wanting to harm yourself by listening to NSYNC songs. Here there is only one thing to do. Pull the ultimate swear word out of your pocket. I recommend just the Barbra, unless something VERY awful happens, like the election of Bill Clinton to a third term or the cancellation of Sportscenter, in which case it would be appropriate to add the Striesand.

Well, I hope these alternative swear words will be helpful for you. If you have any more write and let me know and if they are any good, I will include them in an update later on. Until then, for the Love of Elian, keep the Purple Horse to a minimum and be good, or by the Waters of Babylon I’ll sick Babs on you. I swear.



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