As a caveat to my previous post, I feel it is necessary to include one exception to the Paulus-family-language-free-for-all. If there is one word my mother has always despised and to this day, will correct a grown man on the use of, it is the “s” word. She has physically reached across the table and implemented a choke-hold on my 6’2″ husband when he has let it slip.
To fully illustrate the reality of the s-word’s exception as the last sacredly vile and therefore unacceptable word in all of English diction, I take you back to the summer before my senior year: Cheerleading Camp, 1998.
I believe it was because our coach was technically too young to be in charge of eight high school girls in another state that my mother found herself chaperoning us to Pocatello, Idaho, for my 4th (and final) summer to attend Cheerleading Camp. (I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing about the fact that I was a cheerleader and reassure you before you go on that it is, in fact, true. And I was pretty good.) On one of the last nights, we were up late, being silly, debriefing the week, when my co-captain and then best friend Ruth exclaims (about who knows what), “Oh that sucks!” All week my mother had been correcting someone or another on the use of that word. I shuddered everytime I heard it, knowing my mother’s ex-smoker-Texas-twang would ring out of the bleachers, “Stop using THAT WORD!” On this particularly giggly evening, my mother had had enough.
“Ruth! Don’t say that word. You know how much I hate that word. It is fowl. It is awful. It makes you sound so, so— do you even know what that word means?! Where it came from?” (Dear God, no, I’m thinking. I do not need to hear the “It originated in the 60s…” lesson in front of my friends and coach right now.) Ruth, who damn well knows what it means responds, laughing, with, “Actually no, Mrs. Paulus. I thought I did, but now I’m not sure I know exactly what it means. Why is it such a big deal?”
The rest of the conversation is unnecessary, except to point out the kind of raw humiliation inflicted by my mother’s rasp, accent, and emphasis on the word oral. At this point, the rest of the evening is a bit of blur, but I seem to remember our coach laughing so hard she farted in her wooden chair, which was probably the icing, flowers, and little groom topper on the wedding cake of lessons that day.