The Worst Word
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Much to my parents’ credit, my brother, John, and I remained sheltered from the word until he was six and I was eight. John heard Ansel, our next door neighbor, say a word that he assumed was Ansel’s own homemade swear. John and I made fun of Ansel for fabricating a swear until one evening during dinner, John announced to my parents that Ansel’s homemade swear word was “f--k.” This elicited a powerful response from my parents, and it immediately became clear to us that our vocabulary was seriously lacking.

“Don’t ever say that word again! That is the worst word in the whole world!” they sternly warned.

Naturally, our curiosity was piqued, and, though I decided to research the matter further on my own, young John could not help but experiment a bit, creating a vibrant array of prefixes and suffixes in a futile attempt to cleverly disguise his new-found word.

  
 
“F--k-a-nocerous!” he exclaimed.

Our parents exchanged nervous glances, and my mother said, “John, that’s enough” in her counting-to-three tone of voice.

Several minutes passed before John could not help but softly mutter, “Manna-f--k-a-nada.”

My father’s nostrils expanded as they were wont to do when he became incensed. “John! Enough!” he grunted.

For the next few minutes, the room was silent, but for the sounds of our father’s angry gnawing upon his pork chop bone. Then John uttered a very timid, “F--k-a-reno,” and my father whacked him in the head.

At this point, I was certain that I was lacking vital information and pondered upon how to glean it without getting whacked in the head myself.

The solution came to me early one Saturday morning while watching Big Blue Marble with John and waiting for my father to get up and make us flapjacks. I heard the creak of the bed, the thump of father’s footsteps in the hallway, and the subsequent bathroom noises. I waited for him to come out and put on the water for his tea before I padded softly into the kitchen.

“Daddy,” I said, “I know what all the other swear words mean. I know about the p-word and the s-word, but why is the f-word a swear? What does it mean?”

My father thought for a moment and then said, “One day God said it, and He just didn’t like the way it sounded, so He made it a swear.”

Certain that God would never be so unholy as to discriminate against a word merely because He perceived it to sound unappealing, I figured my father was too embarrassed to admit that he didn’t know the answer. I returned to the Big Blue Marble, chuckling softly at the image of God hanging out with Moses and the lambs and testing words. “Flink... fee... first... fly... f--k. Hmmm. F--k. That sounds like s--t! Hey, Moses, make ‘f--k’ a swear.”

Twenty-five years later, I finally got the dirt. You see, back in the day when you could get busted for it, it was merely a shop word for the crime: found under carnal knowledge. You know, kind of like A & B or DUI, only better for your health.

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