Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tales of My Childhood - The Dirtiest Word in the World

When I was five or six, I was out playing with my cousin, away from the grownups. We were of course fascinated by the adult world and each forbidden glimpse of it was a wonder. We often shared secrets as a way of feeling older and wiser.
Out of nowhere, she said, “Want to hear the dirtiest word in the world?”

Want to? WANT TO? Woman, I DEMAND TO! Such clandestine information would make me privy to a no doubt closely guarded adult secret—and what a secret! The dirtiest word in the world! This kind of power does not come cheaply. What did she want? I must act vaguely uninterested.

“You don’t know the dirtiest word in the world,” I said skeptically, hoping she’d now have tell me so as to prove her actual possession of such an artifact.

“I do too. It’s ****.”

****. Hmmmm. I hadn’t heard that one before. Not even when my dad hit his finger with a hammer. And I thought I’d heard every impolite term in the cursing dictionary then. Naturally, I doubted the veracity of this statement. Was she making this up? Or worse, was she mislead by another source, perhaps some kind of adult spy trying to throw us off the track of true knowledge? I had to carefully consider this one.

A few mornings later, after a day or two of consideration, I was sitting in the living room of our house. My mother was right around the corner in the kitchen, slightly out of sight, cooking breakfast. I decided to test my new vocabulary. I had to know if it were true.

“Mom,” I asked innocently, “What does **** mean?

You have to remember, this was before the dirtiest word in the world was regularly in movies, on TV, shouted by kids driving by your house and placed on billboards all over the U.S. It was still rather forbidden back then.

For a split second that lasted an eternity, there was an overwhelming silence and stillness in the air. Like when the earth is covered in a blanket of new snow that suppresses all the din of human existence and turns the earth into a wordless, soundless postcard. That was broken by the crash of a skillet of eggs smashing to the floor.

“WHERE DID YOU HEAR THAT?” For a split second I thought of ratting out my cousin, but this sounded like I was on to something. If this was the real goods, I couldn’t turn her in. It wouldn’t be right.

“I don’t rem...”

Now scream the next paragraph, pretending there is a period between each word, and you may come close to the way I heard it that morning:

“I don’t ever, EVER! want to hear you say that word again young man. DO YOU HEAR ME? Never! If I EVER hear that word from you again, I will immediately wash your mouth out with soap. DO YOU HEAR ME?

“Yeah, mom. I’m sorry.” Sorry I didn’t know sooner! This reaction guaranteed beyond any doubt that I now knew ... THE DIRTIEST WORD IN THE WORLD!

**** yeah!

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