Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 16, 1967
NUMBER 40, PAGE 10b-11a

"Quit Yo' Cussin' Or Watch Your Language!

Jack L. Holt

Brethren, I come before you as one in dire need of help. Euphemistically speaking; that is. I have been a member of the Lord's body for a few years and I had thought that I was making progress in the faith. But, alas, my failures have caught up with me and I find that I stand guilty of gross sins. I have discovered that for, lo, these many years I have been a "cusser." Yes, (sigh) 'tis true. Maybe just a "euphemistic cusser," but a cusser nevertheless.

The only plea I offer in my defense is that I did it ignorantly in unbelief. I have been indicted by Webster's Dictionary and human failure. I now abhor myself and repent in coveralls and coffee grounds. (I am fresh out of sackcloth, and ashes just "ain't" to be had.) Bear with me and maybe I can grin up a few tears.

Mr. Webster, at the hands of a few brethren, has "euphemistically" confounded me proving by the definitions that I am a transgressor. I refer primarily to the following article which has made the rounds of the bulletins. It has been given editorial blessing here and there and has been set before the brotherhood as if it is law and gospel. With malice toward none, with a Mona Lisa twinkle in eye, I submit it with a few remarks.

"Watch Your Language"

"Many of us use words and expressions everyday without stopping to think what they really mean. Some of them are idle words; some are slang words and phrases; some are modified curse words; some are used to express strong feeling or surprise but have no place in the Christian's vocabulary.

"I am here calling attention to some common euphemisms. A euphemism is "the use of a word or phrase that is less expressive or direct but considered less distasteful, less offensive, etc. than another." Webster's Unabridged Dictionary lists the following that I want you to notice:

GOSH - "euphemism for God. "

GOLLY - "euphemism for God."

GEE - "euphemistic contraction of Jesus."

DARN OR DERN - "Damn, a euphemism for the curse.

DOGGONE - "An imprecation, or perhaps remodeling of God damn."

HECK - "An exclamation used as a euphemism for hell."

CONFOUND - "Damned, a mild oath."

"Now think about some of these expressions we hear so often and note what they really mean. When someone says, "Gee, isn't it hot!" that really means, "Jesus, isn't it hot." "Oh, heck fire!" That is a mild way of saying, "Oh, hell fire." "My gosh" actually means, "My God. "Oh, dern it," means "Oh, damn it." To say "the weather is too confounded hot," is to say the "weather is too damned hot." (End of Article)

Now, brethren, you can see what I classify myself as a cusser. There are times when I am in such stress, trial and excitement that I say, "gee," or "golly," - at least! I believe, brethren, I ask that you "help thou my unbelief."

During childhood and the "teens," there were a number of days that I stood twixt the handles of a plow. At the other end stood a stubborn mule that, I plotted a few thousand times to kill. Anyone who works with a mule must do one of two things; he must learn to bite his tongue or develop a vocabulary that makes working with a mule endurable.

A mule understands only one language. If you are curious as to what this is, ask any mule skinner and then stand back while the air turns blue. I confess that during the halcyon days of youth I talked to that mule in mule language. But when I became a man I put away the childish things as becometh a new creature in Christ Jesus. I had thought that I was making progress and had the old man fairly well bottled up until I saw the foregoing article. I had really been advancing backwards. Even when I said "Gee," to the mule I was "cussin'. "However, I don't think the mule took it that way.

Brethren this aforementioned article places me in a quandary. What am I to do with all the evil, "cussin"' books that I have read to my children and still read to children about a saucy little fellow called, "Dennis The Menace." I recall two or three times he had a case of "foul mouth," and said, "Gee, Mr. Wilson." Brethren, our purity is in danger!

I have long admired Tom Sawyer. I have vicariously lived his adventures. What real boy is there who has not dug his bare toes in the warm sand on a hot summer day and looked wistfully across shimmering fields while dreaming of heroic exploits? What boy is there who has not at some time or another met some soft, dimpled creature - a hated thing called a girl, and with assumed courage talked with her, while a voice within urged him to run. I have had such encounters. I have met fragile little beauties along country roads. By the wayside, while the sweet buds of innocent childhood were slowly bursting, and while with one barefoot I moved the dirt around I have conversed with such creations of God. I have peeked from beneath a torn straw hat into eyes as blue as any sky, a face as pure as mountain snow and freckles without number or end and wished I were ten feet tall.

I have asked such creatures: "Would you like to see my pet frog?" It was a delight to hear the squeals. If such a question were asked a group of these fair creatures after the squeals subsided then the "cussin"' began. "Gees and gollies," would be heard on every hand as the vivid imagination of childhood held sway. A bug eyed bull frog made a real impression on maidens fair.

When the proper compliments had been passed on the bull frog the real stroke came next. "Heck," I would say, "He ain't half as excitin' as the snake I had last week." Amid shrieks of feigned terror and more "cussin" of "gees and gollies," I bounded away a hero if ever there was one.

Now I repent and abhor myself. The sweet innocence of childhood turns to ashes in my mouth. The natural expressions of wonder have become evil. Too bad some preacher was not nearby to grab us by the scuff of the necks and wash our mouths out with soap.

Brethren, I confess my inability to see the purpose and point of such "word studies." These words do not denote the idea of profanity to society in general. I spent a few years in the Navy during World War II, and had someone suggested to some of the old salts I knew that when one said, "Gee, or heck," he was cussing they would have considered him a mental case.

If we really think these words denote profanity and are actually dangerous to the spiritual health of our children, then consistency demands that we censor our comic strips, ban Dennis The Menace, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn; and destroy or refuse to hear a number of records and songs. Why cuss, or hear it through the singing, "Gee, but its great after being out late walking my baby back home"? And be sure to sell the TV for a number of these words are used even on children's programs. There is in all of this the danger mentioned in Eccl. 7:16.

Perhaps as time goes by and my perception gets better, as the ability to distinguish the things that differ grows strong, and as the old man has been crucified a little more, I may be able to expunge from my speech all things that do offend. At least I hope to be able to refrain from printing a list of "bad words," and tell boys and girls these are words you must not speak, any more than I would want to draw up a list of pictures showing them what kind of pictures they are not to look at.

Really and actually in dealing with the subject of "cussin" the "shock treatment" is in some cases preferable. I had rather be rocked on my heels by my child asking, "Dad, what does it mean when some one calls you a ________?" than to have him or her say, "Dad, you know that list of bad words you gave me? Well, I heard a number of them used today." But of course every person to his own "druthers."

Brethren, I ask you to bear with me. Make allowances for "Ol' Jack." I am trying to trim my sails for the voyage to the haven of rest. I want to cling to the rock and hold fast the anchor of the soul. I am trying to get a good grip on the bird of speech while I season his tail with a little salt. But if something unusual happens, if to my wondering eyes should appear a strange sight, if I am rolling with the punches of trials and distresses, I may at times throw caution to the winds and say, "Gosh."

This brings to mind the overwhelming impression made on a youngster the first time he saw Grand Canyon. In awe he exclaimed: "Golly, what a gully."

Brethren, let us all be longsuffering with the frailties and faults of others. Let us exhort one another to speech pure and undefiled. Maybe with help we can all rise above saying "gosh." Such "cussin'," might keep us out of heaven. Do you suppose it will? In contemplation of such an awful catastrophe all I can say is "golly, I hope not."