My daughter Maggie laughs when I say, “Shoot!” 

She has added it to the list of funny words and phrases in my vocabulary that she claims aren’t used by others, and certainly not by her friends. The list includes “chip off the old block,” “barking up the wrong tree,” and “no accounting for taste.”   

To me, “shoot” is funny for another reason: it’s pseudo-swearing. 

Sometime in the past, perhaps during the fifties, parents and other guardians of morality dreamed up this category of words that were almost but not quite swearing. The original idea, I suppose, was to inoculate us against profanity by allowing just a hint of it. 

Did it work? Well, no. But it’s funny to think of words and phrases in this category. Here are a few; you probably know others. 

tick off
son of a gun

I can’t look at this list without thinking of my mother and her ongoing battle with profanity. 

My earliest memory of it was playing a game in the hallway with my brother Russ. When I lost, I yelled, “Darn it!” My young mother, bless her heart, scolded me, appalled that her darling would even pseudo-swear. 

Years later, when she read my play Tough Call, my mother was confronted once again with profanity, because the cast consisted of Major League umpires whose speech was littered with it. I’ll never forget the day she read me her favorite line in the play. It was one of the biggest freakin’ surprises of my life. 

I laugh, full of love, when I remember it. Maybe a lot like Maggie laughs at me.


Blog: Music