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To cuss or just to spell it: That's the question - Ronda Rich

This is the kind of goody-two-shoes friends I have: Whenever Karen, Patti or Susan has a story to tell that involves someone cussing, they will not repeat the word. They spell it out. Unless it's really bad and then they will only give me the first letter of the word.

Thank goodness that the really bad words all begin with different letters or I would never figure out what was going on.

It is a painfully long process, this retelling of stories with spelling that is always accented with wide-eyed looks that silently ask, "Can you believe anyone would talk such a way?"

Stevie, on the other hand, won't even spell them. She will say, "He used ugly words. Get Darrell to tell you what he said."

Darrell, her husband, will, at least, spell them out for me.

Nicole, a diligent Bible studier, was telling me a story the other day. "She told him to get off his hmmm," she grunted in substitution of the right word.

I am growing weary and downtrodden by all these saints in my life. "You can say it," I nonchalantly informed her. "It's in the Bible."

She eyed me warily. "It is?"

"Behold, thy king cometh unto thee, meek and sitting upon an ass. Matthew 21:5." Obviously, I had prepared for such a day of reckoning. She shrugged. Bible or not, she wasn't using it.

I, on the other hand, have no such compunction against salty language. (There again, the Bible tells us not to lose our saltiness). If the story needs it, when I tell it, I use it unless it is blasphemous or unladylike. It is my duty as a storyteller to accurately recapture the tale. Remember, too, that I spent 10 years on the NASCAR circuit. I've heard language that would make a sinner blush.

One night, our acting teacher handed Susan and me scripts for a scene she wanted us to do together. She always gives Susan the best part because she thinks she's sooooo talented. Lo and behold, Susan's part had a cuss word that was used three times. Not one of the really bad ones, but in Susan's world, they're all bad. The teacher, knowing that Susan is a Sunday School teacher, told her that she didn't have to say the word. Susan, ghostly pale, nodded quietly.

"And don't spell 'em, either," I commanded loudly.

We performed the scene and quite remarkably and unexpectedly, the cuss word sprang from the saint's lips. Firmly. Emphatically. My mouth fell open. I blinked hard. I was quite sure that the fires of hell had just frozen. A few sentences later, the word again leapt enthusiastically from where ever it had been embedded for all these years. Never had Susan said a cuss word in her life. Then, she finished her dialogue with an exuberant final delivery of the cuss word.

The teacher leaped to her feet, clapping and shouting, "Bravo! Bravo!" The one who should have gotten the standing ovation was the teacher who had managed to get Susan to say what a lifetime of mishaps had never been able to do.

I decided right then and there that cussing is liberating. You should have seen what it did for Susan. When she released her soul from 40 years of repression, it was an amazing transformation. She was strong, bold and completely in charge.

Alas, it ended quickly and the next day she was back to spelling out the ugly words.

Sometimes I'll tell her, "You were much more interesting that night you took up cussin'."

Embarrassed over that fleetingly brief transgression, she'll mumble, "That was just a scene I was playing. Not me."

She broke a nail the other day. "D-A-R-N!" I heard her proclaim.

Oh p-l-e-a-se. I guess some saints are just never gonna be sinners.

Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.