Curse of the Father

My dad cussed a lot. It was his heritage. People in his provincial hometown were very foul-mouthed, and I remember hearing my little cousins using language that shocked my nerdy good-boy sensibility.

But unlike my little cousins', my dad's cussing was never dirty. It was just cussing. I never heard him say, for example, pinga, the most common word for penis, or papaya, its female gender equivalent (habaneros appropriated the word for such usage and call the fruit fruta bomba, as I still do among Cubans). In fact, when referring to such things my father used a formal clinical language, explaining to me, for example, that the double-entendre in a popular radio character's name was "probably a phallic reference." I was kind of a precocious kid, so he must have figured that I knew the word "phallic", or that if I didn't I'd probably be too proud to ask.

I would never dream of cussing in front of him, never mind talking dirty. In fact, I really was a nerd  and felt uncomfortable using profanities. With time I outgrew such inhibitions, but I'm still nerdy enough to recoil at certain levels of vulgarity. Visiting my dad's hometown I talk boy talk with my aging cousins, but there's no need for dirty words now. In fact, such words get in the way of the linguistic savoring of the topic at hand. Old men ripen into sexual aesthetes. No boasts, that's for the young; instead, a refined imagination.

Which doesn't mean I don't cuss. Just like my dad. And I check bilingualism at the door: it all comes out in Spanish. It's my first, ergo primal, language. One can only truly cuss and pray in one's first language. And since we of the Roman Catholic tradition pay no heed to the prohibition of taking God's name in vain, never mind the saints and the many manifestations of the Virgin, cussing and praying overlap. Blasphemy and sacrilege are Catholic pastimes. In a twisted way they reflect the power of our faith. 

Unless we are ripped from our beginnings, we are marked at birth by tradition. Language exists in tradition. And cussing is nothing but tradition, its fertile muck and ooze.