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March 09, 2011

Oh My God

Gwenda has a post pointing to Ursula Le Guin talking about cursing.

Le Guin is talking essentially about the devaluation of language that's happened because everybody says and writes "shit" and "fuck" a lot.

But I just wanna say that I wish people would take the "Lord's" name in vain the way god intended. I'm really tired of hearing "Oh my gosh," as if that's somehow better than "Oh my god." "Gosh" exists for one reason only, to soften the use of the word "god" as a swear word. Since it's unchristian to swear using the epithets of the Judeo-Christian god, somehow it's more christian to swear using soundalike stand-ins for the epithets of the Judeo-Christian god (and states of lack of salvation,) instead of swearing using the names of flowers or household implements or pets, or just, I dunno, not swearing at all.

If you're gonna swear, swear, goshdarnit. Geez. Golly. Dang.


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So I teach, right? I teach night-time science labs at Arizona State University. And I do kid's camps for high schoolers interested in astronomy during the summer. Some HUGE fraction of my students are Christian, quite a few of them devout.

And I was raised 3rd Polish Catholic, so taking the Lord's name in vain is practically part of my culture. We learned it's a sin in Sunday school; and then we used it all the time because it's naughty, but not really forbidden.

So I have to put a lot of effort into censoring myself in front of the kids. I screw up a lot, and oh my go-o-o-sh is really the best possible outcome.

Why do we say it? Because we're trying not to offend people, and it's a very small concession to make. Because WE DON'T GET TO MAKE THE RULES AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY'RE SENSIBLE WHEN IT COMES TO NOT OFFENDING STRANGERS.
That's why.

And if you add in the awkward power differential of being the teacher/summer camp counselor to a bunch of minor or kids who are just barely of-age?

Well, again, it's such a small concession.

oops that's "3rd generation Polish Catholic".

Also: I'm hitting these poor kids non-stop with "Stars live 10 million to 100 billion years, our Sun and Earth are 4.5 billion years old, and the Universe is 13.7 billion. We have multiple lines of evidence. I'm not apologizing for the Universe, so please DEAL WITH IT."

After that, the least I can do is not rub their poor ears the Lord's name for spite.

I'm just ranting, Jackie.

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