A NOTE ON SWEARING.
Dear Ones —
I really love to swear. I grew up with swearing buzzing around my ears in bumblebee-like charm, surrounded by a father, a grandfather and various uncles who were truly eloquent cursers. There is something that still makes me feel warm and nostalgic about hearing (and using) those wonderful, dramatic, comedic, delightfully adult words.
Sometimes I use those words on this page, and sometimes people get upset about it, which really surprises me because I always wonder, "But haven't you read my books? Surely you know by now that this is how I talk, right?"
But it also makes me feel tenderness toward those more delicate readers, because I find there to be something so quaint and almost charming about objecting to swear words. Whenever I hear a modern human being complaining about cursing, I feel like I'm watching somebody churn butter, dressed in a bonnet. Like: "Wow. People still do that?"
Yup. People still do that!
But I still love swearing.
Today, in honor of grown-up words, I will share with you my absolutely favorite historical writerly reply on the subject of cursing.
It comes from the great Jazz Age wit Alexander Wollcott (photo below). In 1941, Wollcott was starring in the hit play "The Man Who Came to Dinner". After a performance in Washington DC, he received a letter from a disgruntled audience member, complaining that the play would have been much more entertaining, and much more appropriate for respectable audiences, had it not contained "three unnecessary Goddamns."
Wollcott wrote back: "My dear Mr. Martin. This is to acknowledge your letter of March 6th, which really shocked me. When you speak of 'three unnecessary God damns', you imply that there is such a thing as a NECESSARY God damn. This, of course, is nonsense. A God damn is never a necessity. It is always a luxury. Yours most sincerely, Alexander Wollcott."
Ah, the luxury of the right word at the right time!
How sweet it is.