Dumb and Dumber: Inviting the Real Cuss Words to Sit Down and Shut up?

Not long ago, while working out on a trail fitness station near my mom’s, I heard a child utter words so foul, so profane, their stench will linger a long while in my memory.

“Dumb and dumber,” he pointed at two girls about his age, as they all swarmed together, parents obliviously nearby. “Dumb one and dumb two” he grinned, pointing down at them. He aroused a partner in his crime, a boy about two years younger. Proof that children can lead one another straight into the swamps of hell on earth.

They are not little angels. They are little humans, longing early for the rule of law, so often missing.

Making this experience even more vile is this. The victims are Hispanic children. The perpetrators Caucasian. All about 9 years old. A humanity-drowning hurt pooled deep in the eyes of the girls. A pride much too heavy for any man to carry fell from the grins on those boys.

These are not my children to parent. I could only make some quick eye contact as a bystander to the vulgarity. The face of a highway patrolman came over me. I felt it. The boys saw it. I’m glad they did. I hope their parents did as well. I wish I could comfort the girls who were victimized. Perhaps I did. That look sent the boys scattering. The girls got to play again in peace.

I and some other adults finished our workout without a word. I left, thinking about the folly of so-called bad words.

So many spend so much energy decrying the culture. A cuss word somehow stands for the devil, while the likes of “dumb, stupid, stooge, retard” and a litany of others you can surely call to mind stand as rites of passage. Just innocent banter among children. That banter cuts like a rusted machete. Yet we cut even mild cuss words out of movies in the name of family values.

If a family counts “stupid, retard, idiot” as acceptable for kids to wield at one another, count me out of those values.

Yes, I know we’ve all said seemingly innocent things that are not. Hopefully the hurt up in the eyes of our victims schooled us in the true definition of profanity. I do not define it as Jerry Falwell did. I never will.

A few weeks ago, I commented here about my late friend, the Rev Bob Lawrence. Bob could truly out preach a million clergy, and out cuss the crew of an air craft carrier. He was funny. Authentic. As real as humanity gets, and deeply loving and wise. I never heard him refer to someone as dumb or stupid or even a fool. Someone came along and questioned my taste in ministers. I accept the critique. Love the critic. But he does not change my opinion at all on what counts as a true cuss.

Those little boys swinging around “dumb” would likely take a hard parental scolding if they replaced it with something Joe Pesci might say in Goodfellas. Honestly, I’d chide less for a so-called cuss word than for an epithet that will travel home and linger, like a dehumanizing stench, in the memory of a little girl.

Twain said better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. Even as he defies the standard here, he makes the point.

There’s a canyon’s worth of difference between a cathartic cuss and a truly ugly, unintelligent profanity. May we all worry far more about the dropping of a D Bomb. Dumb seems so innocent until it flies into our face. Then we see — it makes a bona fide ass of the mouth from which it falls. Especially our own.


3 Responses to “Dumb and Dumber: Inviting the Real Cuss Words to Sit Down and Shut up?”

  1. Love the last paragraph of this piece. As the recipient of some of those words (and more) in my childhood I can attest to the fact of their hurt and humiliation. As an adult I find the same sense of horror as you that so many children (and their adult counterparts) fill their mouths with such hurtful words without consequence or sense of embarrassment at having been so cruel. Shame on the parents and mentors who turn a silent ear and / or eye. (I do love, howsumever, that you gave them what my late mother-in-law would have called the stink eye to some effect.)

  2. “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew‬ ‭5:22‬

    I like how you see things. My only suggestion is this: when you invoke Jesus and his words, your words gain the authority that he has. Quote the bible as often as possible, and you’ll be a powerful speaker for his cause.

    • Ryan, thank you. I enjoy evaluating the Bible as a non-word-bound document, studying it with theologians who translate its language, and interpret beyond its language. The Bible shows more than it tells. It’s a work of inspired God-breath, and great literature at once. A trove for listening — and watching. Bless you for your kindness, and your insight. Warmest peace. m

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