Cussin’ like a sailor again

Nov. 10, 2013 @ 04:37 AM

The other day I was running a soapy plate under the kitchen faucet when Sage approached me with a DVD in his hand. Would I come watch “Scooby-Do and the Legend of the Vampire” with him? Watching it alone, my 6-year-old informed me, would scare the heck out of him.

Except … he didn’t say heck.

Shocked, I was just about to demand to know where he’d heard the word he really did say when a little voice in my head interrupted me. You know perfectly well where he heard it, the voice said.

It’s terrible, isn’t it? Mothers shouldn’t curse. On the other hand, motherhood has already robbed me of so many fun vices! Can’t I keep just one of them? Besides, I’m a direct descendent of Portuguese fishermen. Going on a salty rant from time to time is practically embedded in my DNA.

However, I happen to have the perfect replacement word - when I can remember to use it - for almost any epithet you can imagine. (Don’t really imagine any right now. It’s Sunday.)

I learned it about two years ago, at my church’s afternoon program for children.

I’d volunteered to help watch the younger children, who on this cozy day in the nursery were gathered in a circle around me. Beaming affectionately at the little dears, I was just about to launch into a Bible story when one of the little girls piped up, “My friend Scarlett said a bad word today.”

All of the other children’s heads swiveled in her direction. Temporarily struck dumb, I looked down at the book on my lap. It was opened to a picture of Jesus holding a fluffy little lamb. For the briefest of moments, my eyes locked with the sorrowful gaze of the Good Shepherd.

Then my curiosity got the best of me.

“What’d she say?” I asked.

The little girl hesitated. I gave her a brief nod.

“She said…barnacle!” In fearful anticipation of the wrath that was sure to follow, she clapped both of her hands over her mouth.

I sat back in my chair and stared at her. Barnacle?

I tried it loud. “Bar-na-cle!”

I got up and opened the doors to the snack closet. We were out of my favorite juice box flavor.

“Barnacle!” I said in disappointment, pulling out some apple juice instead. I pushed the closet door closed with my foot and another satisfying exclamation of my new favorite word.

Across the room, a gasp. The little girl was white as a sheet, apparently expecting a bolt of lightning to flatten me to the floor any minute.

“Oops, sorry honey,” I said absentmindedly as I handed out the juice. “That’s not actually a bad word.”

She didn’t look convinced. And why should she? If ever there was a word born to be a cuss word, it was barnacle…all three glorious syllables of it! If you think about it, it shares at least two consonants with some of the more shocking swear words. (Again, don’t really think about that.)

Unfortunately, I forgot to use it a few weeks later when, early one morning on my way to take Sage to preschool, I accidentally swiped our neighbor Dave’s trash can with my car.

“Oh, spit!” I said.

Except … I didn’t say spit.

What I did say, Sage proceeded to repeat over and over…and in fact, was still repeating when we arrived at his preschool. I panicked. What to do? I couldn’t drop my child off at Spindale United Methodist’s preschool while he was babbling obscenities!

Around and around the parking lot we drove while he kept saying the awful word. And then, finally, a light bulb.

“Sage you are making me so mad I’m going to say a very bad word!”

“What is it?” he immediately asked.

I paused for a dramatic moment. “BARNACLE!” I yelled. Then I clapped a hand over my mouth.

Sage’s eyes lit up with an evil little gleam. “Barnacle, barnacle, barnacle, barnacle…” he parroted.

I screeched to a halt in front of the preschool and pushed him out the door in front of his waiting teacher. Then I got the he—

I mean, the heck out of there.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and writer who lives in Spindale. She can be reached at