The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Throw some spice in that sentence

Rachael Conlin Levy
Photo courtesy of another sergio

I can set my clock by the curses and obscenities heard along Fourth Street every school day. The trickle begins at 2:05 p.m. and quickly turns into a churning river of spicy language and sluggish teens that dries up by 2:40 p.m.

I love it.

There is something wonderful in spying on these young teens migrating home in packs. They hold hands, block foot traffic for awkward kisses, and try on and throw off language like they do clothes. It reminds me of a story about my littlest sister, who, when she was 12 or 13, was caught standing with a friend at the busiest corner of our small town yelling “Fuck you!” to cars passing by. She was just trying the words on for size.

“If you’re using the word in a way to heighten the impact of a sentence or season the stew — they are after all great seasonings … they have a proper place in language,” said comedian George Carlin in a 2004 interview on Fresh Air. “And in my case, I just like them because they are real and they do have impact and they do make a difference in the sentence.”

Another who knew how to pepper her sentences was my grandma. This rotund little woman loved fine meals, gay men, and Cadillacs with the air-conditioning so cold it froze her grand-babies. But nothing brought her more joy than knowing she shocked people because she was a blue-haired woman cussing a blue streak.

So today I honor the many foul-mouthed people in my life, and comedian George Carlin, who loved the English language and its seven dirty words. He died Sunday at 71.

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