Saturday, August 05, 2006


In the early 1970’s, in rural southern Indiana, for some reason that is still unknown to me, my mother decided that her children would not use the word “snot.”

It wasn’t until just recently that I realized that this was a little strange. Snot is a perfectly useful word. It’s not a bad word, like shit or fuck. It’s not even a semi-bad word, like ass or damn. It’s not a racial or ethnic slur. What is it that made the word so offensive to my mother? It might not be the most refined word one could use, but when you’re a seven year-old who spends her days playing barefoot in the fields and woods surrounding her home, refinement isn’t really a consideration. I remember actually getting in trouble once for rebelliously whispering “snot” to myself after being scolded for saying it out loud in conversation. I don’t think it was a whipping offense, probably just brief room confinement, but there was a penalty nonetheless.

Maybe she thought it was some sort of gateway word, one of those crude words that are just a rest stop on the road to a foul mouth. Today it’s snot and butt and titty, tomorrow we’d be yelling "cock sucker" in Sunday school within earshot of our grandmother. Ironically, I say cock sucker all the time these days. Well, it’s usually more of a scream. It’s the word I shout at other drivers who have displeased me in some way, but only if I’m alone in the car with the windows rolled up. I’m not completely lacking decorum.

And the word that we were supposed to use, instead of “snot”? Mucus. No, I am not making that up. It still makes me laugh. Mucus. Yes, it’s definitely a much more refined word, highly appropriate for use on the playground among other second-graders, or maybe while sipping tea with the queen. “Pardon me, could you pass the Kleenex, please? I seem to have some mucus dripping out of my nose.”

I know her intentions were good. She was probably trying to save me from my potty-mouthed fate, but it was all futile. I’m simply not refinable. The effort to eradicate “snot” from my vocabulary failed, and I still use it every chance I get.

Snotty snot; snot snot snot snot snot snot snot snot snot snot, snot.


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