The Austin Chronicle

Luv Doc: Not Metaphorically Speaking

You can say “Cleveland Steamer” and not be accused of profanity

By The Luv Doc, November 30, 2018, Columns

Dear Luv Doc,

My sister-in-law came to town from Houston last week for Thanksgiving and brought her "new" (they have been together almost a year) boyfriend. Even though she didn't tell anybody she was bringing him, it didn't really bother me until the whole family sat down at the table and he started cussing like a sailor in front of children, my husband's parents, my parents, and my grandparents. I was totally shocked. Everyone was. My husband tried valiantly to change the subject of discussion several times and interrupt his vulgarity, but each time he managed to find a new way to be offensive. When my husband brought up his behavior to his sister later, she told him he shouldn't be "such a prude." He is far from it. He (and I) cuss regularly, we just know when it's appropriate. Here's the problem: They have already been invited back to Christmas dinner with us by my in-laws, and I don't want a replay of last Thursday. Should I tell my husband to call his sister and tell her she can't bring her boyfriend unless he can watch his mouth?

– The Prude's Wife

I had a grade school teacher who regularly told us that profanity is the crutch of a limited intellect. I say fuck that shit. Well-used, profanity is a rhetorical Thor's hammerone of many weapons in a skillful orator's arsenal. While it's true you don't have to work blue to work the room, it can be a lot more fun and rewarding if you do.

Another thing about profanity: You don't have to cuss to be profane. Trust me. I do it all the time. For instance, you can say "Cleveland Steamer" and not be accused of profanity – especially if employed in, say, a description of the history of the Great Lakes shipping industry. However, if you were to loudly announce that your last Tinder date defecated on your bare chest then sat down in his freshly deposited feces and rocked back and forth, you could absolutely be accused of violating the decorum of most dining situations – even though you technically didn't cuss. Similarly, if you use the term "deep throat" in the description of a giraffe ... well ... you get the idea.

So while your sister-in-law's boyfriend may well have cussed a blue streak all over your turkey day dinner – and I will admit that is some fucked-up shit – the problem wasn't necessarily his vocabulary. Rather, it was either his inability to read his audience or his utter lack of concern for violating their sense of propriety. Of course, neither speaks well of this fellow, and I completely understand your reticence to invite him back to your table. That's no different than all of the decent, humane, intelligent people in America not wanting to invite Trump back to the presidency. I know I definitely wouldn't want that disgusting, bloated, psychopathically egotistical windbag at my dinner table, so why would I want him in the Oval Office?

It seems fairly obvious to me that a fellow who exhibits the brazen insensitivity of your sister-in-law's boyfriend – whether intentional or not – is not going to take a subtle hint. Any mealy-mouthed, pussyfooting, whiny-voiced, supplicating request for decent behavior is going to fall on deaf ears. Either you or your husband should speak personally to this guy and tell him that if he shits in your punch bowl again (metaphorically speaking, of course), then you will take him out behind the woodshed and learn him some manners (not metaphorically speaking). Now, who's up for a coin toss?

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