My parents never mentioned swearing when I was a kid. We simply didn't swear around them. I'm sure my older siblings let one slip every so often but for me it just wasn't part of my vocabulary until I reached adulthood. There was one word my folks took particular exception to and it was referred to as 'the S-word'.
It is not the word that may have come to your mind, it's not related to something people pick up in a plastic bag when they walk their dog. It is the word, dare I say it, 'stupid'.
Nobody in my house was ever stupid and we were not allowed to speak the word in relation to anyone we knew either. The phrase 'he's a stupid dink' would have garnered gasps around the kitchen table as we relayed the good and bad of our day at school. Not because of dink but instead because of the the use of stupid.
Intelligence, it seemed, came from more than just book learning according to my parents. It was by all measures, something that couldn't be judged in any standard way. Your IQ couldn't be distilled down to a single number that stated anything of value about you. If my IQ is 150, it would be about as useful a thing to know as my shoe size, which is 10. Perhaps a more interesting thing to know about me is that my shoe size is 10.
As a result of this culture of respect for effort rather than numerical intelligence, I volunteered in high school to take kids to the pool once a month. These were kids whose abilities were not that of the government-judged standard to be allowed in a regular public school. They were mentally and physically challenged and therefore took the short bus to the small school so they could sit in teeny classrooms with people who had far more compassion for them than the average person.
I recall one day feeling not so enthusiastic about going to the pool. I had so much to do, homework, studying, practicing my French horn. I had no time for compassion. But I went anyway. Once there, I was standing by the pool and a little boy, probably 9 or 10 years old with a mentality far less his age, slipped his hand into mine and looked out over the water. His eyes gleamed. He knew he wasn't allowed to enter the pool without an adult and he obeyed, unquestioningly. He was so excited, he hopped from one foot to the other, tugging on my hand as he danced and bumping me with the oversized waterwings on his arms.
I looked down at him and asked, "Ready?". He didn't look up, he simply pulled me to the ladder. I hopped in ahead of him and guided him down into the water. He squealed and laughed, spitting water at me. He was so happy. I forgot about my homework, my assignments, reading and everything else. For 45 minutes I was his safety net and he was my source of joy.
Was that little boy stupid? Hardly. He knew how to enjoy life, to be in the moment, to be truly happy.
I take offence at people who use the S-word. I know I have let it slip out of my mouth over the years and I get mad at myself for being so careless. To me it is equivalent to the F-word or the N-word or the C-word, none of which have a place in my vocabulary, although I have been liberal with my use of the F-word when I am frustrated. It's all about choice, isn't it?
Given the choice, I'd rather take the short bus.