Mark Edmundson has a piece in the LARB that is well worth reading if you enjoy evocations of what it’s like to be a kid (and, of course, profanity). Here’s a taste:
Tanzio and I were Jesuits of profanity. We acquired new words steadily; we evaluated them according to their level of intensity and seriousness; we deployed them with and at each other. As time passed and I got to know more kids, the discourse on bad words unfolded further. When I was nine, I was often to be found sitting on the brick wall constructed by Tony’s grandpa, in company with a half dozen other kids theorizing about what might be the worst swear you could create. I think the prize went to terms that blended the super-sacred with the rankly vulgar: so that if you were in the mood to purchase a one-way to hell you might say something about a certain sort of act with the Virgin Mary.
Our parents would have been blown down flat like sailors in a typhoon if they heard us cursing. They would probably have been less shocked if we had run out of the local variety store with a fistful of cash swiped from the till, or made an inept try at setting fire to a parked car. They probably wouldn’t have been impressed by our theological disputes; and they would not have been in love with the way we denounced our teachers; but they would have burst into rage if they had heard us swear.
Things are probably different now, but that’s definitely how it was when I was a wee tyke. I’m afraid that towards the end Edmundson wanders off into standard thumb-sucking pseudo-profundity (“the movement toward the omnipresent profane is a move away from hope”), but up to that point it’s a delightful read. Thanks, Paul!