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In Defense of Four-Letter Words

Four-letter words have a bad rap.

A synonym for cussing for as long as I can remember, speaking one of these bawdry four-letter words in my youth always resulted in a certain mouth being washed out with a bar of soap. It is only a wicked coincidence that the word “soap” also possesses a mere four characters. When my kids were growing up, we made it clear that four-letter words were crude, rude and unacceptable. Speaking them was a definite NO-NO.

Reminds me of the time in the late 1970s when my two boys, ages 5 and 3 were having a conversation in the back seat of our car. Russ the younger, mindful of our admonitions on using dirty words, spoke up and tattled on his older brother Joel. “Daddy, Joel is using those worty dirds again.” I think he grew out of that bad vocabular habit, although as an adult he’s been known to shout “Go Dawgs” on certain Fall Saturdays.

The 1939 classic movie Gone With The Wind introduced the first four-letter profanity in film with Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, uttering the now famous line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Movie scripts have gone downhill ever since. Today words like damn and hell reflect the least objectionable vulgarity, although some folks still consider darn and heck as mere euphemistic evasions of their more profane slang cousins. I’ll leave the unabridged lexicon of nasty four-letter words to your imagination. I dare not provide any further examples. Mama is likely to rise from her grave and go looking for a bar of Dial soap.

Don’t you dare justify their use. I know the Great Rationalizer, Mark Twain is reported to have said, “Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” There are some who consider taboo-word-fluency an effective means to express intense emotion. Yeah, right. Could it be that the use of profanity merely reflects a limited vocabulary, a poverty of tact, and an uncreative mind?

But why condemn all four-letter words? Isn’t that unfair and truly discriminatory to all the other four-letter terms?

I should know better. I play Scrabble. I have used many a four-letter word that no one would find offensive. However, though worth only a few Scrabble points, the placement of four letters like “Dawg,” “Bama,” and “Roll Tide” may still trigger a nervous twitch or two.

Alas, I digress.

Now is the time for me to confess….publicly….in writing….that my bias against profane four-character monosyllables has prejudiced me against all four-letter words. To use the phrase “four-letter word” as an alias for profanity is to defame all four-letter words.

Such discrimination must stop!

So I am now on a linguistic mission to champion the Four-Letter cause. I will not allow the reality of a few four-letter expletives to bias me against the many four-letter words worthy of verbal use.

First step: Confess my prejudice. Check.

Second step: Look into bumper stickers like:

A Four-Letter Word is not a Turd
I Love Four-Letter Words

Ok, maybe not bumper stickers. Uncheck.

Third step: Focus attention on the good, nice, and cool four-letter words. Sing the praises of great ones. What are the TheBuddyBlog.com’s Top Ten List of Favorite Four-Letter Words?

READ, BOOK. These two go together. It was Elizabeth Barrett Browning who once said, “No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.”  The writer, Harper Lee, once said of reading, ”Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” My all-time favorite quote about books is one by Samuel Davies, 18th Century minister, “The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.” Yes, READ and BOOK are two very good four-letter words.

PRAY, AMEN. It is impossible for me to reflect upon my life and not see those defining moments when my soul knew without any doubt that there is a God and, more importantly, I am not Him. The birth of my children, the death of my wife, standing on Pike’s Peak seeing purple mountain majesties are but a few of those times when I was humbled, yet grateful, that I could approach the throne of grace so boldly in prayer. These two words remind me that the shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between my knees and the floor. AMEN.

GIVE, SAVE. My life has seen good times and hard times, abundance and debt. Looking back at economic summers and winters, I can say that learning to save and give is a key to a life of contentment — financial and otherwise. One of my favorite quotes is by the financial guru, Dave Ramsey, “Debt is bad, Saving is good, Giving is fun, Stuff is meaningless.” A similar quote is one by John Wesley, founder of Methodism, “Make all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.”  These are four-letter words to live by.

WIFE, LIFE. Happy wife, happy life. There is more than humor in that statement. Being married can be heaven on earth. As a widower for six years, I had time to reflect on the blessings of a thirty-eight-year marriage to my Tootie. Now, married to my Patrice, I have once again been blessed with a godly woman who brings out the best in me. I have twice seen the best in womanhood, and, for me, such wives have made for a wonderful life.

HOLY, HOPE. As a Christian, I believe in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I understand the Scriptures charge us to become like Him, to reflect His character, His values. To be HOLY is to grow closer to God. And the closer we are to the Lord, the greater the HOPE we have for all that is to come. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.

These 10 four-letter words are a definite YES-YES!

It just occurred to me that GOLF is also a four-letter word. Depending on my score, it could be a good thing or a bad thing. Playing golf has the potential to give birth to a flurry of not-so-nice four-letter words. Ironic that the serenity and beauty of an 18 hole manicured green landscape could be a minefield of blue swear words spoken in a moment of frustration. No problem.  Playing golf is part of my Four-Letter Recovery program. Kind of like an alcoholic walking into a bar and ordering MILK. I just need to find more appropriate ways to express my frustrations.

For now, shouting “FORE” will have to do.

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  1. Bob Hendrix

    An old friend told me that his wife often used four letter words on him; cook, wash, clean, iron, work. Thanks for the memory prompt.


  2. Richard Willits

    To: Patrice…..Find something for Buddy to do…. He has waaaay to much time on his hands.




  3. Peter Sposaro

    Another GOOD one Buddy!


  4. In Defense of Four-Letter Words – Site Title

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