The first time I heard the F-bomb was during recess, on the playground, in early primary school. The tone used indicated someone was angry, irritated, fed-up, or otherwise agitated. I had never heard it at home and I had no clue as to its potency. I did not have any stretch of imagination as to the danger involved in using it. So, when the occasion arose, I used it without hesitation.
I vividly remember the first time I used the F-bomb. It was in the kitchen. Mom was cooking “supper” at the stove. I was sitting at the table. My younger brother, Steve, persisted at annoying me—or so I remember. Having exceeded my capacity for tolerance, I used the F-bomb. F-you, I told him. Wow, the energy it provoked in my mother! She whirled around and asked, “What did you just say?” Not knowing it had potential for punishment, I repeated the word. That was not a good idea.
Mom proceeded to tell me, in no uncertain terms, and in a very convincing tone, “I better never hear you say that word again or I will wash your mouth out with soap.” I was shocked, flabbergasted, and felt threatened by her energy and promise of punishment should she ever hear me say that word. I knew, for whatever reason, that the word could never be uttered within earshot of my mother ever again.
Remember, I had only heard the word on the playground. So, I did not know it would evoke such a negative emotional reaction. Being ignorant of the meaning of the word, I innocently (stupidly) asked: “What does it mean”? My mother, without a hint of hesitation and with energy that was puzzling and convincingly threatening, stated: “It does not mean anything, but don’t you ever let me hear you say the word again!” Talk about being puzzled. The word did not mean anything, yet I was not to use it or there would be a sure and fast punishment. I certainly did not relish the thought of my mouth being cleansed by a bar of soap.
I was at a loss. I had no clue as to the meaning of the word. I knew I could not ask my mother because she surely did not know. Her reaction was so strong that I did not feel like I could ask my father. If it was not a word, then I surely could not look it up in the dictionary. Because of the energy it evoked in my mother, I could not ask a teacher. So as not to be embarrassed by my ignorance, I could not ask the people who used the word. I was shaken to my very core. I had used a word that did not mean anything. But, it raised my mother’s energy level to the point of a promised mouth-washing if she ever heard me say it again.
I heard the word often. I knew it was a word I could not use. I did not ask anyone what it meant. But, I continued to be intrigued that people would use the word when angry, even though it did not mean anything. It was in junior high, years later, that the meaning of the word was revealed to me. Whew! Shock and puzzlement, an element of relief, and a bit of a sense of betrayal. I bet my mother had known the meaning all along.