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Polite People Don’t Talk about These Things

January 5, 2016
Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

It might not be polite to self-promote too much, but if I don’t do it, nobody else will.

Getting your mouth washed out with soap is a lot worse than it sounds.  Even though it happened to me a few times when I was a kid, I don’t have the words to describe it.  It was just pretty bad.

It started when I said the word crap in front of my mom.  When she told me not to say crap, I said it again.  Then she warned me that if I said crap one more time, she’d wash my mouth out with soap.  I weighed my options.  How bad could soap be?  I liked saying the word crap.  So I got in my mom’s face and said the word crap, and she dragged me to the bathroom and shoved a lathery bar of soap into my mouth.  After I sputtered and gagged and spit, I vowed that I would never say the word crap again, at least not in front of my mom.

A lot of other words got me in trouble too.  I got my mouth washed out for saying Hoover Dam.  I probably shouldn’t have whispered “Hoover” and then shouted “DAM!!!!”  I got my mouth washed out with soap for saying shih tzu.  I probably shouldn’t have shouted “SH*T!” and whispered the zhu.  Now that I think about it, I probably deserved getting my mouth washed out with soap.

I promised myself that nobody would ever find out that my mom had soaped my mouth.  It wasn’t a punishment you could brag about.  A kid could brag about getting beaten by a dad’s belt.  Getting beaten with a belt showed how tough you were.  But getting my mouth washed out, I kept that to myself.  I couldn’t tell that to anybody.  What kind of kid allows his mom to stuff a bar of soap into his mouth?  Only a sissy kid, and I couldn’t let anybody think I was a sissy.  So I kept quiet about it.

Soap-in-the-mouth is a specialized punishment because it’s used only when a kid says something wrong.  I never got my mouth washed out for anything I actually did.  When I egged a bunch of teachers’ houses, I had to clean up the messes and apologize.  When I got caught holding my friends’ drug-related paraphernalia, I got grounded and threatened with counseling.  When I got caught changing a grade on my report card, my dad beat me with the belt.

I hated getting my mouth washed out with soap, but I wasn’t stupid.  I learned my lesson.  I stopped saying the words that got me punished.  I grew up to be polite.  I said “please” and “thank you” a lot.  I spoke in a soft tone of voice.  I chose my words carefully.  As I got older, I chose my topics of conversation carefully as well.


The above passage is an excerpt from my new e-book

Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!: and Other Topics Polite People Don’t Discuss .

Now for sale on Amazon!!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!


  1. I feel like it would be worse to say something like ‘chlamydia’ or ‘synergise’ but you never hear of kids getting their mouths washed out with soap for those.

    • I don’t know what would have happened if I had said either of those words (even if I had pronounced them correctly). “Chlamydia” might have gotten me punished, though.

  2. I downloaded your book and have been enjoying reading it. You’ve got some great laughs going there!

  3. You just made me laugh out loud, reading the sample pages of your book. I don’t have a Kindle – h#ll, I don’t even have a phone that can connect to the net. But if I did, I’d buy a copy. Very funny 🙂

    I remember having a fight with my brother when I was about 8 or 9 – he hurt me, I shouted ‘you f*cking b**tard’ and I was the one who had to stand in the corner for half the afternoon. So I was punished for using rude words, but my brother went unpunished for hitting his little sister so hard her eyes watered. Weird world.

    • I think it’s universal; the second offender gets caught and punished, even if the first offense is worse than the second.

      • Ah, the injustice of the world! I’m sure you’re right. I’m also sure my big brother got plenty of stick from my folks at other times thanks to me – so I’d say we’re even 🙂

    • James the Greatest permalink

      yeah, I wish there an option for a physical copy. I’d purchase one too.

  4. LOL! I needed that laugh this morning. Luckily, my mom was more prone to the wooden spoon. haha

    • I’ve heard of the wooden spoon, but I’m not sure I’ve actually met anybody who experienced it. For a long time, I thought the wooden spoon was just a myth.

  5. Lorraine permalink

    Well mom chased my older sister all over the house and up the stair and sat on her while she soaped her mouth for saying the “F” word. Crap isn’t bad and neither is “Shit”, I say shit everyday, it just works so good and is quite harmless. You can use it in kinds of sentences to express a frustration or even a happy event! It’s an all encompassing word. A “Word Friday”.

    • There’s a short selection in the book devoted to words like ‘sh*t’ and ‘f*ck.’ I agree, they’re fun to say, but I have to be careful where and when I say them.

  6. Profanity, as a concept, has always amazed me. We invent words, then forbid ourselves to say them… Some people react more quickly to profane language than profane ideas, or care little about the context in which they are used. Bizarre.

    It seems to be the words themselves that cause reactions, since there are polite, or at least less offensive, terms for any “four-letter” word that gives offense. So… It’s not what the words refer to.

    And the same words shift in severity, depending on how we use them in a sentence. He is p1ssed at me is more polite than he just p1ssed, for example.

    And they change with borders. The severity of curse words varies between American and British English, though we share a language.

    I wrote a post about it once, but everyone was too offended to respond 🙂

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