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Thursday, May 11, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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NICOLE BRODEUR

A colorful vocabulary is a curse

Times staff columnist

There is a moment that has to come before you embrace real change. A reflection caught in a store window, a too-close call in a car.

Mine came when my kid tapped a newspaper story with his dirty little fingernail and told me my mouth was even dirtier.

The headline: "Lately, some feel, there's too dang much cussing."

The kid: "That's you, Momma."

Get the hell out, I thought. Me?

Then I realized that this boy spends a good part of his life in the back seat of my car while I share the road with a bunch of @$% CENTS&! idiots.

He is there when I am cooking - and therefore spilling, burning, misreading recipes and peppering my speech.

He is there when I hang up on telemarketers and when I forget an appointment, and when I step on the scale, his Legos and his father's tender male ego.

The kid's entire life has been spent dodging a blue streak.

So I get on the phone with James V. O'Connor, author of "Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing" (Three Rivers Press, $12.95).

O'Connor will be here Saturday (he will sign books at 1 p.m. at Borders Books, 1501 Fourth Ave. in downtown Seattle, and at the Borders at Redmond Town Center at 4 p.m.). But I preferred to talk dirty on the phone. You never want to face your confessor.

Help me, I said. I have a longshoreman's mouth and a young child. I curse out of frustration, anger, stress. I curse to show that I am serious, that I am an equal and that I have a sense of humor. And I curse because, frankly, there is no other word like the one that starts with "F."

"You're there with about 50 million Americans," O'Connor assured me. "This is a huge problem for everyone."

O'Connor was a big swearer until, one day at a restaurant, he decided that he had heard enough from himself and everyone around him.

"It was all getting a little too extreme."

Deleting the expletives was tough, mostly because nobody helps you.

"It's an ingrained habit, and the people I'm with don't care," he said. "They swear, too."

That doesn't mean it's right.

"We don't like our children to swear, so why do we?" he asked. "Is this an adult privilege? We should have the maturity and emotional control not to swear."

Controlling your cussing may not sound cool, but it can be funny.

"If you get really mad and say `dangnabit,' the people around you are going to chuckle," O'Connor said.

And they will be spared the tension that tirades create.

To stop takes a long time, said O'Connor. His advice: Start by eliminating casual swearing. Cope, don't cuss. Use volume ("I'm SERIOUS!") instead of bad words. Make your point politely. Look people in the eye.

Son of a biscuit. I'm SOLD! I'll give it my goldarned best. Starting now, by gum. I mean, criminy, I have a freakin' college degree. I can DO this.

I keep a blasted curse jar on my desk and charge myself a bleeping fine every time I slip.

So far? This sucks.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in The Times. Her phone number: 206-464-2334; e-mail address: nbrodeur@seattletimes.com. You can take the girl out of Jersey . . .

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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