Last week Terry Gross interviewed a linguist who studied the origins and evolution of the word "asshole."
Asshole has been a favorite of mine since I was five years old. Our family was staying at a dude ranch in Arizona, and I lay in bed and listened to my mom talking to my dad, in the other room, about someone they both knew.
"Oh, he's an asshole," she said.
And it hit me. Swearing was funny.
With one word, my mother had reduced a whole, living human being with a whole history and family and mental and emotional and spiritual life—to a filthy little black abyss.
And I started laughing—I couldn't make any noise because I was supposed to be asleep—and didn't stop for maybe a half an hour.
Swearing, I decided, was for me.