Swearing can be fun, or help us vent our anger, pain, or frustration. But it’s not always appropriate, and if your swearing is a bit of a bad habit, it’s not too hard to stop.
Image by Nick Criscuolo.
Have an Accountability Buddy
You may know that you need to filter yourself more, but it can be motivating to realise how often you actually swear in front of others. In the video above, from the Howcast YouTube channel, Faye de Muyshondt recommends you enlist the help of someone you know to actively point out when you swear. You can ask them to clap, use a code word, or even make noise every time you let out a curse word. You might be surprised at how often you do it and use that as an extra push to change up your speaking habits. Muyshondt also suggests recording yourself swearing so you can hear how you sound to others when you do it. When you’re talking with others, it might seem cool in your head to curse like a sailor, but when you hear it on tape you might feel a lot different.
Alternatively, Carly May at Hello Giggles suggests you make it a team effort and work together with a partner to motivate each other to quit. Wear rubber bands on your wrists and snap each other’s band whenever someone swears. With that strategy, looking at the rubber band on your wrist can be reminder enough. Or start a “swear jar” you have to put money in every time you cuss.
Imagine Your Grandma Can Always Hear You
Just like your sweet old grandmother, this tip is an oldie but a goodie. The Cuss Control Academy recommends you imagine you’re always in earshot of someone you would never swear around. Pretend that your grandma, your daughter, or even a priest is in the room with you. Think of the last person on earth you would want to hear you swearing and put them right there with you. You can also imagine that you’re always being recorded or listened to by the same people.
Colour Your Language a Different Way
Most of us swear to emphasise a point, albeit dramatically. Fortunately, the English language has a near infinite number of ways to emphasise or describe something. Take the moments you would usually use to swear and instead turn it into an opportunity to be more descriptive.
Replacement swear words have a lot less bite and a lot more humour, yet still get your point across. The video above from the Howcast YouTube channel suggests you can also turn your F-bombs into fudge bombs. They might sound silly, but that’s the point! In fact, the more ridiculous you can make your replacement words the better. If you can manage to replace most of your swear words with stupid words like “fiddledy-dee,” you’ll eventually feel so ridiculous you might stop swearing altogether. At the very least, others will find it to be an amusing quirk as opposed to an inappropriate habit. If you’re not sure where to start, think about why you’re cursing to begin with. Are trying to sound mature? Go for intellectual instead. Are you trying to be funny? Try being creatively goofy. Are you trying to sound tough? Tough people don’t let things get to them that bad.
The folks at Personality Tutor, recommend you improve your vocabulary and see what other colourful things you can say. Find fancy ways to say the same thing, or find an older word that’s no longer in use. For example, I had a lot of fairly conservative family and church-going friends that I would swear too much around. I was just a kid so it didn’t bother me much, but I didn’t want any trouble with my family and church folk, so I researched and replaced a lot of my abrasive speech with old, stereotypical “wild west” words like “dagnabbit” and “tarnation,” and even Shakespearean insults. A little googling will net you more old-fashioned swears than you can shake a stick at. Use your brain, not your mouth.
Use an “Evil Box”
You’re probably familiar with the concept of the “swear jar,” where someone has to pony up some money for the jar every time they swear. Well, an “evil box” is basically a swear jar on steroids. Toma Haiku explains:
To be effective, the swear jar must be felt on a personal level. You need to make it so that you would rather not swear than put a single dollar into it. It helps to associate the jar with something evil, or with something you hate. Say for example you want to quit smoking, but it’s a struggle because smoking gives you pleasure. If you were to punch yourself in the nuts every time you have a cigarette, it would associate more pain than pleasure with smoking, and would make you less likely to do it. The swear jar needs to be like punching yourself in the nuts. In my case, I chose to donate all of the money to an evil organisation.
Your evil box can put money toward anything, as long as you don’t like it or it negatively affects you in some way. There are even apps out there that can help you easily set up your own “anti-charity system.” Or send money to your friend and have them use it to pay for playing pranks on yourself. Raise the stakes and give yourself some real incentive. Of course, if you’re going to punish yourself, you should reward yourself too. Don’t hesitate to celebrate a day without swearing, or a whole week with only swearing when you’re alone.
Cover Up Accidents
While you’re working on your new clean language filter, you’re bound to have a few slip ups. That’s expected and totally normal, but Stanely C. Loewen at Health Guidance suggests it’s good to have some cover up strategies in the meantime:
You can for instance practice changing the word as you say by adding something on the end. So if you find that you keep saying ‘fuck’, then simply add something onto the end like ‘rying out loud!’. Now what you are saying is ‘fuckrying out loud’ — i.e. ‘for crying out loud’. This is a great little way to cover up the mishap after it has happened and to fool younger children. Another option is to simply clap loudly at the same time as you swear and this can cover it up audibly.
This is especially helpful if you have kids or work with children. Other classics include “shit-take mushrooms,” “arsehole-er system is quite big,” “dick-laration of independence,” “bitch-er of lemonade,” and “dumbass-cus, Syria.” Get creative with your cover ups and get in the habit of using them. If you have a personal favourite, share it in the comments below.