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James R. Stout

I'll Be Hornswoggled

            I do not recall when certain rules around our house were first imparted to me when I was a kid. However, I most certainly recall the consequences of breaking those rules. One of the rules that had no room for interpretation or movement was related to the language that we used. Under no circumstance were we to ever say a cuss word. There’s no reason for me to name them here. You know what words that I am talking about. Yes, some were four letter words, but there were others as well. But the rule did not simply include those words. It also included some other more notable words or phrases. Even words such as darn, dern, dang, and shoot would illicit “the look” from my mother. She couldn’t stop my father from occasionally saying, “dang it”, but she could stop us from saying it and quite often did. To their credit, my parents taught us by their actions. They were not going to demand of us one thing and allow themselves to do that very thing. I never heard my parents cuss. They even told on themselves later in life about using the word “damn” too much when they were first married. One day they were traveling somewhere in the car and my oldest sister, their only child at the time, was about 18 months old. There were no child seats in those days. She was sitting in the middle of the front seat so that my mother could do her best to control a toddler prone to standing up and fidgeting as they are so good proficient at doing. It seems that the car in front of them slammed on its brakes which caused my father to do the same. Mom wasn’t quite quick enough to catch Barbara who tumbled onto the floorboard. She wasn’t hurt, but she was decidedly perturbed. From her sweet little lady’s mouth, she uttered, “Damn it!” Well, she was corrected, but mom and dad had a talk about it later and they knew that Barbara had learned that word from hearing them say it. So, they decided then and there to never utter such words again.

            Now, to get specific about something that really bothers me today: The taking of God’s name in vain. If you wanted to be grounded, perhaps spanked, and certainly given a stern talking to, then break that rule. And, I’m not just talking about the obvious example of doing this. I won’t even write it down here because I am so conditioned not to say it. And this is 60 years later! But there was another phrase that would get you in trouble if you said it. It was just not allowed. I hate to hear someone use the phrase today because it is definitely taking God’s name in vain. However, it has become the “go to” phrase for many people. I’ll be watching one of the TV shows that I tend to like such as the ones where someone has their car restored. “Overhaulin”, “Fantomworks”, and other such shows will always have the “reveal” at the end of the show where they bring out the restored car for the customer to see. Nearly 100% of the time the customer will exclaim loudly, “OMG”. I cringe every time. On social media it seems to be used by an awful lot of people. I mentioned my aversion to this phrase to a friend recently and he asked me, “Well, what would you say instead?” OK, maybe I’m old fashioned and out of touch, but what’s wrong with “golly”, “gee whiz”, or even “gosh”. Although it’s merely another way of saying the phrase, I would rather hear someone say, “Oh my gosh”, than them using God.

            No doubt some of you will think that I’m just being silly or to rigid, but seriously, it really does bother me. It is a flippant attempt to diminish God. Now, go ahead and ask me what you’re thinking. I’ll answer it with hat in hand. Yes, I have broken that rule before. Yes, I even have said “GD” in my life. But every time that I did, I immediately felt bad about it. I felt like I let God down. I make a concerted effort not to say those things these days. I guess the older that I get, the closer I get to God and the closer that I get to God the more I see my faults and failures because His light can’t help but reveal them.

            So, these days I try extremely hard not to slip and in fact I try to find humorous ways to voice my dismay at something. I think if you ask people who are close to me, then they’ll tell you that I say some pretty funny things. And you know what? A little laughter seems to make whatever was bothering me seem irrelevant. There’s nothing like seeing the look on someone’s face when I exclaim, “I’ll be hornswoggled” or “Great goobledee goo”. I guess in the end I’d love it if we all thought about what we want to say before we say it and make sure that we don’t teach the wrong lessons to our children or take God’s name in vain.

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