When and Where is it Okay to use “Malas Palabras”?

When and where is it okay to use bad words?
Words in Half by Jenn Sterling

So you guys like cursing.  That’s good.  A mi también me gusta, pero I’m also kind of sensitive about how and when curse words can be used around me.  Growing up we were never allowed to curse in front of my parents… or any other adults for that matter.  Words like “shit” and “hell,” even “stupid,” were frowned upon.  So ni se imaginan when we started picking up more colorful pejoratives from our friends in school how big and bad, not to mention rebellious, we all felt.  Still, the “F” word and the “M-F” words were referred to exactly like that, only by initials.  We wouldn’t dare utter them out loud in front of, or around, our jefitos.

Even today, I still feel weird cursing in front of my parents.

Cuando se me sale uno que otro “chingao,” “cabron,” or “pendejo,” – never at them of course – while we’re talking my mother lets out a little gasp.  “¡Yyyyy!”  And the room goes silent, almost always followed by a little laughter or an uncomfortable silence (depending on the context of the usage).  You see, it’s all about context for us mexicanos.  Por ejemplo, I could say ¡me vale! or me vale and the reactions would be completely different.  Pero bueno, I’m not claiming to be all innocent tampoco.  

When I’m zig-zagging in and out of traffic by myself you should hear the words that come out of my mouth.  ¡Hasta me chiveo yo mismo!  It’s the rest of the time, when I’m not by myself, when I second guess my instinct to use any “bad words.”

Am I a prude about “colorful” language?

2 thoughts on “When and Where is it Okay to use “Malas Palabras”?

  1. You’re not a prude. It’s commonly called “abusive language” for a reason. Basically, it’s ok to use those words anytime you could also slap somebody upside the head. If you could slap somebody upside the head and they would take it as playing & maybe slap you right back also playing, well ok go ahead and slap them with words too. Most people you come across in daily life it is not ok to slap them upside the head. And even with people you’re closest to, there are definitely times when slapping them upside the head would not be understood (maybe even not meant) as playing. Children can’t master such nuances easily so it’s better that they avoid slapping people and if they hear you saying it, they’re going to say it just like they want to do everything else you do. So these words have their time and place for you to use them, which is to say, most of the time not.

    1. Beth, you’re very diplomatic and I think I agree with you for the most part on usage only that every once in a while I’ll slip and the words just come out… se me salen como quien dice. Must practice more self-control

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