Have you ever exerted yourself so hard in the gym you can’t even believe how much it took out of you? It doesn’t exactly hurt (ok, sometimes it does) but you’ve reached your limit and so you just want to yell as loud as you can “MOTHAFUKKA!” Has that ever happened to you?
It would be nice to have a more genteel substitute.
As soon as I heard Lord Grantham utter “Golly gumdrops!” on the television show, Downton Abbey, I wanted to adopt the expression. I can’t exactly call it a curse, right? But it would be so ludicrous in the context of a gym that, well, it appealed to me. Except when I thought it through, I knew immediately it would be unsatisfying.
Which got me thinking about what makes a curse word satisfying.
First, there have to be some hard consonants. Like K. Or T. Or D.
Lots of air must be expelled, like in my example above. And there has to be an accent syllable you can say really loud. Like “GolDAMit!”
But mostly, it has to be taboo, either a body taboo, like “dick” or something like that. Or a religious taboo, like “Jesus Christ!”
I find “Jesus Christ!” to be such a strange curse. The guy was into peace and love, for Christ’s sake– I mean, for crying out loud!
So yeah, taboos count when it comes to a really satisfying curse. Researchers have found that cuss words appear to live in the animal part of the brain, the one that was the source of howls of pain and grunts of frustration and pleasure. Looking around me at the gym, I can see how that would be true.
In the gym I try to curse in Italian, which always cracks Hot Trainer up.
“Madonna mia!” is a favorite. I use it often. But not as often as I use “Mother of God!” which I’ve tried to say instead of “MOTHAFUKKA!” –but sometimes only “MOTHAFUKKA” will do.
But Italian curses are not all that effective for me in releasing tension. I don’t find “Vaffannculo” very satisfying in Italian. It’s not as satisfying as the English version: “go F yourself.”
And as hard as I try, I just can’t make “Golly gumdrops” do it for me. I gave it a try in the gym and Hot Trainer tells me that it doesn’t work. So it’s not just me.
Still, it’s not like we really want to go around using these crass curse words. It’s so much better if no one knows what you are saying. Which is why I know you want to learn to cuss in Italian.
Here’s a handy video that teaches you exactly how.