Category Archives: Other Stuff

This section is about whatever is on my mind on the subject of maintaining a young, vigorous, energetic life full of successes and accomplishments, no matter how old you are.

I Am Out!

The Out Campaign is a public awareness initiative begun by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Out CampaignThe campaign encourages atheists to “come out” and be open about their atheism.

The purpose, or at least a benefit of the initiative, is to show that atheists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. Atheists are laborers and professionals. Atheists are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandparents. They are liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. Atheists are good friends and good citizens.

I support The Out Campaign. So, I am in. That is, I am out.

The Problem

Currently, the general public view of atheists and atheism is, well, beyond belief (pun intended).

A Gallup poll before the 2012 presidential election asked whether respondents would vote for presidential candidates who belonged to various religious, ethnic or gender groups. This was the result:

Gallup Poll

As you see, there was a near-unanimous willingness to trust black, female, Catholic, Hispanic and Jewish candidates. Mormons and gays were less acceptable, and there was a great deal of distrust of Muslims. But atheists were the least acceptable candidates. (Distrust of atheists was most pronounced among Republicans and the elderly.)

Distrust of atheists is not a new phenomenon. Researchers at the University of Minnesota told us in 2006 that “atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups.”

And a study done by researchers at The University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011, found that atheists were considered even less trustworthy than rapists!

OMG! (irony intended)

Myths About Atheists

These poll and study results are driven by a long list of common myths about atheists and atheism. Australian writer and philosopher Russell Blackford has written a book titled 50 Great Myths About Atheism.

Let’s shed a little light on a few of the most common myths about atheism.

Myth: Atheists Don’t Have A Moral Code

This myth does the most harm, so let’s get to it first.

Believing that one cannot be good without God, many theists believe that atheists have no morals.

I recall a particular conversation I had with a friend – an otherwise good, smart, thoughtful person that I like and respect – where she reacted to learning that I was an atheist with something like this: “if you are an atheist then you don’t believe in anything. You must think it is all right to murder, rape and steal.”

Actually, atheism correlates to better behavior on average. Atheists are under-represented in prison, for instance, and the more religious nations have higher rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy.

So, yes, atheists have a moral code. Atheists manage to do good without fear of eternal damnation if they don’t.

That leads to an interesting question: is it more moral to help the poor out of concern for their suffering or because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

There is a moral and ethical code that is programmed into humans which is unrelated to religion. If all religion disappeared tomorrow, would all formerly religious people immediately start murdering, raping and robbing? Of course not.

These are two atheistic expressions of morality from famous people that make a lot of sense to me . . .

”When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”
Abraham Lincoln

” I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.”
Kathryn Hepburn

Myth: Atheists Are Aggressive And Rude

This notion has been around in various forms for a long time, but it really took off after the rise of “New Atheism,” which focuses its energy on disproving religious claims instead of merely pleading for tolerance of atheists.

Is it more rude for an atheist to say, “I don’t believe in God and here’s why” than for a believer to intrude in your personal space with pamphlets, attack people with religious claims when they’re feeling low, knock on your door to proselytize, or force your children to recite religious language in school.

What constitutes aggressiveness and rudeness depends on your point of view.

Myth: Atheism Is Dogmatic

A definition of dogmatic is “expressing personal opinions or beliefs as if they are certainly correct and cannot be doubted.”

That describes theism, not atheism.

The very essence of the scientific method and reason on which most atheists rely is that nothing is immutable. Anything can be changed based on evidence.

Religion, on the other hand, offers answers that may never be questioned.

If it is dogmatic to reject religious beliefs, then we are all dogmatic. As the programmer Stephen F. Roberts once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

The Out Campaign Can Be Part Of The Solution

Dispelling myths about atheism is important. Knowledge always defeats ignorance in the long run.

It is also important for atheists to be public about their atheism, and demonstrate their utter normality.

There’s actually some science behind this idea that exposure to atheists will reduce prejudice. In social psychology, the Contact Hypothesis states that, under appropriate conditions, interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members.

That is what happened with gays and lesbians. As straight people became more familiar with homosexuals – through personal contact as more homosexuals came out and through favorable portrayals of homosexuals in the popular media, such as the television show Will & Grace – and straights saw that gays were more like them than not, homophobia lessened.

There is reason to hope that bias against atheists can be reduced as more atheists “come out.”

Get To Know An Atheist

I avoided writing this post for a number of reasons. I am not an expert on this subject. I do not speak for anyone but me. And, this blog is not about religion and atheism, and I do not want it to be.

I finally decided to write this post to join the Out Campaign in showing how ridiculously normal atheists are.

Just look around this blog. If you do, you will see that, although I am an atheist who does not believe in gods, I am interested in core values, volunteerism, practicing kindness and living by a set of values-based personal rules. Atheists can even be fun and have a sense of humor!

If this shatters a stereotype of yours, I’m glad to have been of service.

Meet Some More Atheists

You are probably aware of recent polls revealing that about 1 in 5 Americans and 1 in 3 Americans under age 30 do not identify with any religion.

Although not all of these non-religious people are atheists, there is still a very good chance that you know atheists, even if you do not know they are atheists.

You also know of many famous inventors, scientists, statesmen, authors, sportsmen, philosophers, business people and performers who happen to be atheists. Here is a list of a few of them . . .

Thomas Edison
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Andrew Carnegie
Marie Curie
Helen Keller
Albert Einstein
Stephen Hawking
Warren Buffett
Bill Gates
Carl Sagan
Pat Tillman
Richard Branson
Kurt Vonnegut
Ernest Hemingway
James Baldwin
Clarence Darrow
John-Paul Sartre
Bertrand Russell
Friedrich Nietschke
John Stuart Mill
Karl Marx
Kevin Bacon
Sigmund Freud
Marlon Brando
Billy Joel
Bruce Lee
John Lennon
Bill Maher
Barry Manilow
Rafael Nadal
Jack Nicholson
George Orwell
Brad Pitt
Daniel Radcliffe
Andy Rooney
Ted Turner
Ted Williams
Mark Zuckerberg
Angelina Jolie
Larry King
Gene Wilder
Keanu Reeves
Ayn Rand
Burt Lancaster
Penn Gillette
Isaac Asimov
Pablo Picasso
Vincent Van Gogh
Frank Lloyd Wright
Mick Jagger
James Cameron
Voltaire
Bertrand Russell
Napoleon
Charlie Chaplin
Walt Disney
Geoge Clooney
Barney Frank
Richard Dawkins
Sam Harris
Christopher Hitchens
Daniel Dennett
George Carlin
Heraclitus
Eric Hoffer
Clarence Darrow
James Baldwin
Steven Pinker
Philip Roth
Dave Barry
Albert Camus
George Bernard Shaw
Robert Louis Stevenson
Alfred Nobel
Linus Pauling
Steve Wozniak
Penn Jillette
Larry King
Joaquin Phoenix
Daniel Radcliffe

Conclusion

If you are an atheist, I encourage you to be public about it and to support The Out Campaign.

If you are not an atheist, I invite your comments, pro or con.

Sometimes You Just Have To Scratch Your Head And Say “Isn’t That Interesting?”

Veteran professional basketball player, and from what I read all-around good guy, Jason Collins has come out and announced to the world that he is gay. He is the first active athlete in any of the four major team sports to do so.

Isn't that interestingAnd I’ve been fascinated by the reaction.

There has been an outpouring of support. Collins said in an interview that he has received commending calls from many, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. He did not say that he had heard from the other three living former presidents.

I thought to myself, isn’t that interesting?

On the other hand, I’ve read comments online from people with names like SCROTIE McBUGGERBALLS and JORDAN THE GOAT that were, shall we say, less supportive. Actually, they were ignorant, bigoted and hateful.

And I thought to myself, isn’t that interesting?

So far, the only public person that I have heard being critical of Jason Collins is ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard. On a television show where he was supposed to comment about the effect of being openly gay in the NBA, Broussard volunteered that “I’m Christian and I don’t agree with homosexuality.”

I wondered what inside him compelled Broussard to volunteer his religious views and why being a Christian made him unable to “agree” with homosexuality.

And I thought to myself, isn’t that interesting?

As I understand it, people with that view are relying on Leviticus 18:22, a Christian Bible provision which some Christians interpret to prohibit male homosexual acts.

I also understand that the Christian Bible forbids tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), consultation with psychics (Leviticus 19:31), gossiping (Leviticus 19:16), cursing your parents, for which the death penalty is prescribed (Exodus 21:17), getting remarried after getting divorced (Mark 10:11-12), working on the Sabbath, for which the death penalty is prescribed (Exodus 31:14-15), eating shrimp, lobster and other shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12), and even polyester (Leviticus 19:19), among others.

So far, I haven’t heard Broussard volunteer that he doesn’t “agree” with those who violate these or any of a host of other unusual prohibitions of his religion. I wondered what makes this one prohibition so important to him? And why does it trump his religion’s admonishments to “do good; seek justice, correct oppression?” (Isaiah 1:17).

And I thought to myself, isn’t that interesting?

Because I find this all so, you know, interesting, I recently – pre-Jason Collins – engaged in an online conversation with an acquaintance who shares the Broussard point of view.

My friend had posted something on Facebook supporting an organization that exists to “defend marriage.”

Not understanding why marriage needs to be “defended” and being concerned that the philosophical notion that it does has an adverse effect on real, living LGBT people, I sent a response to my friend:

“Are you aware that same-sex couples and their families are denied access to the more than 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities which are automatically granted to married heterosexual couples? These include the right to make decisions on a partner’s behalf in a medical emergency, the right to receive family-related Social security benefits, income and estate tax benefits, disability benefits and family-related military and veterans benefits.”

I asked: “Why would any fair-minded person encourage that kind of discrimination?”

She replied that she didn’t care about “human law,” that her beliefs were controlled by “Moral law.” Revealing a bit of a martyr complex and an us-versus-them, “two worlds” view, she stated that “I realize that this philosophy will largely be misunderstood, even rejected, perhaps hated by the secular world.”

I wanted to understand what she meant by “Moral law” and how something called moral could sanction discrimination and maltreatment of people simply because of a characteristic with which they were born.

Strange as it seems to most of us, I am aware that some people believe that homosexuality is a choice and that it is an immoral and sinful choice so I went straight there. I asked her if she believed that.

To her credit, and to my surprise, she said she didn’t.

So I replied: “We apparently agree that homosexuality is not a choice, and that homosexuals are not ‘sinful,’ yet you believe they should be treated differently by the law simply because they are homosexuals, that same-sex couples should be denied more than 1,000 rights and benefits that heterosexual couples have. If they have not made an immoral choice and homosexuals are not ‘sinful,’ there is no basis for opposing fair treatment for them on moral grounds.”

Her reply: “As I previously stated, the homosexual inclination is not a choice nor is it intrinsically sinful. However, actively living an unchaste life is disobedience against the Moral law of God and is therefore sinful behavior.”

By this point, I think she had realized that by acknowledging that homosexuality is neither a choice nor sinful, she had put herself in an indefensible position. So she simply redefined homosexuality as an “unchaste life.”

Next, I questioned my friend about the fact that many others of her religion disagree with her.

I said: “It is obvious that [your Moral law] must be ambiguous, at least on this subject. I know that because I have friends who are also ‘rooted in Judeo-Christian teachings’ and disagree completely with your views. And, from what I can tell, not just friends of mine, but most people ‘rooted in Judeo-Christian teachings’ disagree with your position. Perhaps they recognize that homophobic notions are not merely unfair, they are dangerous. They lead to discrimination, bias and even violence.” I invited her to “look up the figures on the number of hate crimes that are perpetrated against LGBT people.”

My friend was unimpressed by the realities of discrimination and even violence that homosexuals experience. And she was not deterred by the fact that others of her own religion disagree. She remained adamant: “Scripture and Church teaching is very clear on this matter. . . I cannot explain the views of your Judeo-Christian friends. Perhaps they are confused or uneducated in the matter of sexual morality or perhaps they are just plain arrogant or defiant.”

As our conversation closed with that, I thought to myself, isn’t that interesting?

Shortly after this conversation, which occurred in private messages, not in public, my friend “unfriended” me on Facebook.

I thought to myself, now isn’t that REALLY interesting?

Choosing Your Personal Core Values: A 3-Step Process

What are your most important values and when was the last time you re-evaluated them?

Every person has a set of core values, even if they aren’t aware of them. (So do businesses, societies and other groups).

Choosing Your Personal Core ValuesYour individual core values come from the persons and things that have influenced you including your parents and family, your religious affiliation, your friends and peers, your education, your reading, and from your choices.

If you are not sure what your top values are or you have not examined them lately to make sure they are the best values for you, try this exercise.

Step One: Identify Your Current Values

Write down 20 values that resonate with you. If you need help, use this list of values. Then, cut your list from 20 to 10. Then, cut your list in half again. What’s left are your 5 true core values.

If you want, when you create your list you can seek feedback from people who are close to you and will be honest with you. Ask them what they think are your core personal values based on how you live your life.

This is harder than you think, so take time with it. (When I first did this exercise, it took me 2 days and I ended up with my top 5, then another 5 and then 12 more that were important to me. Maybe I should put the value of decisiveness at the top of my list!)

Step Two: Choose Your Best Values

Next, think about your values. Do they feel right? Are you excited about living your values? Will your life be better if you make decisions based on the values you have identified?

If you answered any of these questions with a “no,” it’s time to change your values.

Some people don’t think you can change your values. They think that you don’t choose your values, your values choose you. They see you as passive in the process. They often say things like “that’s the way I was raised” and “that’s just the way I am.”

I disagree. You can change your values if you want. You are not simply a bystander watching your life unfold. You can choose your values and design the life you want.

You should review your values regularly to see if any changes should be made.

Affirm the existing values that are working for you, discard those that aren’t working and add the values that you believe will be best for you.

In choosing your values, be honest with yourself. Don’t choose values that are totally unrealistic.

But, on the other hand, values can be aspirational.

Choose the values that will give you the life you want, that will help you become the person you always wanted to be.

That may mean adding or giving a higher priority to values such as health, fitness, continuous learning and growth, proactivity, enthusiasm, optimism, service, or others, if you believe that having and living the new value will improve your life.

Step 3: Live Your Values

Living a life of integrity means living your values. Being authentic. For example, if you believe in kindness, you should not be unkind to others. If you believe in fairness, you should not treat others unfairly. If you value optimism, you should live that value.

To live your values, keep them constantly in front of you. Write them down on a note card, post them on your personal bulletin board, write them in your journal.

If you want help, tell others about the values you are trying to live and ask them to tell you when you deviate from your core values.

By living an authentic life that is consistent with your values, you will find that you will feel good about yourself. The more closely you live your values, the more at peace with yourself you will be.

You will also feel energized and excited about bringing your values to life. And, if you’ve chosen your values well, you will become more successful at achieving your goals.

List Of Values

The list is not as long as it seems. There are synonyms that make it appear longer than it is.

Of course, you can select values that are not on this list.

Accomplishment, Success
Accountability
Accuracy
Achievement
Advancement
Adventure
Affectionate
Aggressive
Altruism
Ambition
Analytical
Beauty
Calm, quietude, peace
Caring
Challenge
Change
Charity
Cleanliness, orderliness
Collaboration
Cooperation
Commitment
Communication
Community
Competence
Compassion
Competition
Composure
Concern for others
Connection
Consistent
Conscientious
Content over form
Continuous improvement
Contribution
Cooperation
Coordination
Courage
Creativity
Credibility
Daring
Decisiveness
Dedication
Democracy
Dependability
Dignity
Diligence
Discipline/order
Discovery
Diversity
Education
Efficiency
Empathy
Empowerment
Enjoyment/fun
Enthusiasm
Equality
Excellence
Fairness
Faith
Family
Fearlessness
Fitness
Flair
Flexibility
Freedom
Friendship
Frugality
Fulfillment
Fun
Generosity
Global view
Goal oriented
Good will
Goodness
Gratitude
Hard work
Harmony
Health
Helpfulness
Honesty
Honor
Hopefulness
Humility
Humor
Imagination
Improvement
Independence
Individuality
Influence
Ingenuity
Inner peace, calm, quietude
Innovation
Integrity
Joy
Justice
Kindness
Knowledge
Leadership
Learning
Liberty
Light-heartedness
Love
Loyalty
Making a difference
Magnanimity
Meaning
Mercy
Merit
Modesty
Money
Morality
Openness
Optimism
Organization
Passion
Patience
Patriotism
Peace, Non-violence
Perfection (e.g. of details)
Persistence
Personal Growth
Pleasure
Positive attitude
Power
Practicality
Preservation
Privacy
Proactivity
Problem Solving
Productivity
Progress
Prosperity, Wealth
Punctuality
Quality of work
Recognition
Resourcefulness
Relationships
Respect for others
Responsibility
Responsiveness
Results-oriented
Romance
Rule of Law
Safety
Satisfying others
Security
Self-awareness
Self-confidence
Self-reliance
Self-worth
Sense of humor
Sensitivity
Serenity
Service (to others, society)
Simplicity
Sincerity
Skill
Speed
Stability
Status
Strength
Success
Teamwork
Thoroughness
Time management
Timeliness
Tolerance
Tradition
Tranquility
Trust
Trustworthiness
Truth
Uniqueness
Unity
Unselfishness
Variety
Vision
Vitality
Wealth
Willingness to risk
Wisdom
Work

Eulogy Of Peg Santa Maria

Margaret E. "Peg" Santa Maria
Margaret E. "Peg" Santa Maria
My mother, Margaret E. “Peg” Santa Maria, died on April 11, 2011, at the age of 89. As is yours, my mother was special. This is her eulogy. Writing it was one of the hardest, yet most valuable, things I have ever done.

Early Years

Huntington, West Virginia was founded on the banks of the Ohio River in 1870 as the western terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.

That’s where Mom was born on March 8, 1922. Her parents were Grace and Wylie Hillard. Not surprisingly, Wiley was a railroad man.

Twelve years later, Mom’s little brother, Bill, was born. Bill is a great guy who lives in Colorado. He possesses many of his sister’s admirable qualities.

Peg Santa Maria
Peg Santa Maria at Huntington High School
Mom went to school in Huntington where she attended Marshall College (which is now Marshall University) for two years.

One day, when she was about 22, Mom went to the local train station to watch a troop train go through town. As she stood there, she was spotted by one of the soldiers, my Dad, Phil “Bud” Santa Maria. It was love at first sight.

If you remember him, you know that my Dad was a persistent man of action, a real dynamo, so it’s not surprising that Mom and Dad were married a short time later.

Harriet Nelson Period

Peg Santa Maria and Peggy
Peg Santa Maria and Peggy
After they married in 1944, Mom and Dad headed to Florida, settling in Fort Lauderdale. My younger sister, Peggy, and I were born there.

Mom and Dad had a good life in Florida. You may have heard Fort Lauderdale referred to as the “Venice of America” because of the picturesque canals running through the city. Obviously, even then, houses on the water were coveted. Somehow, Mom and Dad found a way to buy a house on one of the canals, on Bontona Avenue.

Peg Santa Maria
Peg Santa Maria and son Phil
This picture of Mom and her homely first born was taken in the back yard at Bontona Avenue.

In 1955, Mom and Dad decided to move closer to Dad’s parents who lived in Philadelphia. They traveled north and fell in love with the tree covered streets of Riverton, New Jersey. Their first home was at 526 Main Street. Several years later, they purchased a lot at 1 Bank Avenue, where they built a home – doing most of the work themselves – overlooking the Delaware River. They lived there until Dad’s death.

What I’ve told you about so far represents, to me, the first of three distinct parts of Mom’s adult life. I’ll call it her Harriet Nelson Period.

During this time, Mom was a 1950s – 1960s style homemaker. She was totally devoted to Peggy and me. Actually, for me, she was largely mother and father. Dad worked long hours to provide for us – which he did very well – so most of the parenting responsibilities fell to Mom. For example, she was the one that took me to baseball games in Philadelphia when my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers were in town.

Mom also “mothered” our friends. For my closest friends, our house on Bank Avenue was a second home. We always had a crowd of kids in our house. And when my friends were at the house, Mom didn’t just host them, she joined us. She was comfortable being with us and my friends and I genuinely liked having her involved in our activities. We learned the hard way that she was a great card player, especially Hearts.

Dad died prematurely of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) on July 20, 1976.

Mom was 54 years old. It was the late 1970s. Inflation was 18% a year. The cost of running the house on the river was skyrocketing. She had no spouse, no bread winner, no assets besides the house and no life insurance proceeds.

Mary Tyler Moore Period

My Dad’s death abruptly thrust Mom into the second phase of her adult life. This was her working woman phase. I call it her Mary Tyler Moore Period.

Peg Santa Maria
Peg Santa Maria at New Jersey Water Company
She had taken a job at the New Jersey Water Company just a few years before my dad died. She liked her job and loved her co-workers. She worked there until she reached 65 and retired in 1987.

Elizabeth Taylor Period

With her retirement, Mom evolved into the third phase of her adult life, her volunteer and service period. I’ll name this her Elizabeth Taylor Period for the caring and philanthropic actress (who happened to be a favorite of Mom).

Volunteer service was Mom’s true calling.

Peg Santa Maria
Peg, Grace, Phil & Todd at Nursing Home
Not long after Mom retired from the water company, my grandmother suffered a stroke. Until her death in 1993, she resided at Cinnaminson Nursing Home where Mom was a daily visitor.

Mom didn’t just visit my grandmother. She visited everyone who lived there. Her sincere, friendly, positive presence brightened many lives.

After my grandmother’s death, Mom shifted her focus to other volunteer efforts, principally at Lourdes Medical Center.

Peg Santa Maria
Peg Santa Maria at Lourdes Medical Center
The last time I heard a figure, a few years ago, Mom had accumulated more than 25,000 hours of volunteer work at the hospital! That’s equivalent to more than 12 years of a full-time job. And she loved every minute of it.

Mom continued to work at the hospital until just a few months ago. In fact, during her recent illness and up to the very end of her life, she intended to return to her volunteer work at the hospital as soon as she was well enough.

What Mom Taught Us

My Mom was not the type to give advice. She didn’t tell you how to do things or how to run your life.

She did better. She showed you.

If you watched her, you learned through the power of her example all you need to know to have a successful life that leaves a mark on the world.

These are some of the things I learned from my Mom . . .

Resilience. Although her formative years were lived during the Depression, and she lived through World War II, I never heard her complain about how hard either was. Not once. She had a very serious operation after my sister was born. That didn’t slow her down either. She recovered and never looked back. When she lost her husband prematurely and had to start over at 54, she soldiered on, resolutely doing the things necessary to survive and prosper.

Grit. As you know, grit means perseverance. It means keeping going when others would quit. This little, 100-pound woman was all grit.

Positive attitude. Mom was that rare person who never complained. She was always pleasant. She radiated good feelings. She was a delight to be around. Always.

Humility. Mom was completely humble and unpretentious. She would rather help people than impress them. She would be annoyed about me “bragging on her” and telling you how many volunteer hours she gave to Lourdes Medical Center. You would never have heard about that from her.

Service. Many, probably most of us, have a “What’s In It For Me?” mindset. Mom was different. She was a service oriented person who would ask “What’s In It For (or What Can I Do For) You?” How much better would our world be if more of us had that attitude?

Courage. She wasn’t a big person but, as you have heard – and probably already knew – Mom was strong willed. And that never changed. I watched her closely in the last days of her life and I never saw even a flicker of foreboding. She lived her life fearlessly until her last breath.

For her inspiring life and these lessons, I will always be grateful.

8 Rules For Cussing

Cussing
8 Rules for Cussing

The other day, I was thinking about cussing.

No, I wasn’t pondering whether I should cuss. I was thinking about the subject of cussing. (You usually don’t think about cussing before you cuss, you just do it. That’s sort of the point.)

What prompted this is the realization that cussing can make me feel better.

Say, I hit my funny bone. For some reason, yelling an obscenity makes me feel a little better. Same when some idiot cuts me off in traffic. Calling that driver an unmentionable name makes me feel a little better. Or, if I hear something objectionable on the news, I feel a little better after I scream a profanity at the TV.

I started wondering if cussing really makes me feel better or whether I am just rationalizing a bad habit. And if it really makes me feel better, why does it?  (As one friend constantly reminds me, I’ve got too much time on my hands.)

So I started thinking about the subject of cussing. You know, cursing. Profanity. Swearing. Expletives. Bad words. Dirty words. Obscene language. Indecent language. Choice words. Blue language. Swear words. Foul language. Vulgar language. 4-letter words. Adult language.

Cussing Facts

I even did some research which yielded these 12 interesting facts about cussing . . .

  • There are scores of taboo words in English but 10 – fuck, shit, hell, damn, goddam, Jesus Christ, God, Oh My God, bitch and sucks – account for 80% of the cussing. (To me, sucks is not a cuss word, but what do I know?)
  • Fuck and shit alone account for about 1/3 to ½ of all cussing. (They’re the Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth of cuss words.)
  • These top 10 most frequently used cuss words remained essentially the same from 1986 to 2006 – although over much longer periods, what are considered curse words can change.
  • Typical speakers use about 15,000 to 16,000 words per day. Studies show that the percentage of taboo words is typically between .03% and .07%. That’s around 80-90 taboo words per day per person. (In the rest of this article, I will probably meet my quota for the day.)
  • There are substantial individual differences. Some speakers use profanity 0% of the time and the maximum rate shown in the studies is 3.4%. (What the hell is that 3.4% guy’s problem?)
  • Men swear more frequently in public than women, but the gap is closing. In 1986, men accounted for 67% of public swearing, but by 2006, the gap had narrowed to 55%.
  • Men say more offensive words (fuck, shit, motherfucker) more frequently than women do. Women say Oh my God, bitch, piss and retard more frequently than men do.
  • Men and women swear more frequently in the presence of their gender than in mixed-gender groups.
  • Swearing occurs across all age ranges but it peaks during the teenage years and declines thereafter.
  • Social rank plays a role in swearing. Socially low-ranking speakers produced higher rates of swearing than did high-ranking speakers.
  • Personality also plays a significant role in frequency of cursing. Hostile swearing is a defining feature of a Type A personality.
  • On the other hand, swearing is not as prevalent in populations characterized by high religiosity, sexual anxiety or sexual repressiveness.

Rules For Cussing

After thinking about this, and doing my research, here’s what I have concluded.

Cussing has existed since the beginning of language, and it exists in all languages. Most people cuss at one time or another — some more than others, of course. Since cussing has persisted over all these years, and is so pervasive, it must satisfy a need.

Actually, there are a number of needs cussing meets. We cuss in a number of different circumstances. For example, couples use curse words for intimate sex talk. And groups use cussing to bond, as a social lubricant. As in, “I haven’t seen this son of a bitch in years.”

But, mainly, we use cussing to vent, to blow off steam. To express and release emotion, mainly anger and frustration.

That’s why I let ‘er rip when my computer is not cooperative, when another driver is driving 10 mph below the speed limit in the fast lane or when it starts to rain when I am doing an outdoor activity.

I am convinced there are actually benefits to cussing in some circumstances.

There’s actually a study from Great Britain which concluded that cussing helps deal with pain. In that study, they had a number of volunteers hold their hands in frigid water until it became painful. Some of the subjects could repeat cuss words. The other group could only use non-taboo words. The researchers found that the cussing volunteers could withstand the pain longer.

I think there’s another study that concluded that cussing relieves tension.

Since I don’t see any chance that I’ll completely banish cussing, I have established some (somewhat tongue in cheek) personal rules for cussing and here they are:

    1. I won’t overdo it. Cuss too much and it loses its “magic.” When in doubt, leave it out.

    2. I’ll consider my audience. Without a good reason, I will try not to cuss around people I think will be offended. But see the exception to Rule 3.

    3. I’ll cuss at situations and circumstances, but I won’t cuss at people . . . unless they deserve it. But if they deserve it, there is no substitute for “fuck you!.” I’m serious. I don’t know any way to convey the same intensity and emotion using non-taboo words. Just remember Rule 1.

    4. I will try to use the lowest ranking cuss word that will do the trick. This is related to Rule 1. If you use the heavy duty curses too often, they lose their effectiveness.

    5. I will feel free to cuss within groups that I am a member of where cussing is accepted, but I will also feel free not to cuss.

    6. I will use cussing in jokes when it makes them funnier. I’m thinking of a particular joke where the punch line “Are you going to play golf or are you going to fuck around?” is 10 times funnier than the “screw around” version. Although I’ll consider my audience and avoid the joke altogether if appropriate – see Rule 2 — I’m going to keep using the funnier line.

    7. When writing, I will use cuss words when they are the best way to convey what I want. But only then.

    8. I will never use racial, ethnic or group epithets. Period.

With all of this said, I’m sure that, as is the case now, I won’t cuss very often. Just when it’s necessary . . . or when something really pisses me off.

Why “Football?”

Ameriball
Ameriball

Why do Americans call their favorite sport “football?”

I mean, the sport does not focus on the feet.

There is another sport which actually involves the feet.  Most of the world calls that football, or “futbol,” and that name accurately describes the game.

Thinking about this one day, I decided that we need a new name for American football. A more descriptive name.

Given the nature of the game, I first thought of Crashball or Collisionball.

Nah. Descriptive, but clunky.

Then it hit me.

Since the game is only played in North America, and since it is the most popular sport in the United States of America, how ‘bout Ameriball.

The quintessential American sport should be called Ameriball.

You have to admit, this name makes a lot more sense than football.

Who’s with me?