James Lipton at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.
James Lipton at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wasn’t a huge fan of James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, and in fact, I’m not even sure if it’s still on the air.  I thought Lipton could sometimes be a little “Dance, Monkey!” — particularly on the episode where he had the cast of The Simpsons on, and the bulk of his questions seemed to be “So, can you do Apu now?  How about Homer?  Marge?  What would Bart have to say to that?” — when you’ve got a cast of talented voice actors and comedians, it seems like such a waste to have them just do the voices instead of asking them real questions.  Likewise, the John Goodman episode was a little painful where Lipton goaded Goodman into dancing like in Blues Brothers 2000 despite the fact that it was clearly causing Goodman physical pain.  But the show did have its moments too — and one of the more inspired moments was the seven questions he asked everyone.

One of the best was Alan Alda’s response to “What’s your favorite swear word?” — “Horse”; from a time that he was so angry he was just spewing out whatever expletives came to mind and then ended up on “horse”, apparently the filthiest swear of them all.

As for me, my answer would be a more traditional curse: Goddamn.  I’ve always just loved the way it feels in the mouth, the way it can be inflected to display anger or awe, the sound of it.  At my college radio station, when Dale and I were drafting up the list of language that couldn’t be used on air, I insisted we give “goddamn” a pass, because I knew, otherwise, I likely couldn’t be on the station myself.  In fact, I probably shouldn’t use it so often, but, well, it’s just so goddamn pleasing to me.

I’m usually pretty laid back, and while I do tend to curse much more than I should, there’ve been…  people know I’m stressed when I shout “Goddamn!” or “Goddamnit!”… not the stronger “Fuck!” or “Shit!”, but good ol’ goddamn.  It’s rare for me to shout anything, honestly, but, when I do, there’s a good likelihood it’s that word.

The funny thing is, I’ve always loved it, even when I was a young child.  Of course, then, it wasn’t “Goddamn”, but “Goddang” or “Goddarn”.  Looking back, I find it funny that I apparently self-censored the part of the word that people tend to find less objectionable.  That realization came once when watching a late-night run of Altman’s M*A*S*H and hearing Henry Blake shout “G[AWKWARD SILENCE]DAMMIT!”

Once in awhile, I’d try to remember to use “Gosh” when I was around people who objected to the use of “God” in ways not directly referring to the deity, but… well… even when I was trying “God! I mean Gosh!” was a common phrase.  I usually would just end up giving up.  And this is, of course, when I was like, eight.  Even then, “Gosh” just sounded corny.  (“Darn” and “Dang”, however, didn’t.  Strange how an eight year old’s mind works in terms of objectionable and acceptable language.)

Still, “Goddamn” just feels right.  I think it’s that… commanding sort of sound about it.  Even without the fact that the literal definition of the word is that you’re telling God to damn something to hell.  But it just has those sharp edges on the word.  It is a word with authority.  Maybe it’s that double-D in the middle that helps it roll of the tongue.  Maybe it’s the relatively rare “mn” ending, with the just-barely-pronounced “n” that makes it sound just… so… boss.  For a two-syllable word, there are quite a few ways you can inflect it, even.  I tend to find myself putting the emphasis on “damn”, but sometimes only a “GODdamn” will do.  Sometimes even the word can be said all lowercase… usually if something amazing or terrifying has just happened.

I suppose these things are true for a lot of different words — and arguments could be made for any expletive.  After all, “Fuck” even has its own documentary about it.  But, for me, “goddamn” is the way to go.  It’s just so goddamn great.

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