I was in a Whole Foods today and feeling very misanthropic; while the second condition is often a direct consequence in the first, this was different because I was craving the outbreak of a global thermonuclear war even before wandering into this madhouse of weird-looking fuckers jaggedly pushing carts of grossly overpriced produce and such around and jabbering on cell phones. I was spewing some kind of dour account of this or that deficiency in myself and others and seeding my lament with profanity when I noticed a sleeping baby being trundled by a foot or two away. I curbed my monologue until the infant and its oblivious mom were out of range and then started in again.
This made me wonder (not for the first time, as I have a couple of young nephews): What age can a human being attain before it’s unofficially no longer appropriate to swear around him or her with impunity?
Of course, this assumes two things: that there is in fact an age range from 0 to X at which hearing curses isn’t going to have a lasting neuropsychological effect, and that there are defensible reasons to avoid swearing around little kids in the first place. Most people I know would probably accept both. So on the surface this is a legitimate question. While I wouldn’t feel as if delivering a loud George Carlin monologue within inches of a sleeping six-month-old’s face was a constructive use of my time, I wouldn’t feel guilty about exposing it to F-bombs. On the other hand, I’m always careful to avoid this around hominids who are old enough to, well, seem to focus on what I’m saying, leaving aside the sobering and telling reality that some people never exhibit this behavior.
Hell, I’ll go with two years on the nose.