According to Louis and Clark, a Native at the Pacific surprised them with the gasp, “Son of a Bitch!”

There is the question of where he’d heard the swear, but not in doubt is why he used it. “Son of a bitch” just sounds good. Part of the appeal is its versatility. Depending on one’s mood, the phrase can be uttered with all sorts of inflections and intonation. I’m guessing the native shook his head while stretching out the words, signifying wonder in a soft muse, as in, “son…of…a …bitch.”

It was my father’s favorite, so I’m more familiar with the angry “son of a bitch.” He got the best effect with emphasis on the last syllable – “son of a BITCH -” building tension and volume with “bitch” exploding with frustration. Sometimes he’d add a few more colorful words, just to be sure we got the point. But we can’t use those here.

Another good technique is turning one’s head slowly from side to side with teeth clenched, deriding an opponent in an even cadence. It goes like this, “You son of a bitch.” And you need to say it quiet, like Dirty Harry does, as in, “Go ahead, make my day.”

You can maybe tell, I’m a bit of an expert in swearing. It’s actually an art, talent every boy should develop – like how to smoke, and drink, and play cards, and chase…, well… play cards and drink and smoke. There is nothing more pathetic than an angry man that can’t swear right. Like “dag nab it.” Or “shoot! …Shoot?” That’s like “poop!” or “I have to go we-we.” I’ll be a son of a bitch, but if “shoot” is all you can come up with, you’re really not that mad.

I grew up with real swears. When my father was fourteen, his own father died, leaving him to fend for himself at the stockyards on the railroad head in Brighton, at the edge of Boston. That’s where he absorbed his vocabulary — from the masters, eventually passing it on to me. He had some good ones.

“Son of a bitch” will have to do for now,” but if we continue spending time together, you will probably get to hear a few more. And if you see me stub a toe or hit my finger with a hammer sometime, you’ll get the really good stuff.

 

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