Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mill Talk

For Wednesday, August 17, 2011

At my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party ten years ago, my siblings and I each took turns getting up to toast Mom and Dad in one way or another. I spoke of their displays of love and sang the song, Something Wonderful from the musical The King and I. When it was my brother Bill’s turn, he made the room laugh with memories and recollections of Dad’s use of “mill talk”, Mom’s phrase for Dad’s tendency to curse when frustrated over the work of one of his projects.

Mom used to tell Dad he had to put a dime in a jar for every swear word he used and I remember sitting at the lunch table some days getting my parents laughing as I’d caught Dad slipping up and saying a few choice words as he described his morning at his job in the mill. “That’s 10 cents. That’s 20 cents”. Dad would pretend to be shocked and he’d play dumb. “I didn’t say anything! What are you counting?” Mom and I would start giggling and Dad would try to conceal his smirk. And yes, he would work harder to keep his language clean, having been reminded there were little ears in the room.

So today, when I woke up to hear Dad trying to warm up the cool camp by lighting a fire in the Franklin stove, I had to smile. Oh, like my Dad, I know my manners and I am most professional on the job and I certainly do not swear in most of my social circles, but at home, my husband and children remind me that although I am not quite as bad as Dad, I do have a tendency to swear whenever I drop a dish, bang my elbow, or have car problems. We “mill talkers” all have our own chosen favorite curse words. I usually blame my own use of swear words on the fact that I teach high school, although I suppose I know the real influence, the early source of my exposure to foul language. It’s too bad that all those years of Mom getting Dad to put a dime in a jar for every utterance of his “mill talk” made such an unexpected, unintended impression on me.

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