My father knew how to swear. He’d been in the Naval Air Reserve and they don’t say “swears like a sailor” for no good reason. I occasionally heard my father employ the profane arts – often when he thought we weren’t around or was caught unawares by an errant swinging hammer or broken appliance. Despite all that, in deference to my mother, dad tried not to swear in front of the kids. This lead to his using words that were less harsh in the place of stronger words, or creating new word couplings that expressed his ire while remaining friendly to children’s ears.
The one I remember most of all is “jerk turkey”. The first time I heard it was in the car, after someone had cut him or done something stupid and my father called him a “jerk shit” which earned him a scolding from mom. Later when another road incident angered him, he reached for the same insult. “Jerk” came out strong but then he faltered. There was a pause as he searched for a suitable replacement for “shit” and finally “turkey” burst out of his mouth. Being older now, I can probably guess that the mental connection came from “turkey shit”, another popular phrase I had heard people utter from time to time, and my dad simply removed “shit” from both of them and slammed those two remaining words together.
“Jerk turkey” became a staple of my father’s lexicon. Other drivers on the road were prime examples. Also, umpires who make bad calls in games dad watched on TV. Comcast is a company full of nothing but jerk turkeys, from their technicians to their customer service. The guy who delivered his newspaper, also a jerk turkey. The wait staff as well as the kitchen staff at Chili’s who never got any of his orders right, ever – jerk turkeys, the whole lot of them.
The last people I ever heard my father call jerk turkeys were the staff at the two rehab facilities he was in before his passing. In both places, due to his high blood pressure, they placed him on “no salt” diets. Dad liked salt on everything. Food wasn’t worth eating if it wasn’t salted. And so, the people who refused to give him salt – jerk turkeys.
In my life, I’ve been known to swear. Very, very rarely ever around my father, but among friends when there are no kids around, I can soil the air with foul words just as well as anyone. I think, however, in the future, I’m going to try to do it less, but there are times when you need something to call people, something to yell at the top of your lungs and get the ire out.