‘Uncle Al’ practiced the art of swearing

Published 9:06 am Thursday, February 6, 2014

Most families have a special “aunt,” “uncle” or equally honored relative, someone who has come into the family circle, not by blood or marriage, but by something much greater.

This is the friend that has always been there, the kind of friend that never asks for anything, but is there whenever you need to ask. The kind of friend that started out as a friend, and over the years, acquired the honorary title of family member.

“Uncle Al” was that kind of family member. A bachelor due to a long series of indecisions, he essentially adopted our family as his own. Better yet, we adopted him. A man of subtle grace, masked by gregarious sociability, Uncle Al stood well over six feet and tipped the scale more than I or my siblings ever actually knew. He was a big man filled with all that is good in life, void of most that is bad.

Uncle Al did have one slightly noticeable flaw; he was cursed with the use of very peppery language. However, he didn’t swear in the way most wayward folks would sink to profanity. He elevated swearing to an art form of sanitized vulgarities.

Should Uncle Al enter into an argument, he might refer to his opponent as a “Dang nabbed, son of a road swerving, horse necked, bead bangler.” The translation of the phrase was left to the person receiving the taunt. Most considered it an insult. Few were certain as to why.

Once, a crow made a deposit on the hood of Uncle Al’s brand new pick-up. Uncle Al did fly into a bit of a fit over the dollop left decorating the previously perfect factory sheen. But, Al’s utterances were far more colorful than rage alone can generate. Phrases like “fatherless fowl” and “patties of pre-chewed pustule” and “unbaptized brain fogged beetle chewer” tumbled from his mouth like water over Yosemite Falls.

An errant driver might earn the title of “ignorant insect craving ibis.” An umpire making a bad call might be tagged as a “swamp soaking salmonella server.” However, a stupid idea was usually just a “stupid idea.”

Sometimes it is best to call things as they really are.

His favorite pastime was to unarm opponents in a hotly contested battle of wits. Invectives were issued with such speed and authority that it was impossible to completely understand the insult in time for rebuttal.

Few can recover from being called a “two-toed trolley rider” or an “unpolished spittoon.” How does one strike back after discovering their position makes as much sense as “an unraveling string on a sun-burned nudist?” What counter-attack can be mounted after being told you are “shorter than cicada sandals,” or are as “ugly as bovine flatulence?”

No, we couldn’t get Uncle Al to quit swearing. but his swearing was far more educating than any English class I ever attended.


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.