I vividly remember the first time I saw a bad word in a book.
It was around 1977 and Jaws was ubiquitous. The book was a monumental best seller and the movie went on to change the film industry, chasing thousands of beachgoers from the waters surrounding Long Island. You couldn’t walk through the brand new Sunrise Mall in my hometown of Massapequa, NY, without seeing a Jaws-related book or board game or magazine or soundtrack record for sale. It was everywhere.
I hadn’t seen the movie. I was too young. Well, to be clear, I was told I was too young. I had other ideas since everyone in school couldn’t stop yapping about the movie. They went on and on about the scene with “the head”.
“Jaws was amazing!!”
“Yeah, that scene with the head…”
“The head!! Oh, my god! That scared the crap out of me!”
It would be a few years until I knew what they were talking about.
I was browsing a book store at the mall one day and picked up a copy of the paperback. I cracked it open to a random page and saw this, right at the top:
“Shit!” said Quint.
I might be getting the “said Quint” part wrong, because I was too taken aback by the first word to properly remember the next two. I quickly shut the book, eyes comically bugging out, no doubt. Just as quickly, I realized my mistake and started pawing through the book, trying to find that page again. Did I really see that? Can you print things like that in books? I thought this was a best-seller! Books with dirty words can’t be best-sellers! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that word written out!
Obviously I was a bit sheltered and completely misguided in my view of the world.
I’ve aged a bit since then and have seen and used my share of bad language. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of become one of my signature moves. Rough language is like shorthand. It’s a quick way to get a bolt of lightning right where you need it to be. There is precious little room for misinterpretation when you’re throwing out F-bombs. Consider yourselves warned.
I still haven’t read Jaws, but you can bet that when I come across that page I’ll be turning the corner down for future reference.