Swearing by Shakespeare

It’s only coincidence that on the same day I post about a high school kid giving the finger to a ref in high school soccer’s biggest game of the year, NPR has waded into the waters of the high school classroom and the kids who drop “f-bombs” on teachers.

“Is it OK for students to curse in the classroom?” reporter Ariana Figueroa asks.


Her question via social media was in response to Raising Kings, the NPR project that is following a prep school for the year, and her story this week about turning curses into compliments.

From the responses, teachers are hearing the f-word a lot. And there are two versions of it: First, there’s the kid who just can’t articulate a sentence without it. And, second, there’s the kid who directs it explicitly at the teachers. The first, the assertion seems to be, is more acceptable than the latter.

How offensive it is depends on the context, she says.

But we are struck by the pure genius of a teacher in Missouri, who is teaching kids how to swear, Shakespeare style.

My mom, a teacher, used to teach Shakespearean curse words. If a kid wanted to cut loose, he had to be Elizabethan about it. It diffused tension and made the kids laugh.”

– Kate Barsotti, Missouri

Editor’s note: among them are: “A three-inch fool,” a “poisonous bunch-backed toad!” and “by my gammer’s withered leg!”

Figueroa’s next question promises to be even more fascinating: Stories from teachers about when they swore at their students.