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.

  • BReynolds33
    • Dude drank poison rather than deal with the little critters. :*)

  • MrE85

    The “making the beast with two backs” line from “Othello evoked some snickers in our English class, as I recall. Or it should have,

  • Jerry

    Next thing you know, we will have students biting their thumbs at teachers.

    • Carolie

      my son had detention in second grade because whenever he was told to quiet down he would bite his thumb. The rest of the class began doing the same thing. One day as they were lining up to go to class, the school nurse decided he was teaching gang signs and said biting his thumb was disrespectful, thus detention. I still have the note stating Lunch detention for biting his thumb.

      • Al

        That’s frame-worthy.

      • jon

        Pointer gate’s younger sibling?

  • jon

    “I bit my thumb at thee!”

    • Jerry

      “What, you egg!”

      • jon

        “Do you quarrel, sir?”

  • jon

    So we read romeo and Juliet freshmen year of high school…

    My English teacher didn’t get Shakespeare, something she made clear act I scene I when she cast dirty looks at me and one other boy for snickering…

    “Draw thy tool! Here comes of the house of Montagues.”
    “My naked weapon is out. Quarrel! I will back thee.”

    Good stuff exactly the kind of thing adolescent children should snicker at…

  • Jerry

    Since 90% of Shakespearean insults were insinuations of cuckoldry, these children will be well prepared to post in the darker corners of Reddit.

  • Keith P.
  • AmiSchwab

    ” a three-inch fool”. makes me think of donnie, fingers ya know.