The other night, I was trying to fetch something out of a cabinet — bottle of Advil, a jar of arsenic, I don’t really remember — when I somehow managed to cause an avalanche of potentially lethal cupboard stuff. 

Mark LaFlamme

A plastic lid came tumbling outta nowhere, bringing a plastic pill cutter along for the ride. A long expired bottle of vitamins went bonking down on the sideboard with an empty salt shaker right behind it. Down came a circa 1980 flashlight. Down came a mysterious hunk of plastic that probably was part of something that was thrown away six years ago. Down came some other junk that I can’t identify because it bounced so far across the kitchen, it was never seen again. 

Seriously, brothers. I could have died. 

The cupboard avalanche was messy, loud and embarrassing, so I got to the cussing even before that stack of paper plates had time to see-saw all the way to the floor. 

“Now doggonnit!” I sputtered. “What did I do to deserve THIS?” 

Then I just stood there looking kind of stupid. If you can imagine that. 

I have no idea where this goofy expression came from. As far as I know, I’ve never uttered the word “doggonnit” in my life, inasmuch as I’m not now, nor have I ever been Jimmy Stewart. 

You have to remember, I’ve always been a four-letter kind of guy. When it comes to expressing on-the-spot anger, frustration or humiliation, I like to stick with the classics. @#$#@!, for instance, or even [email protected]#$!  

Sometimes I’ll combine a whole string of those years-worn cusses and the effect is immediate: I’ll feel better at once, even if it means I’m no longer allowed in the public library. 

So this utterance of “doggonit” in place of a more traditional curse was mystifying to me. Why, standing here in a sea of kitchen debris that would have to be painstakingly put back in the cupboards (by someone else. I don’t have time for that nonsense) was I suddenly channeling the ghost of George Bailey? 

But because I’m a man who’s always interested in the idea of personal growth, I didn’t just shake it off and return to my old vulgar ways. I decided to experiment a little bit. 

Which almost never turns out well for me. 

When you get right down to it, “doggonit” is a perfectly fine exclamation, even if nobody in the world knows what the hell it means. “Doggonit” has the benefit of three guttural syllables and yet it manages to come across as folksy rather than profane — although if you say it just right, you can make it sound absolutely filthy. Which is just good fun. Try it with a friend today. 

“Doggonit” won’t get you tossed out of the city council meetings like some other words I know and yet it feels good on the lips. 

PRO TIP: To say it correctly, you absolutely have to couple the word with “now,” as in “Now, doggonnit, why do you reckon my wife ran off with that landscaper?” 

With all this in mind, I started experimenting with some other expressions from Col. Henry Blake’s School of Mild Curses just to see how they felt. 

I’m here to tell you. “Dadgummit” has a place in your personal lexicon as does its ugly cousin “dagnabbit,” which can easily be used in place of !#@$!, $#[email protected]# or even #%$#@ and #[email protected]#! the next time you bash your shin on the trailer hitch. 

Over the course of the next couple days, I also tooled around with calling someone a “fink” instead of using the string of uglier words I would typically uncork for a man of such low character. 

When my editors hit me with a fluffy, tedious and testosterone-sapping story on a busy Friday afternoon, I went with “Aw, rats!” in place of stronger words, which might have included “%#[email protected]#!! Are you !%$#[email protected]# serious? $%#$!!” 

I found myself saying, “gee whiz” on a few occasions, and that’s just a spiffy clean good time. Jimmy Stewart himself was a gee whizzer and that’s a fine enough recommendation for me. The trouble is that when I say it, I typically inject a four-letter scorcher in between those two otherwise clean-living words. 

“Gee #!$#[email protected] whiz!” I’ll say, after somehow running over my own toe with my motorcycle. “I’ve run over my doggone !!#[email protected]% foot!” 

It was keen. 

Also (because I know you consider my recommendations to be gospel truths) while you’re at it, you should consider trying out “fanny” in place of a stronger word for the buttockal region, “gosh darnit” in place of the more sacrilegious version, and “holy cow!” instead of . . .  well, just about anything. “Holy cow” is one of the more versatile of expressions and can be used to equal effect when you A. get a big promotion; B. find out your wife has run off with the landscaper, that weasel; or C. see a naked dude running across your lawn. 

The trick in all this will be to get the rest of the world to likewise clean up their language. We’ll know that together, we have impacted culture in a positive way when we hear the first rap song that includes “shucks” and “golly” in place of the usual gutter eloquence found in that kind of music. 

And then, fulfilling Mr. Stewart’s lifelong ambition at last, the rest will follow, and even in the toughest, most violent neighborhoods, we will hear exchanges like this one: 

“Now, doggone it, Slash, someone’s been skimming off us and I want to know who the fink is. I mean, gee whiz, fellas. I don’t want to have to pop a cap in somebody’s fanny.” 

I believe our work is done here. 

It’s swell. 

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