From the Ten Commandments
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God, in vain-
(Ex. 20:7)

This commandment has long been regarded as an injunction against profanity and taking God's name lightly. I have never been able to understand why anyone should descend to the use of profanity.

It is neither smart nor funny. It takes no brains whatever to swear. If a man must translate anger and irritation into speech, it would relieve his feelings quite as effectively to use a few mathematical terms, carefully selected instead of the coarse and vulgar terms usually employed.

The story is told of a famous fisherwoman in Billingsgate Fish Market, London, who had a great reputation in the use of profanity. No one had ever been able to stand before the outbursts of her sulphurous vocabulary. She deluged and dazed them by her whirlwind of unsavory and uncomplimentary adjectives.

There was a professor of mathematics at London University who determined to try issues with her on her own grounds and beat her at her own game without using a single oath. So, one morning, he strolled down to the fish market. Standing before the dreaded woman's stall, he inquired the price of a particular fish. When she held it up before him, he sniffed and remarked that the fish was in an advanced stage of decomposition. The storm began to rise, and when he made a still more uncomplimentary remark about some other article of her stock, she surveyed him from head to foot, and with arms akimbo, she described him in terms that made the very eels squirm and the lobsters blush. To which the professor calmly replied by calling her "an oblique angle of an equilateral triangle."

Dilated with rage, she let drive at him with a volley of expletives and a round of epithets that attracted the attention of the entire market, and then leaned forward and shook her fist at him. The professor, entirely unmoved, simply said "Blaze away, you windy old hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle you rhomboid trapezium, you rectangular parallelogram. Who cares for you ?"

Then she called up all her reserves, calling him, "the gall of a devilfish, a rotten shrimp, a tub full of fish tails, a spawn of a dog fish" and so on, fairly gasping for breath as she concluded. But the professor blandly remarked, "You diagonal of a polygon, you homologous tetragon, you parametric polyhedron, you incommensurable frustrum of a pyramid." But she could stand no more. Dazed, overwhelmed by a volume of terms she had never heard, and of whose awful meanings she had no conception, she sank back on her bench, white and red with rage and awe, but speechless.

Then the professor said, still looking at her with an unmoved expression, "When I call again, I hope you will know better than to call me names, you truncated hexagonal prism, you directrix of a parabola, you trigonometric function of a complementary angle, you cylindrical cone, you eccentrical ellipse, you radius of a hyperbola, you ---".

But the woman fainted dead away, and ever after the sight of the professor passing through the market reduced her to silence and fear. Not for all the world would she have his awful torrent of dreadful words let loose on her again.

(The above is taken from a sermon by a Methodist minister who wound up the above with this recommendation: "I would recommend this method of relieving the feelings to any person who is in the habit of using profanity to express himself.")

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