Unbaptized Imp

Have you ever analyzed the cuss words, phrases and insults that come out of people’s mouths? They often make no sense. Take a favorite from my mother’s arsenal as an example (at least while I was growing up, in the Dominican Republic): rigión sin bautizar or unbaptized imp.

I recall the first time I noticed the nonsensical nature of such phraseology. I was seven or eight. It had been raining all day, and the nearly black sky threatened to continue weeping over the land forever. My mother’s nerves were on edge. We had just planted cassava, and the rain was sure to ruin the work. I used my mother’s temporary distraction to drown her cigarettes.

You see, my Wicked Luvs, our roof was made of zinc—long lasting, fantastic for enjoying the chant of the rain, but… after a decade or two of Caribbean weather, tiny holes would start to rust through the metal. One of the holes dripped right next to my mother’s bed. Whenever it rained, we placed a bucket under the hole to keep rainwater from puddling on the floor.

While my mother was busy shouting at the radio, for failing to properly forecast the weather, I sneaked into the bedroom and dropped her cigarettes into the half full bucket. The damn box wouldn’t sink. I would not touch the nasty thing, so I pushed it down with a stick I used for sword fighting. My mother caught me holding her cigarettes under water with my stick.

“What are you…?” my mother started, her eyes on my stick and the bucket. I took a step back, and the cigarette carton bobbed to the surface. “You, rigión sin bautizar!” She reached for my arm, but I was out of the room and running out of the house before she could lay a finger on me.

I walked to a neighbor’s house. Since I was one of the only people in our village who liked this particular neighbor, she always welcomed me into her home. Most people were afraid of her eccentric ways—called her witch—and avoided her place. She had been making candles, but she stopped to get me a towel and to make some hot chocolate with star anise and butter.

My neighbor resumed her candle making. I sat on a rocking chair, wrapped in a towel, sipping chocolate. The sound of the rocker, the rain kissing the roof, the buttery taste of chocolate, and the scent of warm wax put me in a pensive mood. I started wondering about my mother’s verbal scolding philosophy. I remember thinking, Why would an imp want to be baptized?

a wee note…
– “Rigión sin bautizar” (or unbaptized imp): I’m not quite sure where the word rigión comes from. Logic points towards “region” (or región, in Spanish), which explains close to nothing… In the phrase, rigión refers to a mischievous imp or demon. My mother would hurl the words at my back, whenever I acted like a nightmare in her eyes… and probably in the eyes of several others… since I was a bit of a one-girl-riot while growing up.

Zinc Roof

35 thoughts on “Unbaptized Imp

  1. The Italian swearing from my husband’s family always makes me laugh! (It fascinates me that devout Roman Catholic countries like Ireland and Italy seem to have the most outrageous religiously based offensive phrases.) Under my roof, we use Italian swear words every day, in an affectionate way. We’ve occasionally shocked an Italian speaker who has overheard us though. We tend to forget what the words actually mean. 😉

  2. Swear words are just for the moment’s notice. Out of the gap out of frustration just for that moment. It is more of an exclamation. Not so much hatred that the feelings linger on for days on end. Perhaps one is expected to be acting saintly and sane that it has lots to do with religious episodes.


    • I understand the spontaneous nature of swear words. What I find perplexing are the actual words. In my culture, people call each other things like: “dead person bather” and “son of your mother”… and those are very bad insults. But when you really think about it, they don’t mean much. I mean, someone has to care for the dead, and as much as I can tell, everyone has a mother…

  3. Swear words, well some folks have fine tuned theirs into something craft and affectionate. This is an interesting piece and certainly one to ponder on. Greetings!

  4. My parents did’t swear *around us anyway*, but I got married and had boys…so I now know LOADS of swear words*mostly used by me*..one I actually converted from a perfectly harmless word whilst reading a dictionary one day(I know you would approve). Hubby gets the precious title “You utter Gimp” when he does anything stupid, like drilling through his own finger…a Gimp being ” a dull blunt tool usually found in a work shop or shed” 😀
    I like this game 😀 XXX

  5. LOL, I only realized later how much of my mother’s vocabulary was peppered with swears. Unbaptized imp is an awesome one. I do remember a time when my mother called me by a far less imaginative term, “malcriada”, and I sassily answered that with, “Well that’s the fault of the person who raised me then.” Of course now I know where my unbaptized imps get it from. I may have to start using the term unbaptized imp.

    • Bwahahaha! I can just imagine you, your face bathed with a mixture of petulance and mild wickedness, saying, “Well that’s the fault of the person who raised me then.” 😀

      Do let me know if you use unbaptized imp. And if Rose or Max remind you that they are Jewish, lol!

  6. What a delightful peek into the past! I could hear the rain, smell the chocolate and star anise, and feel the lull of the rocker.I always tried to hide my daddy’s cigarettes. I guess we meant well…for imps! Lol

  7. Not wanting to be baptized would make the imp even more wicked, don’t you think? And, if I understand Christian beliefs aright, it would also mean you would not be safe from going to hell.

    My first husband had a colourful line in swearwords, with nary an obscenity or blasphemy among them. ‘You poxy, mole-faced, yellow-bellied…’ and on and on it would go for a whole list of epithets, very creative. They were never directed at me, usually at some absent wrongdoer, and I would listen in open-mouthed admiration.

    My second, before we were married, responded to another driver who cut him off with the words, ‘You cad!’ I was most impressed at his olde-worlde politeness instead of Aussie crudity (he was Dutch-born) but was disabused later. He was choosing his language at that point in case the new girlfriend didn’t like swearing.

    Actually I love it, and used to say that any swear-words my children uttered, they probably learnt at their mother’s knee. (But I did tell them some people might get upset at hearing those words, and it wasn’t nice – and could be dangerous – to go around upsetting people, so save them for home.)

    Most poets I know swear like blazes. I think we think we own the language, so we are not afraid of any bits of it.

    • But think about it critically. Imps are supposed to be hellish things (at least from a Catholic perspective), just imagine what holy water would do to an imp. And how do you get baptized without holy water? So… why would an imp would want to be baptized? Not to be baptized makes perfect sense for an imp.

      My grandmother had a very creative mouth. She used to curse quite a bit when she cleaned her pipe. The things she said would sound specially humorous after she was very old.

      I’m not much of swearer. Not very Marine or poetic like of me, I guess. LOL!

  8. The more serious the offense, the more creative the curse. Goddamit for frustrations, Wellfuckthisht for inconveniences, & What Chipmunk Dick Baboon Ass Faced Donkey Breathed Moron Thought This Was A Good Idea for folk who could use a 2X4 thrown at them.

    • Bwahahaha! One of this days, I must say some of this aloud at the appropriate time… in front of my Piano Man and nephew. I never curse, so it will probably leaving them rolling on the floor laughing. One of their favorite pastimes is speaking the filthiest words they can think off, while pretending that the didn’t know that I was within earshot, and then burst out laughing when I start yelling at them and covering my ears. Yes, they make a terror of a pair. 😀

  9. Didn’t swear until I was 25 or so, teamed with a writer at work (not my Big F) and his language was, well, colourful in the most 4-lettered way, easier than picking up a cold in flu season… so umm, I think most of the swear words I use are more bogan than classic, and I really do try not to use them (well in most sentences)… BTW, I think you were saving your mum, not tormenting her by drowning her ciggies, maybe you were more an angel (in imps clothing) 😉 Great post & now have a hankering to get me a hot bevvie 🙂

    • I never curse in Spanish. I still think that my grandma will pop up behind me and melt me with a glare. And I rarely curse in English–I can write the stuff, but the curses sound alien coming out of my mouth… and a bit silly. Unless I’m really pissed off. If I’m angry, I can get extremely creative on the cursing front.

      About the cigarettes, I didn’t like the smell. And I was afraid they would make her teeth fall off. I didn’t know about lung cancer or emphysema yet…

  10. Loved the story! My parents grandparents never swore which makes me wonder where my colorful language came from. I didn’t start until in my 20’s so safe guess probably from my environment.

  11. Yes, us Australians have some weird weird slang and swearing that only other Australians understand but other people look at us like ‘are you speaking English?’. But my language, I’m bad for the cursing but I love it. It uniquely expresses so many emotions in one or two words..

  12. I used to ruin my mom’s cigarettes too!!
    I could picture your sweet little mischievous face smiling for killing the ugly things! Thank you for sharing this.
    What about your neighbor was she really a witch?

    • I must be a witchy thing, to want to murder cigarettes, lol!

      The lady wasn’t really a witch. She was just eccentric and an outsider, so people’s idiocy felt the need to make her life miserable. People can be quite nasty.

    • I used to be in awe of her. She was the first person I met who died her hair fiery red. And she dressed like a true Gypsy, which I thought was fantastic. She had a very difficult life–abusive husband. One of these days, I will write about how she dealt with him.

  13. I love this story! You made me smile and laugh! I have to admit, I don’t swear. It takes a lot for me to swear, but on the other hand, I think it’s my oldest brother’s second language. I think a little too much, but that’s him, right!!! Big Hugs!

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