Here’s one way to tell if you rely too much on four-letter words, and in particular the strongest Anglo-Saxon variety beginning with the letter “F”: your dog reacts when you say them. It’s no surprise that dogs react when they hear angry language; they may not understand the words literally, but they’re faultless interpreters of tone and mood and body language. But the last time I was around a dog on a daily basis, back when I was a kid, really, I didn’t pick up so much on how dogs responded to the tenor of someone’s speech. Since Scout has been around, nearly a year and a half, I’ve been surprised to find that he’s really put off when he hears me swear. Today, driving home from picking up the van at the garage, I made an angry comment about one of my fellow drivers. Scout had been sitting next to me, but he immediately got down and went to the back of the car; he didn’t want to be around if I was pissed off. He also seems to be especially sensitive to hearing the F-word; maybe it’s because he hears it only when someone is really angry. I don’t know. But it’s something I find myself more and more conscious of; again, I don’t know, but maybe it’s because he reacts so viscerally and visibly. Ironic that it has taken a dog, and not wife, kids, siblings, parents, coworkers, softball umpires or other unfortunate ear witnesses to demonstrate the emotional effect of my swearing habit.