Dang!

As in it's getting dang difficult to figure out when and where you can and can't say which words.

But South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin still should have known better than to obscenely - and loudly - berate Gamecocks freshman guard Duane Notice during Tuesday night's 72-46 home loss to top-ranked Florida.

See today's column by soft-spoken Post and Courier colleague "Clean Gene" Sapakoff for sanitizing insights on the causes and consequences of Martin's crude outburst.

And see - make that hear - TV sitcoms for expletive-packed evidence that lots of words once widely verboten have become pervasive in our decaying culture.

Of course, this family newspaper's lofty standards protect our readers against that rising tide of linguistic filth.

Still, just as eating with your fingers has its time and place, so does cussing.

And on Jan. 8, 1966, when this then-ardent-Citadel fan was an impressionable 12-year-old, my agony of yet another Bulldogs defeat instantly warped into the thrill of hearing losing coach Mel Thompson yell what was then regarded as a very bad word.

Immediately after The Citadel was robbed by terrible calls that gave archrival Furman an unearned 74-72 victory at what was then called the Armory and is now McAlister Field House, Thompson heatedly chastised an official. When the hapless referee tried to defend the injustice he had wrought, Thompson responded with a synonym for bovine manure.

Perhaps if Thompson hadn't kept junior guard Pat Conroy, who later scored big as an author, out of that game, the Bulldogs would have won. After all, Conroy did go 8-for-10 from the foul line a week later in an 82-74 overtime victory over East Carolina.

Back to the outraged aftermath of that bitter loss to Furman: Some adults within ear range of Thompson's terse curse clearly disapproved.

But the unseemly spectacle accelerated my youthful descent into the cussing corps.

The motive was to feel like a grown-up, an outlaw, a cool guy, an escapee from seemingly silly rules about what you can and can't say - and what you can and can't do.

He said what?

Five years later, a buddy revealed that an adult said he had heard me "cussing like a Greek marine" in the audience at a high school play.

My initial reaction, beyond the shock that anybody could rank Greek marines above the United States Marines on the cussing scale, was shame.

Yet a surge of misplaced pride quickly washed away that momentary chagrin.

Hey, if cussing weren't fun, fewer folks would cuss.

Yes, the bad habit of spewing bad words out of our mouths has gotten out of hand over the last half century. My "liberated" generation has added the freedom of vulgar speech to our other overreaching "rights" as spoiled Baby Boomers.

That's not just a loss for refined manners. It's a loss for the fine art of holding your profane fire until the exactly right moment.

For instance, in the 1939 film classic "Gone With the Wind," Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), crushed that Charleston's Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) is leaving her, asks him: "Where shall I go? What shall I do?"

Rhett: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

That epic line's only difference from Margaret Mitchell's grand novel is the addition of the word "frankly."

And a huge difference between 1939 and 2014 is that much worse words than "damn" can't induce anywhere near the movie-audience shock and awe that Rhett's kiss-off to Scarlett delivered way back when.

Clean up your act

So rather than wallowing in the vocabulary gutter, try these substitutes for terms that must not be printed here:

Dagnab it! Signature line of Grandpa Amos (Walter Brennan) on "The Real McCoys."

Dadburn it! Does not mean, "Burn Dad."

Dadgum it! Does not mean "Give Dad gum."

Consarn it! Country flavor.

Shoot! A few vowels can make a big difference.

Fudge! So can consonants.

Gosh darn (or durn)! Same initials as pairing that takes Lord's name in vain, though presumably not at same Third Commandment-breaking risk. Just in case, though, you might drop the "Gosh."

Drat! Old-school exclamation revived by quintessential "Big Bang Theory" nerd Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons).

My Stars! For old folks.

Rats! So why not also say, "Squirrels!", which are just rats with bushy tails?

Shucks! Especially apt when removing husks from corn.

Heck! Oh, what the heck, go ahead and say, "Hell!"

Just not in front of the kids.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.