As kids, one of the first R-rated movies my mom let my brother and I watch was “Coming to America.” I think she was okay with it because it was a story close to her own heart: a couple of Africans trying to find happiness in America.
(Dad didn’t really care what we watched, so long as it didn’t make us gay, like when my brother and I were watching “The Birdcage” after dinner one night and he yelled, “I don't wanna watch this fag show!”)
For many years after watching “Coming to America,” we would refer to the f-bomb as The Eddie Murphy Word. As in Mom going (right after the movie ended), "Don’t ever use The Eddie Murphy Word, or you’ll get a spanking." Or my brother saying, "Ooooh, I’m telling. You just said The Eddie Murphy Word." Or me replying, "Don’t you dare tell on me, you lousy motherTheEddieMurphyWorder!"
At home on the set of our depressing ABC sitcom, “Having Come to America,” there was no room for The Eddie Murphy Word. But elsewhere, at school for example, in our trailers, it was Eddie Murphy Word this and Eddie Murphy Word that.
I think by naming it after someone famous, my mom wanted us to understand that only certain people had the power to say certain words. And that we shouldn’t think that power was our birthright. As though the magic of the word would be lost in our non-Eddie Murphy mouths.
Eddie Murphy will probably never know the power we had given him, never know that somewhere in the suburbs of America a family had named the best curse word after him. In many ways, it’s better than some star on a sidewalk, or handprints in hardening cement.
Of course now The Eddie Murphy Word is a relic, not only of our family and a time when we were afraid of dropping the f-bomb around each other. It’s also a relic of its namesake, who stopped doing R movies a few years after “Coming to America” and stopped saying the word he had invented and started making an animated ass of himself.
This turned out to be the real curse, because not even a year after Eddie Murphy stopped saying his word in the movies, they caught him in a car Eddie Murphy Word-ing a transvestite hooker. Which just goes to show you can take Eddie Murphy out of his word, but you can’t take The Eddie Murphy Word out of Eddie Murphy.
Occasionally someone in our family--usually not Mom--will use the Eddie Murphy Word, though I guess it’s not the Eddie Murphy Word anymore...or if it is, we don’t call it the Eddie Murphy Word anymore.
We just say fuck.