Posted by: Nathan | April 18, 2006


–There are few things that bother me more than swearing; I’m not sure why. There is something inherently offensive in it that always irks me underneath my gently-smiling exterior. It is rude at best and deplorable at worst. For many people, profanity has become the only means of expressing themselves while perfectly acceptable and always more apropos words are falling into unuse. What’s to be done? Is there a place for profanity, and if so, what, where and when should it be okay? Would something be lost if swearing ceased, i.e. is it a form of human expression worth preserving?
–There are two main arguments I have encountered when it comes to profanity of those who defend the vulgar diction: 1. Swear words are arbitrary and therefore meaningless 2. There is a time and a place wherein swearing is the only way to properly express oneself. Let’s start with argument one.
–The idea that something is a societal construction and therefore meaningless is actually a thesis one encounters numerous times in the Academy (witness Mulitculturalism). The crux of this argument is that if something is created by some people, then it is without merit for everyone and can be castigated by those who don’t feel as if they are a part of the group who developed the idea. For swearers, profanity is simply a lexicon that some have arbitrarily decided is bad. I’ve heard expressed thusly: “If we banned all swear words, then other words would become swear words. And the words that are condemned at one time are usually thought of as banal by the following generation, like ‘that sucks’ or ‘crap.'”
–That swearing evolves is clear; social standards are constantly in flux. The idea that the changing mores of society imply that what’s deemed improper now should be diregarded does not follow. People have the responsibility to be polite, a responsibility many choose to ignore. The result is a generation of people who use obscenitites without regard for their environment and situation. For the some bystanders, profanity creates discomfort or malaise with the swearer (especially when children are around). Am I such a prude that cursing always bothers me?
–The second argument that profanity is appropriate in certain situations is also pretty common. What about when one slams one’s hand in the car door? Sudden, overwhelming misfortune? Pent-up frustration? Sometimes it just comes out, right? Perhaps I am alone in finding these arguments completely unpersuasive and even somewhat poor. Don’t misunderstand; heaven forbid me to ever judge anyone on anything, especially something so relatively insigficant as cursing occassionally. That said, I have never been in a situation (and I’ve been in some bad ones) where I couldn’t help but swear. It’ s always a choice. If the choice to curse is made out-of-hand again and again, then the control over the swearing vanishes but only due to overuse (of course I leave out those who suffer from Turret’s Syndrome or other such maladies).
–Our culture in unceasingly inundated by profanity. It’s in our music (or our “music” if we’re talking aboug rap), on TV, everywhere in movies, and in the mouths of co-workers and even children (especially on Super Nanny). What has the flood of cursing done?
1. Vulgar speech is now so common my post will read like an old fogey reminiscing about the old days.
2. Our culture’s vocabulary is now poor at best because so many people swear to describe their situation. The word “shit” and “fuck” mean so many things, they now mean nothing at all. For example, if I am popular, many folks may call me “the shit,” but if my day goes poorly, it was “shitty.” The same root-word now means both good and bad. There are thousands of useful, expressive, cogent, and apropos adjectives, nouns and adverbs out there: USE THEM.
3. Being polite is now passé. Everyone is rude all the time, everyday, in millions of places, and in myriads of differing situations.
4. There is no sense of proportion in diction. Most people don’t let loose a string of profanity unless they’re really upset, at least that’s how it ought to be, but now if a co-worker of mine drops a pen, I hear “Shit. Fuckin’ pen.” Pick up the pen, and shut up.
5. Other cultures are being adversely affected. I recently saw on that mildly interesting episode of 20/20 that was about Japanese culture. In Japanese, there are no curse words; they don’t exist. So, what do the youth say when they want to rebel? That’s right, they use our swear words. Globalization at its best.
–There is always a better word. There is always a better word to describe how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, or even just to express disgust. So everyone, clean up your language. If you’re going to curse, shut up. I am weary of hearing that filth. We can and should be more proactive to better our communities and personal interactions. Use a thesaurus if you have to, and if you can’t muster a shred of human decency, pretend for my sake. Thank you.



  1. Well said, Sir.

  2. Absolutely wonderful.

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