The Curse of Profanity

Posted Sunday, July 24, 2011, 10:23 PM

When I was younger, in High School and after, I didn't swear very much. Then in my early 20s I started to swear a lot, though it felt clumsy. Now I have found the equilibrium, and my swearing has evened out. I think I do it appropriately.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said of everyone. Some people swear way way too much, in my opinion, and it really bothers me. Swearing has a purpose. It's not just a rude word to say when feeling defiant, something naughty you can get away with. And it really shouldn't be every third word in every sentence you speak.
  • If something heavy falls on your foot, or you trip up on the pavement, then curse as much as you like.
  • If someone is deserving of being insulted, then give them the full profane treatment.
  • And if it is the perfect zinger that makes the joke funnier, then swear like a sailor.
Outside of that, there is no excuse for it. I'm one of the last people to advocate censorship just because it offends some staid old stick-in-the-mud, even if that offended person is me, but if you dilute the effect of swearing, or use the words inappropriately, they lose their power, and then what's the point of swearing at all?

You need to have harsh, forceful words you can say at the appropriate time, to release tension, emphasise a moment, or to throw that perfect insult. If those are taken from our vocabulary and get lost in amongst regular words, then how do you let off steam? New words? We don't need new words, we have perfectly reasonable swear words already.

I listen to a few podcasts. They're like talkback radio, without the phone in, and without the ads. But the hosts are not beholden to anyone, not even their sponsors, and can swear if they want to. That is a welcome freedom, if they choose to keep things at the aforementioned appropriate levels; but some are just repellently profane, with horrific swearing coming from everyone, hosts and guests. Never-ending and inescapable, an otherwise entertaining hour of commentary can be ruined by grotesquely excessive effing and blinding.

Pull it back a bit, people. Don't dilute the perfect way to emphasise a stressful moment, you're ruining the fun and usefulness of our colourful language.

1 Reasoned Responses:

TS Hendrik said...

I was raised in a very strict non profanity environment. So naturally when I hit my teens I swore like a sailor. But then I reached a point where I just tried to cut it out. I've always prided myself in my vocabulary. I think the problem with cursing is that it can become a crutch to where one doesn't have to rely on any verbal skills, because any gaps in sentences can be filled empty swearing. So I try now to limit myself to the areas that you stated as well.

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