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Let us now praise famous cusswords

There have been a few times of late when I've been reluctant to recommend other blogs because they, in my opinion, are a bit too free tossing around profanities. I caught myself doing this again recently (sorry, Bruce), and it started me thinking about the whole notion of swearing.

Generally, I oppose the use of swear words. But it's not some vestige of Puritanism. I have nothing against them per se, but I feel they have been so often used and abused that they've lost their power. People drop the F-bomb and other similar terms with way too much casualness these days, it's lost most of its power.

To my way of thinking, swears are words of great power. They should be used sparingly, deliberately. The casual profanity of today has diluted these wonderful tools, making most people immune to their power -- much like the overuse of antibiotics has bred new, resistant strains of bacteria.

I don't mind the use of profanity if used for a purpose, or done creatively. That's one reason I greatly enjoy Laurence Simon's writing -- he just doesn't toss off the cussing, he puts effort and creativity behind each use. When he drops the F-bomb, he gets every bit of impact he can wrangle from it.

Words are important things, and some words have real power. And swears ought to be among them. When they are used casually, it robs them of that power. And it weakens the language.

Just listen to your average teenager at the mall. The last time I eavesdropped on some, I counted an average of three F-bombs per SENTENCE. And it wasn't even being used properly -- it was "filler," just dropped in where most people would say "um" or another meaningless sound. Further, it shows a severely limited vocabulary -- there are literally thousands of better words that could be used instead of the swear, but they simply are too ignorant or stupid to know them.

There is a real need for profanity in language. There are times when no other words will suffice. Once at work, I was putting some heavy stuff up on a high shelf. The stuff slipped, and several pounds slid down and landed squarely on my nose. The echoes of my F-bomb resounded throughout the entire workplace, and my boss's reaction? She knew I don't use such language casually. "Jay, just be more careful with that heavy stuff."

We need strong words for stong circumstances, and we're rapidly losing the ones we have. And as people lose their ability to verbally express high outrage, they'll start finding new, non-verbal ways to express that -- just go poking through Democratic Underground. They've realized that they simply can't verbalize their outrage any more, so they go for other forms -- shock, violence, and outright hatred. It's bad, and it's getting worse.

And that's just a fucking shame.

J.

(Updated at noon to include a link to Laurence Simon's site. If you want specific examples, try here, here, or here -- where Lair makes it personal with me.)


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Comments (19)

Craptastic...... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

Craptastic...

I am reminded of the South ... (Below threshold)
Russ:

I am reminded of the South Park episode in which the word "shit" was used upwards of 100 times.

It was minor-league shocking, but by the end of the half hour it was getting to be downright irritating. The word had lost its shock value and rhetorical effectiveness.

Which, I think, was the whole point of the episode.

In defense of the SHoP, the... (Below threshold)

In defense of the SHoP, the owner (SixHertz) was a sailor and his major contributor (me, Tio Jaime) is in construction.

We're trying to clean it up, but as Tenacious D tells us, "The road is eff-ing hard, / The road is eff-ing tough-ah."

Profanity also serves the p... (Below threshold)
dchamil:

Profanity also serves the purpose of showing who must defer to whom, a purpose served in some other languages by certain honorific words. The boss can use profanity casually in your presence, but you better avoid it in his. The widespread use of profanity today is another example of our new coarse, rude America. In effect the speaker says, "I show common courtesy to no one!"

there are literally thou... (Below threshold)
TheEnigma:

there are literally thousands of better words that could be used instead of the swear, but they simply are too ignorant or stupid to know them.

You omitted two other important reasons. Most of today's children are simply too lazy to learn or take the time to use words of a non-foul nature.

They also lack the maturity to realize the use of such words, especially on a routine or excessive basis, does not show they are more mature than their peers, but are actually far less mature than those peers who use language without the use of profanity.

Oh yes, swear words are pow... (Below threshold)
Jewels:

Oh yes, swear words are powerful things. They are great idiot indicators.

Hamassholes is a swear word... (Below threshold)

Hamassholes is a swear word?

I think my worst carpetbombing with f-bombs was the "I'm an Indian" post where I just f-ing lost it with Ward Churchill.

IFOC News is an experiment in keeping the f-bombs and what could be viewed as "hate speech" in any way shape or form. However, I'm sneaking back into the questionable with recent jabs at Al-Sadr and Abbas.

*sigh* The old horse always knows how to clop back to his stall at the end of the night whether he wants to or not.

I'm the king of carpet f-bo... (Below threshold)

I'm the king of carpet f-bombing, all in good taste of course. My site's marketing tag is "Creative Cursing 24x7"....at least I'm commited.

Reminds me of Tom Wolfe's d... (Below threshold)
Beck:

Reminds me of Tom Wolfe's discussion of what he calls "fuck patois" in I Am Charlotte Simons.

Profanity is a crutch for i... (Below threshold)
Larry:

Profanity is a crutch for inarticulate motherfuckers.

Enigma:You omit... (Below threshold)
ryan:

Enigma:

You omitted two other important reasons. Most of today's children are simply too lazy to learn or take the time to use words of a non-foul nature.

Really? I think that their chosen use of language is pretty deliberate. I dont think its about laziness as much as rebellion...or attempted rebellion.

I think about this subject all the time. Sometimes I think its funny that we have words that are taboo like swear words. The meanings are abstract, so its funny that at some point a certain word was created to be socially unacceptable. Who did that? Was it okay to say it the first time, or did they just write it down???

The use of profanity varies. Alot of us do it. I talk differently around my grandmother than I do my friends. Part of the whole deal is figuring out when and where to use them most effectively. Alot of it has to do with social situations. The clashes come about when certain people use profanity to deliberately challenge the social rules, like teens who let their mouths fly off the handle in front of adults. They do it on purpose, because they think they're the first ones to think of it.

...maybe.... (Below threshold)
ryan:

...maybe.

Cursing makes a good time f... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

Cursing makes a good time filler. Without it an episode of Deadwood would only be 6 minutes long.

Would all you bastards plea... (Below threshold)
OregonMuse:

Would all you bastards please knock off all this goddamn cussing? It sounds like hell.

Thank you.

I confess I do admire inven... (Below threshold)

I confess I do admire inventive invective. If you're trying to shock somebody, doing it without using a single one of George Carlin's "seven words" is far more of an achievement -- and much more effective.

JI Have my 21 year o... (Below threshold)

J
I Have my 21 year old sleeping on my couch and every other word out of his mouth is F..K and it drives me crazy. I try to tell him to think of another word, even if he has to use a thesaurus, to find another more appropriate word for that disgusting word. The reason they use it, is because they are thinking and instead of using words that actually potray something, this one comes out first but means nothing without the proper words. I hate the word and other words he uses and am hoping to get him out of the habit and that's what it is - a habit - of using the F word instead of actually trying to think for a change for a word that fits the bill.

I honestly can't believe you said what you said.

Cindy

good for you Cindy!!... (Below threshold)
Debra:

good for you Cindy!!
I couldn't agree more. I have 2 girls (24 and 19) and before the youngest left home I owuld overhear her in her room on the phone (she is not a quiet child) When asked why she felt it was so necessary to drop the F-bomb so often she told me it was how she was comfortable when she expressed herself.
That's when we started finding and using the word of the day. It worked well for the remainder of the time she lived at home but me thinks that once she was gone she most certainly fell back into the "F" abyss of expression. Sad really...

You folks have echoed my ex... (Below threshold)

You folks have echoed my exact "father-son" talk with my 15 year old regarding swearing. I have always felt it showed a lack of creativity, and isn't nearly as effective as a put-down as a phrase that has its target scrambling for a dictionary.

What really gets under my skin is parents using all manner of profanity towards their small children. I usually head the other way, as I'm afraid the temptation to smack the living daylights out of the idiot would be too strong to resist, were I within arm's reach.

There was a quote from a movie or tv show some time back that I thought of as I read this thread. Maybe you kind folks could help me remember where it came from: "They said I was uncouth---I'm couth as hell!"

When I am in the car I use ... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

When I am in the car I use The F words but usually it is Fart head, Fat ass,But! ... Just sometimes I just spit that other F word out and nothing else seems to work as well as that F-U-C-K- word! Ya know?




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