Profanity: To Swear or not to Cuss

Every writer and general express-or of ideas, thoughts and feelings, of every era, has to ask this question: To swear or not to swear: That is the question. Is it better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous profanity, or by opposing, end them?

I’ve been stuck for years, as a writer, a swearer and a church-going Christian, in the middle of this question. This post will open a discussion on this topic, from the point of view that; it is better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous profanity. If I make my point as I am hoping to, then I will convince my very well-respected, non-cussing friends to cut the profanity users of the world some slack, if only for the sake of art and freedom of expression. Story telling of any genre requires that the author captures the moment realistically, except in comedy where reality is contorted and exaggerated. There is nothing like censorship to inhibit the portrayal of that reality -or unreality.

What about free speech? We all know what censorship of expression can do to that important human right. Of course, rational adults are pragmatic enough to understand that one does not have the right to yell “fire” in the middle of a crowded movie theater…unless there is really a fire. Otherwise, you would be using personal “expression” to play a not-so-funny, and possibly dangerous practical joke on a crowd of unsuspecting strangers, inhibiting their freedom to enjoy a couple hours of entertainment, accosted not. Slander is another abuse of free speech. Both are illegal.

Freedom, farts and foul language: A matter of familiarity

Fart” actually registers on the swear-scale. This particular “F” word would not warrant an “R” rating if the term was used in a movie. Although surprisingly, “fart” is still a regulated word. Sure, you can say this four-letter word on TV, and even in a “G” rated movie, yet you could not be issued a vanity license plate in the state of Vermont, with these four letters. This word, like it’s evil four-lettered twin, still has a place in the column of “profane expression.” That is: Potty-talk. Scatological humor or “potty humor” is on the same level as profanity. This use of language violates rules of politeness.

Saint Paul tells us that “Love is not rude.” “Rude” is the opposite of “polite.” So, we might tend to think that if; Polite=Love, then Rude=Hate, and if Profanity=Rude, then profane language is a form of hate speech. That’s a stretch. Why? Because what is considered rude by someone you are not familiar with, could be considered funny and playful by that same person, if you knew them well. To make our social interactions that much more complicated, we all know that being “polite” to someone you are familiar with could be perceived as sarcastic, and therefore cold, impersonal, unloving and rude. Being rude to someone that we love can be playful and kind. It can create fond lasting memories. I remember how my six year old son would tape the handle on the sprayer, and I would get shot with cold water, when making the morning coffee, countless times -my inability to learn from past mistakes makes me an easy target, even for a six-year-old’s practical jokes. Did I get angry and rebuke him for disrespecting his father? No. Did that teach my son something about having a sense of humor, and forgiving a mischievous trespass that was intended for a playful, greater good? Yes. Was it a bonding moment, created by my boy, and graciously played into by his Dad? Of course.

If you dish it out, take it.

Everyone knows that revenge is a hateful thing, and just perpetuates the cycle of violence. But in familiar relationships, it continues the fun…

Dark beer, Indian Cuisine and potty humor. These are a few of my favorite things. As a writer, I could do a good job describing what Guinness Stout and Salmon Vindaloo can do to render the smell of one’s flatulence; other-wordly. It could inspire the devil to trade in his burning brimstone. But rather, not to ruin the surprise, I would recommend that you experience this for yourselves.

I was looking over the new Vermont State quarters that my sons’ grandfather had just brought over for their numismatic collections. I had just “let one go” while the boys were getting ready for school. My eyes watered as I watched the wallpaper start coming unglued from the walls in the den. I swallowed hard at the lump in my throat, and then called my sons.

Freedom and Unity, the motto of Vermont on its...

Image via Wikipedia

“Hey guys, come check out the new State quarters!” I yelled, and long before the stench had dissipated  (beer-fish farts have what’s known in the business as “hang time”) I had each of my grammar school aged boys at my side as I handed them their Vermont State quarters. “Look, there’s a picture of Maple trees being tapped for sugar, and what’s really cool, is if you scratch them and sniff, they smell like maple syrup!”
I’m laughing right now, ten years later, as I write, thinking about them both scratching and sniffing away at those quarters, until they got a nose full of something that was nothing like the sweet aroma of maple syrup. “Daaaaad!!!!” they yelled, as they ran away, with me right behind them, busting a gut and eager for a breath of fresh air myself.

Always default to politeness

As you are getting familiar with people, it’s always best to put your most polite foot forward. Not everyone appreciates profanity, even after you are on familiar ground. There isn’t much reason in stating this obvious fact. However, to those with a low tolerance for the profane, here is a statement you may find hard to believe: You are probably under a false impression that most people refrain from profanity in most settings. This is because most people default to politeness, waiting for the other to break the profanity ice, especially in certain settings -like church. If you are someone who refrains from profanity, always, then it’s likely that people around you respect that, and keep their language clean while in your presence.

As someone who uses foul language, I do get a bit offended myself in certain situations, when someone I’ve just met comes right out of the gate with “F” words. Hypocritical? I think not. I also cringe when someone uses the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve even been known to rebuke others for using G-d’s name in vain. Hypocritical? I think so. So, I try to be careful when I call someone on that. In my mind there is a huge difference between profanity (F-word) and blasphemy (GD word)…That is a tough argument with church-goers and unbelievers alike, but some see it like I do.

Blogging vs. Journalism

Blogging is a forum that requires you to use “familiar language” even though you are speaking to a general audience. A blogger, so many ways different than a print journalist, must use their “natural voice” in their writing. If you seldom use profanity, in any company, in any environment, then you should not use it when blogging. Blog with the same language that you use to talk -to yourself.

Blogging originated as a form of journaling, as in keeping a diary, not to be confused with journalism, which is writing for a newspaper. By the nature of diary keeping, the author is also the sole audience, without concern for offending himself by what he writes. The Internet allows the journal author to flip a switch, and instantly make those private thoughts public. A “Blog” is really an oxymoron: A Public Diary. A Blogger really “puts himself out there” and opens up to all sorts of offended reactions, and offensive comments.

This also puts the Blogger’s audience in a precarious position. They must approach the author’s words as if they are being “allowed” to read them. It isn’t like a newspaper that asks the audience to “read all about it.” Print journalists prepare words for a public audience. Bloggers write for a private audience, even though the public world at large has access, and is encouraged to read the blog. It’s still different. The World Wide Web is so huge, that it affords the blogger all the anonymity they need…except with people they are familiar with.

Because blogging is a “performance art” like movie acting, it causes other precarious situations for performers and audiences alike. Director Spike Lee has received a lot of flack for “sex scenes” he has included in his movies. Actors are seldom comfortable with these. A “stage kiss” is still a kiss, and no matter how “in character” an actor is, it is still awkward. One that he directed, involved some nudity and an actress that was his own sister. Can you say “body double?” I thoughtcha could! Although, even the body double is someone’s sister…So, that’s not a complete fix.

Profanity switch

As I said in the beginning of this post, I’ve been uncomfortably stuck in the middle of this profanity question for a long time. The good news is that sometimes the same technology that causes new problems, often offers a solution as well. I think I’ve invented the Internet equivalent of a “body double.”

I’m pleased to announce that I’m developing a “profanity switch.” I’m using the same article spinning robot that we use to produce content here at Bangari to create this switch. When it’s complete, it will allow the blog reader to click a button that will render the text -without profanity and other offensive language and humor. This way, no one, especially people who know and appreciate the polite form of me, will be forced to “see my bum” against their will. I’ll be able to offer this tool to others as well, helping the Internet in general show others more respect and consideration, without feeling like censorship is being imposed on them.

What do you think?

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One response to “Profanity: To Swear or not to Cuss

  1. I think that’s a great idea Kevin.

    I recently wrote a post on the use of profanity in music (that Wordrpess kindly listed in the “Related Articles” under your own post) and one of my readers was slightly offended by the profanity within the post.

    They felt that I could have avoided using the profanity that I used within the post, instead using the tried and tested @8&% method of blanking out swearwords.

    My counter to this was that, I felt I would have undermined the point I was making on freedom of speech, by censoring the words within my own post.

    What you suggest, with regards a profanity switch, would be the ideal solution for the sensitive reader. A disclaimer at the beginning of a post is all it would take to encourage those who dislike profanity to clean up the post they are about to read.

    Personally I try to avoid profanity, having only really used it when relevant – as with the post on the use of profanity in music – but I also have no problem with reading profanity myself.

    Like you, I find swearing in certain situations a little too much – especially when I first meet someone or in front of children. I also find I swear far too easily in spoken word – less so when writing.

    Anyway, thanks for an interesting read and I hope your profanity switch is a success.

    Regards,

    Ben

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