The topic of swearing has been on my mind lately. Several bloggers and I have been talking about the touchy subject of using expletives in our writing; if you have read my posts before, you are probably well aware of my penchant for profanity.
I do not swear in all of my posts, but there are certain anecdotes, particularly those that were emotionally charged in the moment, when I use profanity to punctuate the intensity of my feelings. I am somewhat foul-mouthed in my “real life”, and I strive to present as honest a picture as possible of my daily life; I think that mothers especially benefit when we do not sugar-coat our parenting experience and can be as down to earth and truthful as possible when sharing with one another.
However I would be lying if I said I never felt uncomfortable or conflicted about my use of expletives in my writing. Mostly because the “nice girl” in me is afraid of making other people uncomfortable, and I realize that not everyone swears in their daily lives. Being a people pleaser, a “Yes” Mom, and desperately craving approval, I don’t like the idea of people being put off by my “color.” Ultimately, though, my desire to be true to myself wins, and in certain posts, I allow myself to include the profanity that presents itself naturally during the writing process, albeit it doctored at times by conveniently placed asterisks. As if we don’t all see the word f*ck and think “fuck” in our heads anyway.
I wrote a post awhile back called “Alterna-Swears: Things To Say Instead Of Using Profanity In Front of Your Kids.” I have a lot of conflicting feelings about children and profanity. I will admit that sometimes when I hear adults using expletives conversationally with their children, it makes me cringe and I feel judgmental. Somehow I feel that my shouting “God Dammit!” when I stub my toe is better than another person telling their kid not to step in the goose shit. Hypocritical, I know.
The idea of children running around shouting, “Fuck that!” to one another is equally offensive. When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher taught the class to say, “Mr. Padinky!” when they were upset, frustrated, or hurt. I didn’t reflect much on this until recently, when I came to the realization that she was essentially giving them a social acceptable expletive to express their feelings.
And I have to say that I think children need their own version of an expletive; I place great value on teaching my daughters how to identify, own, and express their emotions. It may be one of my greatest assets as a parent, in my opinion. Children are filled with rage, fear, grief, elation, and sorrow. Why shouldn’t their vocabulary hold a word that is large enough to bear the weight of their heavy, precious emotions?
Many years ago I was talking to a mother who had brought her two boys to my music class. As we chatted, her boys, ages 4 and 6, wrestled on the floor. “You barking dog!” one of them shouted angrily at the other. The mother smiled apologetically and said, “It’s a good thing they don’t know curse words!”
I thought that was so amusing when I heard it, but now I think there is a lot more to it. “Barking dog” is pretty much the same thing as “fucking asshole”. The intention is the same, the underlying emotions are the same- only the semantics and the level of social acceptability are different.
While I have admitted that I feel uncomfortable with the notion of children swearing, let me play devil’s advocate. If there isn’t a difference between a child yelling “Rats!” and “Dammit!” when they strike out at baseball, why do we balk at the latter? And as adults, why are some people so uncomfortable with reading or hearing expletives? Is it because these words indicate a supposed lack of decorum or disregard for propriety? Or is it because the underlying emotions- the anger, frustration, disappointment, or even the most terror-inducing: rage, are too shameful to be brought to light?
Is Profanity A Healthy Way To Express Emotion?
There is a certain societal discomfort with wholly expressing emotions, particularly ones that are perceived as “negative.” How many of us have spent months or years in therapy trying to bring suppressed emotions to the surface? And why do we bury these feelings to begin with? Because we are taught that the world cannot tolerate them. They are ugly. And shameful.
Not all swearing stems from anger or disappointment. What about the high-five-accompanied “Fuck yeah!” when you receive good news? Are we equally uncomfortable with the other end of the emotional spectrum- joy and the subsequent lack of containment?
While it may be argued that our culture rewards colorful characters, passion, and extreme displays of emotion, evidenced by our celebrity worship and reality-TV addiction, it seems that the Puritanical value of temperance is still a deep undercurrent. People who seem to be in poor control of their emotions, who somehow exude a lack of moderation or composure, are undoubtedly frowned upon. I have definitely squirmed when in the presence of a person who appears to have no “filter.” But where do we draw the line?
Even I agree that excessive profanity can make a person seem unintelligent. I too have flinched when reading a blog post speckled with gratuitous “fuck this” and “fuck that”. There is a line, and expletive use can cross the line from being an effective form of expression to a tasteless display of ignorance very easily.
Does this tangent seem a bit far-fetched? Am I over-thinking things? Perhaps I should just accept that many people still embrace the value that using profanity is simply in poor taste, or illustrates bad manners. But I can’t help but think that many people are even more uncomfortable with overt displays of emotion, considering this lack of composure to reflect poorly on the honest person who happens to be expressing himself.
While I don’t argue that we should teach our five year old to holler, “Son of a bitch!” the next time he falls of his bike, I think we need to teach our children that the brilliant spectrum of their emotions is acceptable. We need to give them an outlet to express even the ugliest of feelings, and assure them that we can handle it.
I am eager to hear your thoughts: What do you find objectionable about profanity? Is there a place for it? When does it go too far? And what do you think is at the root of people’s discomfort with swearing?
I completely understand that a child saying “rats!” has the same intent as someone saying “shit!”. My problem with profanity is the actual meaning of the words. “Fuck” (and you have no idea how hard it was for me to just type that word, goody two shoes that I am) is not a word my kids need to hear. Honestly, who wants their kids asking what THAT word means?
I don’t like and refuse to let my kids use anything with God’s name in it. I’m not a fan of the alternative spellings like gawd, used to make it seem better. Regardless of how it’s spelled, it’s still using His name in a way it shouldn’t be.
There was a song we listened to on the kids’ radio many a year ago. It was awesome, and it was about swearing. It was a little girl telling about how she had to sit in time out because she said a bad word, but sometimes your mouth just needs to make those harsh sounds. She came up with all sorts of things kids could say instead. I REALLY wish my old brain could think of the singer or the name of the song!
Now, I must admit that in the presence of adults and no children, I do cuss a bit. Sometimes, it just fits the situation. However, I don’t on my blog. My kids are old enough and do read it, as do a few of their friends. I try to model for them what is and is not appropriate for them to do when on Instagram and other social media outlets.
By the length of this comment, I’m going out on a limb and saying, “I do believe I connected with this post.”
Thanks for weighing in, Christine. I’m glad you connected with this post. I think I was thinking out loud on this one- as in, I don’t really have any “answers.” But it’s a topic that interests me a lot, and I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts.
I am honestly not incredibly bothered by cursing. I mean I don’t have to hear my three year old utter words, like damn, shit, fuck… But overall cursing does not bother me at all. I do agree that when over used curse words can make someone appear to be less intelligent but there are truly times when more colorful words are needed (in my opinion)
I don’t want to hear those words from my toddler either…but my threshold for being offended is pretty high. And I second your remark on the colorful words. 😉
This is a great article. I really like what you said about allowing children to express their emotions. Sometimes it’s hard to find that line between their expression of emotion and their damaging someone else or something, particularly with rage or anger. Sometimes, my kids will even be so elated that they will irritate the crap out of their siblings. It’s like we have to teach them to express their emotions and be comfortable with them, but have some self-control at the same time. Gah! It’s hard.
The cussing thing has always confused me. I had a discussion with my husband on cussing a few weeks ago. My thoughts are and were, what’s the big deal? But at the same time, I’m aware of my own initial thoughts of others when profanity seems to flow excessively. So I guess society has influenced me to some degree. When overhearing someone using profanity, my thoughts are usually, how can they be so flagrant with their words? Don’t they know it’s not polite to speak in public like that? But, if I’m with a friend and they’re replaying a conversation that included profanity or something, I don’t think anything of it. So, maybe to me, it’s something I’m less comfortable with when I hear a stranger do it. Is that weird? I’m thinking through this as I type.
I typically refrain from using profanity. I have found that it tastes good ringing in my brain when I silent-scream it. Doing that keeps me from banging my head on the counter or putting my fist in the wall. I guess I don’t cuss because most people I associate with don’t cuss and they think it’s wrong, except my mom, she cusses – but like the high-five kind you mentioned. I’m not a wave-maker over things I’m not passionate about, so I just don’t cuss, to keep the peace. I don’t know where I’m going with this comment.
I’ve thought about this topic a lot over the years and still haven’t gotten anywhere with it, but it’s fun to wrestle with it. Great post!
I’m glad I got you thinking…I don’t have any real answers either, but I’ve been pondering lately what is at the ROOT of people’s discomfort for profanity- bad manners? Anger? Propriety?
I was hoping you would share your thoughts. 🙂 I agree- there is a fine line when it comes to encouraging our children to express themselves and allowing them to become out of control or hurt/disrupt others.
As a Cristian I’m against any foul language, and I brought my children up not to use any bad language. The English language has so many words that could be used instead of swear words, so read the Dictionary and learn! Helene
“The English language has so many words that could be used instead of swear words, so read the Dictionary and learn! Helene”
Perhaps you might take your own advice………The word is “Christian”
I stumbled across this post during research for a speech I’m giving, and frankly I agree. Interestingly enough, I’m also a Christian; nevertheless, I have no problem with “curse words.” And the reason being is the same reason I put quotation marks around “curse words.” What is a curse word? In my opinion, a “curse word” is any word used to slander another. Jesus said that anyone who says to another, “you fool,” is liable to hell. Why then does Solomon, the wisest man, repeatedly call people fools in Proverbs? Because he said it with love. What Jesus meant was the intent with which calling someone a fool in anger is not acceptable. Anger is anger is anger is anger. You can’t change your level of anger with a word. Whether you say, “You’re stupid” (often said by little kids, because that is indeed the worst insult they could conjure) or, “Fuck you,” the result remains the same.
This is an incredibly interesting article, and on a topic that I’ve been wresting with ever since I was in high school. Boone, I’m a Christian, as well, and I’m in line with you that cussing doesn’t bother me much because most of the time it isn’t really used in anger. And as you said, calling someone a fool and saying “fuck you” in anger have the same intent even if they don’t have the same dictionary definition.
Speaking of the dictionary, I’d argue that “cuss words” have evolved semantically simply because of the way they’re used. Even if the actual dictionary hasn’t picked up on it yet, that is the case. They’re used more for emphasis, and therefore as exclamatory placeholders, than anything else.
Now, I will say that I don’t cuss very often and I do cringe whenever I hear (or hear of) kids saying these words. I agree that maybe they should find different exclamatory placeholders until they’re old enough to realize why society is uncomfortable with the “cuss words.” And then they can decide for themselves.
Anyways, this was a really great article!
To Whonm It May Concerrn: To use foul language such as “fuck Y ou and Fuck this and fuck that isindicative of a low life poorly educat ed person, a crutch for an inadequate vocabulary. I do not believe using t he “F” word sounds better and does not win he argument or enhance the discussion. I find that poor ly educated un refined people who use t he “F” word seem also shift blame for their inaedquacies, quot e out of contest, distort the facts r ecord and truth and I am sorry to say they have a distinct tendency to lie. Many are pathological liars and what little of su b stance they have to say, t hey do no t mean t herefore what they say is nev er done. For socalled “professionals” in any field of endeavor who resort to foul languate are ill bread and certaily poorly educated. Eamon OSullivan
Obviously you skipped english and proof reading in your “Education” E O’Sullivan.
I know this is an old post I came across, but it is interesting that the Christian moralists and Puritans among us lack basic English skills as well as basic critical thinking ones.
I learned early, because as a child my own grandfather used the term, “Son of a bitch” while I was in the back seat of his car when someone cut him off. My grandmother immediately yelled at him for saying that in front of me and when I got home, I proceeded to rat my grandfather out to my dad by telling him, “Poppy said son of a bitch!” And I said it like it was truly no big deal. But still my dad got upset that his little girl would say this phrase. At this stage, I get why, but back then I didn’t. I think sometimes kids just repeat it, because they can and truly don’t get it. It is up to us to explain this to our kids the best we can. But trust me I am a work in progress on this, because I do have the mouth of a sailor at times (again learned all from the one person I loved with all my heart, my grandfather) and so have to watch what I say in front of my own girls now, because they totally will repeat me and do it at the worst of times.
I am a work in progress, too, and I really am trying to watch my mouth around the girls. Like you said- not always successful. Thanks so much for commenting, Janine!
Very interesting post. We are both real-life cursers, although we do try to keep it to a minimum around the children. And yet, we don’t really do it on our blog. Not sure why, honestly. Will definitely be thinking about this post for a while.-The Dose Girls
If nothing else, I am making people think! I’m making ME think, for that matter…
I think if you learn swears it’s ok because you are the one saying it think before talking.
Ahhh the age old dilemna.. So allow me to put my spin on this. Researchers have proven that when one has injured themselves the act of cursing does a greater job of alleviating the pain than using an alternate set of words.. True. Then I would be remiss to not point out exactly WHEN did someone decide a word was a curse word to begin with? After all that is how they became naughty words. A person or persons felt offended by the way they were inflected in conversation, passed their personal opinion of said word to someone else who in turn told someone else. If they are talking bible basis the ONLY thing labelled as a curse is the use of God’s name when pronouncing it. Thus being the only real curse words would be using God before dammit. When you think about it in that light it puts a whole new spin on the words we consider curse words doesn’t it. It all stems back to someone who was probably highly regarded saying, OH I don’t like that word for it to become forever titled as a bad word.
I do curse, however, I do it as a rule only when highly irritated or when in pain. I think that when we make a big deal of the child saying the ‘ naughty word’ we are basically giving them fodder for them to use those words to get attention later. Whereas if we simply ignore their use of it it loses its luster with them. After all they say them to get a reaction, take away the reaction and it loses its luster to them. But we could softly say, ” You know words are just words but some people might see that word as something ugly because it hurts them inside. We don’t hurt people inside with our words right. So let’s not say that. Let’s find something else to say that won’t hurt someone else inside and still make us feel better when we are hurt or angry.”
I love your last comment- great advice. You are a wise lady. You made some excellent points, and I think often about the true power of words, and which words have been infused with a meaning that, originally, some nitwit decided should be there. Great comment, thanks for your feedback!
I don’t know about the other swear words, but the origin of the F word is an ancient curse, meaning ‘Go forth and die’, which is pretty horrible. I do use it, but not around kids, and usually in moments of elevated stress rather than gratuitously.
My sister swears around her kids constantly and it really bugs me, as I think there’s something a bit precocious and nasty about hearing a child who knows how to swear and does it in context. I also don’t think it’s fair to them to say “I can say this, but you can’t” – it’s just poor role modelling and teaches them that adults are inconsistent and hypocritical.
My husband blasphemes a lot, which bothers me (part of Irish culture, apparently, though you’d think as an adult he could take ownership of it and choose not to – he just doesn’t choose not to).
When I worked around children and one of ‘those moments’ happened, I’d use “WORDS! Lots of them. All of them shortwithfourletters WORDS!” and the kids would usually laugh and join in. They picked up “BotherATION” pretty quickly too, and that seemed to work for them.
If I’m ever lucky enough to have kids, I’ll aim to dial back on the swearing and would aim to apologise to them if I swore in front of them – they are ‘bad’ words, whatever anyone says, and yes, they work in the heat of the moment, but there are better ways of expressing oneself.
I had no idea about the “origin” of the F-word- how interesting! I’m quite certain when people use it, they have no idea that the true meaning is “Go forth and die…”
I also did not know the origin of the F word. Now the phrase “go f-yourself” makes a lot more sense! Wow…you learn something new everyday!
That etymology is wrong. It’s always had something to do with fornication.
It is an anagram from a long, long time ago, for a “crime” which could carry a death sentence when accused. It is: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Words are powerful. But they also only have the power we give them.
My kids swear–with the real bad words–and I only correct them if I think the context is inappropriate. Or they’ve over-reacting.
Or swearing in front of grandma… 😛
I actually thought of Jane when I read this post because pre-Jane I was all, “My kids can’t swear! It’s horribly offensive!” And post-Jane, I’m all, “She’s a good mother and her kids swear, so it can’t be that bad, right?”
There really isn’t a word that makes me blush and I rattle off George Carlin’s seven dirty words on the daily. But I think the deciding factor for me was when I heard my son’s sweet voice drop a DAMMIT a few years back. I mean, dammit is nothing, but I just didn’t like the anger in his voice (unavoidable), but it was compounded with the socially unacceptable “curse” (avoidable). That said, Jane is absolutely right; words only have the power WE give them. Unfortunately (?) society has given some words A LOT of power and I think that’s why I tend to clean up my act in my front of my kids. I slip up (just yelled fuckstick this morning…), but I try to be more aware of my words when little ears are listening.
Oh, and this is just my two cents: I never take the Lord’s name in vain in front of my kids. I’m not a holy roller shoving religion down everyone’s throats; it’s just a personal choice and belief. But I’m a hypocrite in that I’ll use it in writing to make a point or to be funny. Jesus, we’re still cool, right? <—see what I mean? I can't help myself…
I am quite delighted to hear your perspective- I was so hoping we’d hear from you! Thanks, friend! xo
I wrestled with this topic recently, Stephanie, and I think you bring up some really interesting points. I don’t curse a lot, but when I do it is an energy release and it makes me feel better. I feel like it is too much when it’s used excessively – it loses its impact. When someone says f*cking this and f*cking that over and over, I find myself wondering if they have any other adjectives in their vocabulary.
I’m not sure what the root of people’s discomfort is, but I do know that I am uncomfortable hearing my children curse. I feel like it is too grown up for them, especially when they don’t even know the true meaning of the words they use. I know this is something our family will revisit as the kids get older.
I agree- it loses its impact when used gratuitously. I feel hypocritical for saying it is OK, or more than OK- even funny or potent sometimes- to use profanity, and when others use it in a way I don’t like, I judge. Not cool of me, but there it is.
My kids are still little, and I’m sure my policy will evolve as they do, but as for now, my six year old knows that there are words that adults use that she shouldn’t. It will be a work in progress, I know. Thanks for sharing your point of view! 🙂
Stephanie, I just had this debate with myself in my most recent post. I ended up using the word “expletive” instead of the real words. I don’t know what to do either. And I swing both ways too, in my blog. I really liked thinking about whether cursing should be considered a healthy release of energy. I hadn’t thought about it in that way before, and I think it is worth consideration.
It can be a healthy release of energy, I think, but as with everything, there is a line. Where it is, I am not certain…
You made very valid points Stephanie. The most important being that children need outlets to express their full range of emotions. It made me think of the book Where The Wild Things Are which was one of the first childrens books to show a child having dark feelings. Imagine that. We’ve come a long way in how we look at children but there’s still a ways to go.
I can handle swearing but when it seems like its just a habit that doesn’t enhance but distracts from writing or speech is when it turns me off.
DAMN GOOD POST.
“I can handle swearing but when it seems like its just a habit that doesn’t enhance but distracts from writing or speech is when it turns me off.”- YES! That! I agree wholeheartedly.
Also- great call with Where The Wild Things Are- I think you really articulated that well. It is definitely an influential children’s book in terms of the “dark feelings.” I loved how you tied that in- thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment!
Well, obviously I curse – with a name like the Shitastrophy. However, I do not curse in front of my kids. My kids know that I don’t even like them saying ‘crap’. Hypocritical? No, because I am an adult. My kids don’t get to drink because I do. They do not get to drive because I do. I instill in them good manners and what the expectations are. When they are adults they can choose to use profanity. Until then, they will not use curse words and I will continue to not use them around them.
Right now we are at the point where our daughter knows that there are “bad words” that she is not allowed to use. The funny thing is, she still mostly considers “hate” and “stupid” to be the bad words. Or “kill.” In my opinion, using hateful, derogatory words is worse than a child occasionally hearing an expletive when their parent drops the bag of coffee on the kitchen floor.
I have a terrible potty mouth—terrible! I often say “eff” in front of my kids as if that is less offensive; however, I find myself not dropping F-bombs in my writing. Strange, right.
You raise some interesting points and have given me a few things to think about. I would probably cringe if I heard my kids speak the way I do. Right now, the worst my three year old can come up with is “Mommy, you are a boy” when he is mad.
That insult from your kid made me snort. Certainly, I don’t want my daughters to sound like sailors. I consider my use of profanity to be one of my few vices these days, and I do my best to limit it to when they are not around. But sometimes… I drop something, hurt myself, etc, and it slips out.
I’ve been meaning to write on this too…
I try not to go beyond damn and ass in my writing. My mouth runs itself a bit filthier. I think the problems I have with swearing have to do with attributing negative meanings to physical anatomy (especially female) and the lack of imagination when cursing is used as regularly as valley girls use the word ‘like’. Being a writer, I especially enjoy trying extra hard to find creative ways to say things in place of profanity. I don’t think I should have to swear to be edgy. I’m not offended at all by reading writers who swear, but I do tend to get a bit bored when I see too much of it.
Your essay was incredibly well put together…I love it when you ask questions at the end.
Thanks Carisa. I am still grappling for that ever so fine line. I tend to roll my eyes when the profanities are doled out in an unimaginative way as well, and I too do NOT care for the negative meanings attributed to female anatomy. I’d almost forgotten about that one. But I will admit- I am a hothead, and sometimes that spills out into my writing.
This was such a thought-provoking post on this subject, which can be such a point of contention for so many. My own mother taught me to curse…if I hurt myself and wanted to scream in pain, she would allow and encourage me to say F*CK or SH*T really loud…I always did feel better after.:) Does it mean I have a sailor mouth now? Well, sort of. The other thing my mom taught me was to use curse words sparingly and appropriately…if you were constantly using profanity she felt that would not help you get your point across, but if you used them at the right time and in the right way, she was all for it. Maybe it was her upbringing in the Bronx (rough part of NY), but it all made sense to me. When I hear my own kids curse, it drives me nuts, but I know it’s partially because I am afraid of what other people will think. I also believe my teens are testing the waters now with profane language, as many teens do, and when they outgrow this stage, I am hoping their foul language is at a minimum.
Thank you so much for that comment, Emily. I think there is always middle ground, and that is usually the best place to land. I bet your boys will get it out of their systems, and I agree with you- a little bit of well-placed profanity is highly preferable to a constant stream of useless expletives! 😉
Great topic. I wrote a post once called “Why You can Be a Christian and Swear.” I got a lot of feedback. I think swearing is one of those things that people make WAY big a deal- and it really isn’t. How is crap any different than shit?
I think it’s important to explain to our kids the difference between letting off steam and swearing AT someone.
As always, fantastic post!
Thanks Julie- I *loved* that post of yours, and I thought you did a great job tackling the subject.
Excellent point- letting off steam and swearing AT someone are entirely different- thanks for pointing out that distinction!
so well written, Stephanie! I completely agree with your assessment that the word itself is just a word, whether it is ‘barking dog’ or f*ing asshole! In fact, I wrote a post just last week about being comfortable letting my nine year old use swear words (which just consist of hell and heck now actually :/).
Great post!! I’m sharing this!
I always love reading your thoughts about swearing, too, Roshni! You are always so articulate! Thank you!
For me, I like to add the occasional color to my language. It is just who I am. I tried once to blame this on the military… we swore like sailors. It was a part of life. But one of the things I do know, is I am careful about those I swear around. I only try to do it in the presence of those I know won’t be offended… unless I am in my own domain. When I am there… you enter at your own risk. As for my children, well, I have found adults need to start watching their mouth around them. Just the other day my 3 year old son was commenting on how I was going out to “Get the f*cking mail!” Now – I have never used that sentence ever. On the other hand, the way he used it was right on. So I guess if they are going to use something with the same intention, does it really matter. I would rather my kids swear when they feel the need to, but keep it respectful at other times.
Also, funny thing, since I believe in watching my mouth around certain people – like grandparents and stuff like that, when I wrote my book, one of the things I did was sprinkle a few swear words in it. When it come to some people in my family reading it, it made me really nervous because I didn’t want them to think of me “that way”
Great thought provoking post.
Thanks for that Stacy. I think, for me, and probably for a lot of other people, there is a lot of discomfort with worrying about how we are perceived when we use “strong” language. I try to be mindful of other people’s comfort levels, too, but that blogging is a gamechanger in that sense, isn’t it? It’s “my” blog, but I also don’t like the idea of alienating readers! I remember when my four year old used the “F” word- I had always been conscious to NOT use it around her, and yet she somehow picked it up. It happens.
Your posts are always thought-provoking and I’ve never really thought that deeply about profanity before.
As a child I grew up hearing a lot of curse words, which wasn’t always anger-driven (and never directed towards myself) just more of a way, as you say, of expressing the depth of your emotion. It really doesn’t bother me when you or other bloggers I follow use colourful words, as you put it, to highlight or accentuate an emotion. Criticizing any use of profane language is often a display of narrow mindedness, in my opinion, and as such it turns me off. The only time the profane bothers me, is when I hear my mom using it and I read actual distress into it. As for myself, somehow I don’t use much of it. I think it has to do with the fact that I would mainly curse (a lot) in Russian growing up, never did like much the curse words in Hebrew and Cursing in English still doesn’t feel natural to me, so somehow I don’t dedicate much thought to it in everyday life, but when a curse word does slip I always worry about 4 Year Old picking up on that.
How interesting- I have never thought about how a curse word would sound or feel different in a language other than one’s native tongue! Thanks for lending your unique perspective!
Aw, Stephanie. Not sure where to start here. First, I am a huge swearer in real life. I blame my dad and he blames me. I truly believe that there are times when “f*ck that” and “f*ck, yeah!” have no substitutes. With that said, there are (obviously) times when I censor myself – at work, in front of my ultra-un-sweary-sister-in-law (mostly anyway, because my brother is there and we grew up together swearing after age 13 when we lived with my dad).
While I do not want my son to swear when he’s upset because, well, as you said “barking dog” may do the trick, I have to admit that when he used the word “shit” appropriately after dropping a toy on the floor, I was pleased that he got the use of the language correctly. I didn’t jump around as much as I’d have done for a “normal” word. But I smiled inside.
I think this is a brilliant post and you’re so right that an occasional f-bomb in a blog post makes perfect sense. But. I, too, have been swearing much less than I used to in posts. Mostly because I know that sometimes, it’s not needed and that it may offend somebody. As I just typed that? I agreed with not offending anybody but also said “fuck them” in my head.
So there’s that.
I knew you would get this. 😉 Thanks for not making me feel like an A$$HOLE. Love you much…
Shared on personal FB (why can’t I tag you from my page)!
I used to swear like a truck driver when I was younger (20’s) and didn’t really think too much about consequences. I grew up not being able to swear without consequences, and I think when I left the coop I felt like I could do what I wanted. But as I got more introspective, I began to feel a few things, it was ill mannered, unnecessary and UN-creative. So many curse words originate from words we would not want to bandy about. I certainly don’t think it’s OK for a 7yo to say even dammit, and you know what I say to him when he tries it? I tell him, you have an amazing mind, full of all kinds of wondrous ideas, and that is the best word you can come up with? Meanwhile, shut-up, stupid and crap are all four letter words in our house too.
I have a friend who didn’t censor in her house, she is a teacher her husband is a principal. One day at a restaurant we all frequent we ran into them. Her son, then 4, was extremely inpatient and wanted to leave. He walked to the door and started shaking it (being 4 he didn’t get the push/pull thing) when it wouldn’t open he yelled “Open the F’in door!” He was 4. I’m sorry, not OK. That was the last day they swore in front of him. Young kids will say what they hear, and have no idea what the power is behind it. Words hurt. Direct that expletive at a person, not a door, and you would call it bullying. I just think as an adult do what you will, but don’t say it in front of your kids until they are old enough to understand the real life consequences of using that kind of language.
Great topic though, I like thought provoking two sides of the fence stuff….
Thanks Jen! I am really enjoying reading everyone’s opinion- kind of a loaded topic, eh?
Great post! I often struggle with this myself. I do have a bit of a potty mouth though I generally only use it when I am very angry or if I have just made a mistake (like the time I tripped while walking with a plate of food and accidentally spilled the while thing). On the other hand, my idea of cursing is probably not the same as some people’s. I don’t consider “hell” to be cursing, and have no problem using that word. And I live the Bloggess, who seems to have a special gift for using the f-word at just the right times.
I try to avoid using words like “sh*t” and “fuck” in my blog because I don’t want to frighten people away with a few bad words. I consider Twitter my filter-free zone. I gladly toss around curses on Twitter, any time I feel like it. Well, I did until my 13-year-old daughter asked me not to swear so much on Twitter because she doesn’t cursing makes her uncomfortable.
Twitter seems like a good venue to lose one’s filter… good idea! Luckily my kids are still too young to be tweeting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
You censored shit but not fuck? Lol weird lmao
Wow! This brings up a whole flood of emotions on the topic. I started swearing – like a sailor – in fourth grade. I knew every cuss word and used them all liberally. Not sure what I was trying to prove back then. Now, I rarely cuss in real life or on my blog.
Where I find the conundrum is my children. My son is now 9, and he’s extremely stubborn. I just started cussing while I was yelling at him. Why? Because the calm voice, the reasoning, the discussion, the explanation all went over his head as “not important”. I don’t even like yelling in general, but he doesn’t react unless I’m yelling – literally. So sadly, as a mom, the only time I seem to cuss is in front of my child, but then he does his chores or whatnot.
What would I say if he cussed at me? Probably that he can’t do it. I agree with someone above who mentioned there are somethings that are “adult” and some things that are “child”. But it’s also a lesson in timing and appropriateness. So, I’d have to hear him do it first before I would know what to tell him. So far, he doesn’t cuss (in front of us), and I figure that’s good enough for now.
I’m so glad you shared your perspective- it seems like everybody perceives this topic so differently! My kids are still so little that there is no way they would try to swear in conversation- my oldest tattles when her friends say bad words. I’m sure things will be changing in the years to come…
I fucking love you…see that was an appropriate use of the “f” word.
I swear a lot in my writing but when it seamlessly fits right on in there. It’s not every other word either.
I’m certain that it offends others but it’s my world so I’ll do it.
I actually don’t swear in real life. I don’t. Sure there is the “Shit, I left my kid at the store” (never happened)…
But we tell our son what words are unacceptable. Even words like fat and ugly and stupid…
YES- WAY appropriate use of the F-word right there. High fives!
I honestly think fat and ugly and stupid are more harmful than the occasional S or F. Seriously.
I tend to be of the school that says constant swearing is lazy and reflects a poor vocabulary and education. It has its appropriate uses, to emphasize a point or an emotional moment, or of course when you drop an anvil on your foot. I think a controlled use of swearing is probably the best approach.
Controlled swearing- I like that. I definitely cringe at constant swearing, and I am a big fan of a large vocabulary…one that includes at occasional “F.”
I rarely swear in real life, and even less on my blog because I want something that parents can read without worrying about a child reading over their shoulder. I do tend to utter expletives when I drop something on my toe-the worst thing I say is the s word.
I do however get frustrated with my husband and his profanity. He doesn’t get that my son doesn’t understand why it’s ok for adults to swear but not him. It’s not that my husband swears all the time-it’s mainly with video games or at sports!
When my son was three we had family over for a holiday. My son was staring at a book and turns to his grandmother and says “Somebody get that damn ladybug off that book!” I was mortified. Then I started thinking that our house is full of the things, and we get quite frustrated that they are everywhere. He probably thought that’s what they were called, damn ladybugs!
While I think that yes, swear words are just words that someone decided were bad, words can still hurt. I think our society is better off without it.
I know- it is embarrassing when kids swear in front of other people… it happens sometimes, especially when they are still navigating the world of language and looking for reactions.
I loved this post!
Like you, I like to throw the f-bomb around, but I’ve become much more conscious of doing it in my posts. I always worry some people will be offended, so I try to do it more when I feel it adds “uuumpf” to what I’m saying, if you know what I mean.
I never remember swearing being a big issue in my household. I wasn’t allowed to swear as a kid, obviously, but my parents were never overly careful not to swear around me. I just knew I wasn’t supposed to do it. And then when I got older, and I did swear, it was never an issue really. As long as I wasn’t swearing AT my parents, it just wasn’t deemed to be a big deal.
So my thought on the whole matter is that it’s the intention behind the words that matter. Yelling, “you barking dog!” isn’t necessarily okay in my books when it comes to young kids, but if my daughter were relaying a story and said, “and then she called me a bitch!”, I wouldn’t be upset about it.
But I’m far from figuring this whole swearing thing out. She’s only 2, and I seriously need to watch my mouth!!!!!
Awesome post, as always!!!
Thanks, Dani- I was hoping to hear from you! I am working on only using my big guns (Fs and other faves) when they make the biggest impact in my writing…
you should hear kids on an army base. you would shit your fucking pants!
That made my day…:D
I am lying in a hospital bed right now, sick as a dog and just laughed out loud so hard my nurse came in! Thanks for that 🙂
That made me laugh out loud.
I’ve never sworn much. My parents swore a bit, and I grew up in a conservative, rural town and a lot of my close friends growing up were very religious, and it embarrassed me that my parents swore. I think that affected my speech patterns as I got older. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten so used to academic writing, but it never even occurs me to use profanity when I’m writing. And, yes, it would bother me to hear my kid swear, even as a teenager. Such an interesting topic!
I think it is interesting to reflect on how our childhood experiences with profanity affect us as adults! Thanks for sharing… 🙂
I recently mused about this topic as well on my blog. Generally, and I think you’re on the same page, I think that discretion is the best prevention. Rather than keep words out of my kid’s mouth, I try to enforce the social acceptability (and stigma) of cussing at the right times vs. wrong times. That same lesson translates into lots of other behavioral issues as well, in my experience.
Good thoughtful stuff here.
Great comment- thanks for that. I totally agree with your assertions. And thanks for the compliment- glad you stopped by!
what an enjoyable Post.
a) the only language I find offensive is language deliberately intended to cause someone discomfit… saying ‘fuck’ to your spinster aunt. That is inconsiderate and, effectively, is bullying.
2) I am frankly concerned that over use will rob our ‘dirty words’ of their potency. Think about it. This entertaining Post (and discussion) has language that would have totally shutdown our parents, were they do read it or hear it spoken aloud.
The word ‘fuck’ (among other cuss words) ain’t what it used to be.
Sure, we can compound the word or use it in surprising contexts.. ( “Mr. Smith I regret to inform you that the biopsy has come back positive and you have the fuckin cancer.”)
But the word has weakened severely by overuse. I would imagine that the trained linguists among the Readers can give a more cogent explanation of the process of ‘wearing out words’ but I did want to say that I really hope we don’t use profanity/swear words so much that it/they becomes just another word.
There is only one dirty word that I can think of that, were I to employ it here in my Comment, would not be greeted with sophisticated smiles and chuckles. In fact, this word still retains such power, (in my opinion) that I will not even hint at what it is… you all know what it is.
Thank god there remains some truly powerful profanity left in our language!
I totally agree about the words losing their power with overuse. I also wholeheartedly concur with the “surprising contexts” usage- Mr. Smith…. HA!
Thanks for sharing your two cents, Clark!
I think the use of profanity is okay if used with people who are capable of understanding its meaning and when its use is justified by the “importance” of what the user is talking about.
A guy casually saying, “those s*** are in that box.”
A furious man exclaiming, “don’t f*** with me.”
When profanity is loosely used like the first guy, it gives an unnecessary bad annotation.
I think most young children have yet to fully understand the meaning of profanity. If they hear such words tossed around like leaves falling during autumn, they might just adapt them as their normal vocabularies — like I did when I was a child.
I didn’t have an issue with profanity until I ended up with my children’s father who is very irritable and uses profanity very loosely, which makes him sound like a rabid dog. I grew up in a family where swearing is literally in every other sentence and everyone talks as if they are yelling, but not angrily like the way my children’s father does. After having children, it bothers me even more — “s***” was my son’s second word. Thank God, he unlearned it.
You took the words right out of my mouth. I have a potty mouth and I had to tell my kids they were grown up words instead of bad words because otherwise all I’d hear was, “ooooh you said a bad word.” Your post was very insightful. Our little one – when mad at his older brother says, “you little brother!” Similar to jerk or worse yet an ok way to express himself without the neighbors calling family services! Anyhow brava to you!
Quick follow up – I’d rather hear my kid call the other “little brother” knowing it is negative than ever let them say the bad words I hear on kids tv shows (stupid, idiot, dumb, etc.). That I have a problem with. : )
Thank you so much for your comments, Sara, I really appreciate that! I completely agree- we refer to those types of words as “TV attitude,” and there are consequences for speaking disrespectfully in our house. Words that are hurtful, demeaning, etc, are far worse in my book. I am glad you shared your thoughts- hope you’ll come back again!
I came from the Hump Day Hook Up.
I am comfortable expressing emotions; I don’t think swearing is indicative of emotional health. I think we can teach our children to express their emotions without screaming and without swearing.
For some people, I do think it demonstrates lack of self control. Those people know who they are.
For some, it is a way of rejecting societal norms or identifying with a group that does. I think many young people pepper their speech with profanity for this reason.
For others, I think it has become mere habit, and in my mind, an annoying one. It’s akin to hearing the word “like” or “very” or “really” inserted into every sentence. It adds nothing to what is being said and is a distraction to the listener. Do you want people to focus on what you are saying or how you are saying it?
I agree entirely and enthusiastically. I feel that folks are not thinking this all the way through as they attempt to reason why not to use profanity, and yet, all I *did* was think it through and the reason surfaced from that act.
When I had my first child, it was a reawakening to all of the most basic questions and their answers that we encounter in our day. I had to think through every choice I made because I continually had to explain it to someone who didn’t understand.
The words I chose to use was obviously at the top of the list, as a question would naturally follow if my child didn’t understand what a word that I used meant. Back to basics. Say what you mean. And don’t be lazy. Think of the word that says what you are actually meaning to say.
So our reason for choosing the words we use, or not swearing, is simply that they either make sense or don’t make sense. “Fuck” is probably the most inappropriately used word I can think of. I would never want to represent the spiritual communing of two beings as something negative to new minds. These waters are already going to be tricky enough to navigate without polluting it at the outset. (As for the origin of the word claimed in an earlier post, I would need a cite / source.) Anyway, it is self-explanatory how the meaning of this word doesn’t ever quite convey the emotion, or the verb it is typically used to express. “Dick”, these kinds of derogatory words all fall under the same logic.
“Asshole.” I mean, is that really ever what a kid means to say? I don’t think my kids know what an ass is – I don’t think it’s a term that’s used much these days. How about a “fucking asshole.” Come on now. It just doesn’t match up. I have had to really retrain myself to use “jerk” but I tell you, my husband still really feels it, so I still only use it in instances that I can back up with actual data.
All the derivatives of “God” apart from again, using something sacred to express a negative emotion, was just another form of name-calling. I never let my youngest call his brother by any other name except his own unless he is willing to play that game. I think we are all familiar with a teasing sibling and how upset the person is who being called something other than his/her name. Well, we’re not rude to God or anyone else for that matter.
Further, I include all derivatives of the swear word that attempt to circumvent using the actual word, when the word itself is only part of the issue, and more importantly stands the point of the word and the associated reason for not using the word. (E.g. “Oh my God”/”Oh my gosh” “Oh my goodness” -goodness? what IS that?, “damn” / “darn”, “hell” / “heck”) Hell is a perfect example. Not necessarily a “bad” word in my book. A place. You can reference it *I guess*. If you know what it means! I haven’t quite explained organized religion just yet to my 3 and 4 year old and the places referenced in the histories of other cultures. It’s not really a part of our daily life, so it’s a little weird for it to come up.
For “What the fuck?” or as the kids say it, “What the…?” I just tell them to cut it short. “Whaaat?” That’s what they really mean to say. I’ll admit this one has been tough, but if you start from day one, my kids say “oh man!”, “STOP!!”, “Stop Nizhoni!! You’re making me really mad!”, “you’re not being fair!”, even “you’re being MEAN!!” pretty naturally. It’s just one part of this whole piece about learning about our emotions and being very careful about how we teach about that. I really appreciated those sections in the earlier posts particularly identifying and owning one’s emotions.
So when I break down any given word and its meaning, the choice seems pretty clear. There is always a more specific word to choose that actually represents what I’m feeling. For those who find relief when using a swear word, that is only because it has been learned. I am not going to pass down this practice of erroneously naming our emotions to another generation. Progress.
Good pont. My daughter world for a company where she spoke with people in England. The British tended to express their anger without using a lot of profanity, and they had a larger vocabulary than the Americans wth whom she spoke.
I am the potty mouth in our house. I always say I trained soldiers and sailors and now talk like one. My kids know not to swear. I don’t drop profanity constantly but it does slip out here and there. I am able to control words when necessary.
I have a hard time swearing on my blog – I write arse instead of ass. My mom reads it and it makes me nervous!
I think kids say what they will say – at this point “SHUT UP” is considered a bad word in our house. My oldest – 13 tomorrow!! – said “Crap” and then went “sorry mom.” …. it’s all relative and…. I don’t know …I’m not bothered – it’s just a word.
Thanks so much for commenting… my husband is as much a potty mouth as I am when the kids aren’t around, but he is much better than I am about controlling his mouth when they are around.
Very thought provoking post, and extremely well-written. Bravo! I drop the occasional F-bomb in real life, and in my writing (along with some shits and dammits for “oomph”) but do try to restrain myself around The Beans. Not always successfully, but it’s a conscious effort. The Man doesn’t really swear, and none of the people we are around regularly swear, now that I think about it. I was in the company of a mommy friend once, whose 3 year old son said “G-Dammit get off the slide” to another kid. I almost fainted. Then again, he also calls his mother by her first name, and although I do my best not to judge others for parenting choices…I’ll admit I’m not a fan of that. What can I say, I’m a Southern girl? But I digress.
To me, the words ‘fat, ugly, stupid, idiot, dumb, hate, kill and fool’ are so much more harmful when spoken. I am much quicker to reprimand my girls for the use of these than I would be for the occasional ‘in context’ milder expletive. It’s how I roll. In fact, my middle daughter, when she was about 5 got a kids meal toy and said (under her breath) “Ugh. Another damn turtle!” Apparently, our local burger joint which we rarely visit had an abundance of them and she had received the same one months earlier. I’ll admit I had to leave the room and laugh.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with a funny story, certain to get me blacklisted from the ‘good mommy club’ 🙂 We live in Los Angeles, and The Man works in post production sound for television and film. I, myself, do voice-over and ‘looping’ work and from time to time, my daughters do as well (it’s great money for the college funds). Anyway, about 3 years ago, when my middle daughter was 6, she got a call to do some VO work on the film “What’s Your Number”. When we arrived to the sound stage, all the moms (there were 4 of us in all) gathered in the sound booth to observe the session. And lo and behold, it was a scene where four 6 year olds were at a wedding reception, and witnessed the star of the movie, Anna Faris, fall off a wall, and pop her head up saying “FUCK”. The scene continues with each of the kids (2 boys, 2 girls) uttering the word in succession, with an innocence in their voices that simply cannot be captured by adults mimicking kids’ (which is normally the case). Oh, and if you’ve seen the movie, you may remember, at the end of the scene, their are 2 flower girls skipping around the reception shouting ‘Fuckity, fuck, Fuckity fuck’. Yep, that’s my Butter Bean’s voice!
I stood in the booth and wet my pants laughing while she worked 🙂
That story is priceless! Thanks so much for your comment- I really appreciate it! Your whole second paragraph- about words like fat, ugly, stupid, kill, etc.- really resonated with me. I completely agree with you that words like those are far more harmful. While our daughters are still very young, and aren’t allowed to use swear words, not that they have really tried, we don’t allow those “other” words, the hateful ones, either.
Ha, I love it! I know in my heart of hearts that I curse way too much, but it’s become a part of who I am, for better or worse. I curse at work, I curse at home, I even curse when I talk to the priest about my our beloved baseball Cardinals. I’m Italian and I’ve been an inner city cop for almost 15 years, so cursing comes with the territory. I don’t feel badly about who I am and I won’t curb my language for anybody. Now I don’t curse everywhere, of course, but when I’m in my house, well, it’s my fuckin’ house! Damn, I was going to not curse this whole comment! Oh well.
When I write a post, I reread it several times to make sure that it pleases me. Rarely will I post one that I don’t care for myself, but it does happen (like today, coincidentally, I didn’t like what I wrote). If any vulgar language seems forced, then I’ll reword it, but generally, I write how I talk and I think even readers who don’t know me get that it’s meant to be light hearted. My mom reads my blog, as do many friends, aunts, uncles and even my grandma. I have a blog post titled “That time my grandma was a dick” or something for god’s sake! She thought it was funny.
At home, we both curse. My wife and I don’t walk around cursing just to be cursing, but we do it. For whatever reason, none of our kids has taken to repeating us. I like to believe it’s because we’re such awesome parents outside the cursing, but that’s probably not it. Maybe it’ll catch up to us later, who knows?
I love everything about this comment. Though I may be apologetic about it, to be honest, it’s who I am too. Thanks for stopping by and chiming in! Now I will have to find that post about your grandma…;)
Sticks and stones.
Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes for one min, What would bother you more? Being pelted by stones? or someone cussing at you. Both can be considered abuse but I would prefer someone to curse at me rather than kill me in a violent rage.
To me cuss words are able to vent emotions quicker than a full paragraph. If you’re able to do that great. Every person is built different and imo some need to cuss, talking it out isn’t always an option.
Just imagine if people always talked it out. We would have people getting out of their cars in the street and miles upon miles of traffic when a couple cuss words would suffice during road a road rage incident.
…..and if people ignore others in not to long anger builds up until they explode. So imo cussing is OK if it is warranted but if your cussing for no reason at people that’s where I can see the line/problem. Just like the example of Jesus.
The other problem would be if the cussing is warranted to one person and not to the other who is right? It becomes he said/she said.
On the other hand I would say never to cuss for the simple reason of; if you don’t cuss the court of law will almost always take your side over the side that cursed.
I can think of a couple occasions where I know someone who was being purposely harassing with out using cuss words to another person and cussing was warranted but they still ended up getting a disorderly conduct ticket.
Before I had children I didn’t swear much and “Stupid” has always been my favorite word I use it in almost every sentence and as a full sentence to answer almost anything.
I have three kids now and I swear like a sailor. Among my new vocabulary is “Son of a Bitch”.
I hear my toddler say “Son of a Bee” on occasion and I think it’s cute or laugh but that’s because it’s just us. I do however worry about the day she says it in front of my dad or grandmother. The horror but she learned it from me. Her favorite word is also “stupid” and she expresses it exactly the way I do for everything. She watches something happen that’s funny “stupid” if I make her do something “stupid” if she is mad at her brothers “stupid”
My seven year old when he thinks I am not listening and he is yelling at his tv while playing the WII I will also hear him say “Son of a Bee” “rat bastard” (I never use bastard) he isn’t expressing his anger to anyone but his game…. I just roll my eyes.
My ten year old has very much control over his language. I retrains from this vocabulary, I supposed he learned that in school. Not everything they learn is at home. I am thankful for that. As I think if I were to hear him use it I would probably have the urge to pop him in the mouth especially if it were directed at me.
Just frightful, I know. In my defense my mother died when I was very young and I’m the black sheep of the family. 🙂
One of the comments here stated that the only ‘real’ cuss word according to The Bible is to put God’s name in front of another word. This is accurate in the scope of the third commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Exodus 20:7 but it is not the only mention of swearing/cussing/cursing in The Bible. I don’t believe that a random human being decided that cuss words were ‘bad’ and made them uncomfortable. There are plenty of scriptures throughout The Bible that talk about the use of derogatory words and offensive language, and a simple Google search can provide a lengthy list of those references. For many people, cuss words may be thought of as “just words in our vocabulary” but that doesn’t make the use of those words any less offensive. It’s not only offensive to (some) humans, it is offensive to God. He created humans to be intelligent, and to ascribe to intelligent thought. He tells us over and over again in The Bible to be kind, compassionate, considerate, thoughtful, loving, etc…to one another. This means far more to me than any ‘societal repression’ argument; which, honestly, just seems to be a way to condone the action. Yes, the act of swearing can provide a temporary emotional release for anger or pain but using swear words in everyday conversation doesn’t edify or uplift others, especially since many times the words are being used to defame, put down, heckle, shame, or otherwise humiliate another person. Obviously, this goes beyond the ignorance or intelligence factor and should not be considered acceptable at any age.
Interesting discussion…and just for the record, I addressed the original question but not in relation to children as I don’t have any.
Exactly why anyone should give one flying turd about your sky daddy’s opinion is beyond me. After all, we’re talking about the same being who has no qualms with killing infants!
I studied ‘taboo words’ back in high school, and ultimately that is all that swear words are, taboo.
They are seen as offensive because they are avoided and people rarely use them. If they were used more frequently the connotations behind them would all but disappear and they would have the same impact as saying ‘bum’. And Infact many of the original meanings behind these words are no longer relevant or should be shipped out with the discrimination that caused them (cunt, nigger etc)
I think it is important to have strong words to be able to convey strong emotions yet why is it frowned on when they are used? Taboo. My definition of a taboo is ‘avoiding something because you don’t fully understand it’ when Infact the opposite should be happening. Not understanding is no reason to shame.
Fucking great article!
This is a very interesting post. I have been thinking about his a lot lately, but from the perspective of what to do about friends who cuss in my home and/or in front of my children. I should say, mostly my husband’s friends.
I have never been a big “cuss word” user, though the occasional silent expletive has found its way out of my mind (and mouth), in situations of extreme stress or pain. I am a Christian and most definitely resonate with what Tina had to say here above as to her thoughts on why people are uncomfortable with profanity. That fits my opinion to a tee, in spite of my own occasional slips (yes, I, too am a work in progress!) But I think it is possible to own one’s emotions without using profanity to express it. As for using substitute phrases, I don’t think it is the same (unless you are thinking the “real” bad words but saying the substitute). It’s a reality that certain words have become labeled profane in the English language, and they do carry a certain feeling to the speaker and the hearer, no matter how you rationalize it. I would agree that people have an expressive need to use exclamations, such as in frustration, pain, anger, excitement and joy, so using a word or phrase that does not include any cuss words serves to meet that need, without the discomfort or negativity that profanity can cause.
I think it’s best explained in the verse Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Whether or not you are a Christian, I see most replies here speaking about wanting to teach their kids language that is “good for building up, as fits the occasion”. What about giving “grace to those who hear”? I don’t see how profanity gives grace or peace to those who hear it.
That being said, there is A LOT to be considered about what makes a word profane, this is true. All languages in the world have their “bad” words, right? And we can know that they are “bad” words, right? But if I say a bad word in another language, I can know the correct context and the meaning, but I don’t FEEL it like I do if I were to say one in English. You know, that feeling you get when you hear the extremely derogatory 4 letter word for female anatomy? Let alone say it? Cringe-worthy. But not to the non-English speaker who heard it in a movie and thinks that’s a word to use when they are speaking English with their American friends. That is so interesting to me, what that says about the power of language.
And that is my problem right now! We live abroad in Portugal, but with a lot of friends that speak English well. The challenge is that this culture’s favorite phrase when speaking English (and Portuguese, for that matter) seems to be “Jesus Christ!”, or “Jesus!” They also use the “F word” gratuitously. Right in my house, often when our kids are within earshot. As mentioned, we are Christian and try to model and teach our children to honor God in all things, including your speech. So it gets a little tough when my son’s 2nd grade teacher is leading the charge on using the Lord’s name in vain… Got some explaining to do! Which is a great opportunity for dialogue, I welcome it, I really do. I just think that they do not FEEL it the same way we do, since they do not “own” those English cuss words, being that it is not their native language. So how to get them to please restrain themselves when in my house, without making them feel shamed or embarrassed? Especially when they are Portuguese men, more my husband’s friends than mine? Curious for suggestions!!
So thank you for this post with it’s great questions to get us thinking and talking about this very relevant issue. It’s definitely helping me in my own self-reflection on this topic!
Why should the not so easily offended always have to adapt to the easily offended? If a person is offended by profanity then it’s probably someone I don’t want to know better in the first place, more often than not, religious fucktards.
Swearing is normal it would seem now. People don’t think you are normal if you don’t say f*** or f***ing every other word.
I think it is sad. There is never any real need to swear. I don’t swear ever. I don’t see the need for it. I blame the parents, I blame society for never telling kids swearing is wrong, I blame the movie industry for making swearing normal.
So Stephanie, I’m starting a blog and found your site as I am wondering whether or not to use profanity in my blog. I completely get what you’re saying and want to be real on my blog but at the same time know I will be offending people and putting people off. But then I think-fuck them…if they don’t like what I write then who gives a shit right? And of course ten minutes later I’ve switched my mind… I’m also wondering if I have any chance at being successful that way…any thoughts?
Ha! I like your style… Yes, I still go back and forth on how much profanity to use. I try to be mindful that it might be a turn-off to some of my readers, but I also want to stay authentic to myself, my voice, and my sense of humor. Sometimes I use an asterisk in the word f*ck, but I’m not really sure that makes a difference. I try to make my expletives well placed and meaningfully integrated, whether that is for comedic effect, or emotional impact. Stay true to yourself, that’s my advice, but use your profanity as tastefully as you can. Unless gratuitous swearing is just your fucking thing. 🙂
Swearing is normally unaccepted as it can promote more anger and hate, and can lead to more anger issues, which is a grave cost to be doing. It shows lack of maturity as well, and short vocabulary, so anyone that curses heavily can be a total retard in my opinion, and the opinion to many other’s. Like with Porn, it’s not accepted very well either because people that do that stuff are pretty pathetic. No one honestly would want their kids to grow up cursing and stuff, because then what? If you curse out a gang member, you’re dead done deal end of story. Curse someone out at a bar, you get the crap beat out of you. So there’s really no point in cursing, especially when it passes you off as an ignorant, arrogant brat.
“Swearing is normally unaccepted as it can promote more anger and hate, and can lead to more anger issues, which is a grave cost to be doing. It shows lack of maturity as well, and short vocabulary, so anyone that curses heavily can be a total retard in my opinion, and the opinion to many other’s. Like with Porn, it’s not accepted very well either because people that do that stuff are pretty pathetic.”
I honestly have no idea what to think of replies like this one. While I mostly understand where these replies come from (and with ‘these’ I mean the replies that either bring up God/religion and/or are accusatory in nature pertaining to the cursing party’s intelligence/vocabulary), I find them to be a long, loooong way from reality, not to mention more often than not hypocritical.
As for what you can expect from my post.. I’m not a holier-than-thou kinda guy, and I’m my own person. I understand the need for rules, but it doesn’t mean I agree with all of them. If something is not allowed, i want to know the ‘why’ before following a rule. I am human, and with that comes rights and responsibilities that transcend religion and government. Why I feel that way? Because we where here before either two. Because I believe in in the individual. And because I believe in myself.
I realize it’s an old post, but the topic itself seems like an evergreen, so let’s see if we can get some discussion out of this:
“Swearing is normally unaccepted as it can promote more anger and hate, and can lead to more anger issues, which is a grave cost to be doing.”
This is the sort of reply that makes me question the background of whoever wrote this. This is like saying that computer games promote violence, that the existence of condoms promote sex.
From a logical point of view, cause-and-effect wise, such statements are utter bullcrap. The main issue is not the swearing, it’s not the porn, it’s the peoples unwillingness to listen to reason. I’m not saying I’m right, but I’m willing to listen to the other side, which is often a lot more than the accusing party is capable of.
Take the hate and anger. Profanity does not promote that. Ignorance does, for one. My swearing at some retard for spewing unfounded nonsense doesn’t say anything about my intellect, nor about the size of my vocabulary. I would’ve thought that person a retard even without the use of expletives. The anger would’ve been there regardless of how I express myself.
Hate.. I don’t even like that word. Too many people using it incorrectly, misjudging how heavy a word is really is. However, to stay in context, the feeling of resentment will rise depending on the other party’s response. Unless indoctrinated, hate doesn’t happen out of the blue, there are always two parties involved.
I’m not sure what costs are involved in being angry, but there is no way any one person alive on this planet can say that he was innocent in whatever happened during an interaction with someone else.
Now, this might be more on the person than on the topic as a whole, but considering the porn comment.. Where does such a statement even come from?
Selling sex might not be *the* oldest profession on this rock, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the top 5. Since porn is just a manifestion of what eventually boils down to ‘needs’, every person involved in these needs is apparantly pathetic.
What people making such statements fail to realize are the following two things: 1) How colored their view by their own experiences or lack thereof. 2) How circumstantial it all is. Is a hungry person looking for food pathetic? When I have to pee like mad and I’m searching for a toilet or a tree, am I pathetic? If no, why not? What or who has decided what is pathetic and what is not? Can I find the commenter pathetic for having such a narrow view of life that I think he should be forbidden to make such comments? Heck yes.
Now, back to the very first reply to this blog, where there is a more pronounced religious aspect involved.
The bible itself contains at least one curse word, yet God forbid that his name is used in vein.
What really blows my mind about this though, is how most christians do everything except practice what you preach.
God created us all! (Well, if that’s really the case, I’m sure he doesn’t mind me swearing. He made me, after all. Since God is infallible, I can’t be a mistake, so swearing is what the good man had in mind all along – imo, that theory is as good as any other).
To end this.. the point is this:
Cursing, profanities, expletives, one has to be careful with it. You can’t shoot a gun wherever and whenever you like, and you can curse whenever and wherever you like.
Making judgement calls on persons who swear, or use the connotation of certain words to emphasize how they feel, how they perceive a situation, however, that’s where I draw the line.
I have many times more respect for someone who swears and speaks his mind, and even apologizes if the swearing was poorly timed, than for any religious or anti-porn nut who can’t even properly verbalize their objections in a way that normal people can relate to.
If everyone who is against swearing would stop being a hypocrit, well then truly, I would consider stopping my use of certain favorite ‘bad words’.
In the end however, it’s a battle without end. There will always be people who are not open for discussions, and who refuse to accept others for who they are.
As long as those people exist, so will curses, expletives, and profanity, so by all means, express yourself in whatever way you like!
Disclaimer: I’m Dutch, so any typo’s and oddly phrased sentences are likely the result of English not being my first language in combination with wanting to say *so* much more than what has made in so far.
Edit: can curse whenever = cannot curse whenever
Thanks for taking the time to share such a thoughtful and interesting comment! I appreciate you joining the conversation!
Wowee-this post is precisely what I needed tonight! There is currently a large hub-bub around the internet today about the video with a bunch of little girls dressed as pretty princesses dropping tons of f-bombs in regards to tons of common feminism issues. http://youtu.be/9QZ44fmMAxs I think it is lovely. I think the majority of folks are so turned off by the vulgarities that they are truly missing the point.
I adore cursing and unlike some folks here – when I hear someone else cursing like me I think more of them. Children aside- an adult who is so connected to his/her emotions who uses those words amidst othe normal “classier” words to illustrate their deepest and most passionate emotions – without any judgement or showiness about the curse words- because they know that they are no different than all the other words they are saying- that’s my kinda person. Bonus points when it’s s woman.
Recently my bf has expressed some concern for my cursing and I seriously don’t get that. Like- thus was me when we met – and something I thought he must have digged but now not only do I learn that that’s untrue but that he might want me to change that. And of course I don’t have any interest in that. They are just very expressive words that I see no reason to rid myself of. I am not really interested in impressing those who are that turned off by it.
I don’t know that I’ll ever understand what the big deal is- except somewhere along the line we were all told they were bad words and the bulk of the population just believes everything they are told to believe. There is a huge difference between being unintelligent and swearing and intelligent use of curse words as a part of intelligent conversation. The masses whose minds immediately close off the instant they hear those words are far less intelligent than those using them. As in the message of the above video- what is more disturbing than the use of foul language by little girls is the fact that it is necessary to find a shocking way like that to get these age-old messages across.
That’s quite a judgmental comment saying that those who do not use profanities in order to express themselves, are unintelligent! I wonder how you came to that, conclusion. We as human beingshave learnt these words from home, school, peergroops etc and so on, and we have also learnt that they are wrong throughout our lives. Just because an individual chooses ‘not’ to use these words, does not necessarily warrant ignorant judgements from others, and or credit them, with being unintellufent. Christian understanding about expletives is clearly defined in the bible (worth a look if interested). I’ve used expletives on and off, and it bothers me at times, I’m not perfect. Often used when annoyed, and or stressed. I am bothered about the overuse in media and on fb postings of the constant need of it. To use profanities towards others is both denigrating to oneself as it is to others, and the use of dictionaries could be utilised more effectively to find better and more appropriate means of expression. We all too often use words without thought, consideration or due care, and it does often, highlight our inadequacies and lack of intelligence.
And I am far more intelligent when I am not typing on my ipad!
I will probably go wih the 99% of the population on this planet who will probably say to this post:
Who gives a flying fuck?!
I would go with 99% of the population, who would probably reply.. Who gives a flying fuck!
If you can’t intelligently express your feelings and opinions without dropping an F bomb,or calling a woman a C or a B every third word, you are simply a barbarian with no sense of courtesy,respect,or BRAINS It takes no intelligence to curse. It only proves you belong under a rock. It is not funny,it is not ‘colorful’ it is crude,rude,and juvenile.
I never curse. I don’t have to. I have a large enough vocabulary to be able to dress down some punk without it. So,all you slack jawed yokels and troglodytes out there,want to get into a war of words? Let’s go. Only I may be accused of attacking someone who is unarmed.
Anyone who feels the need to constantly curse,to make their point,comes from a family tree with no branches,and is living proof that cousins should never marry.
I am happy to approve this comment because I respect your point of view and would love the comment thread to reflect a variety of opinions. However, I had to delete all your individual replies criticizing people who previously commented, because that’s just unnecessary. Mean comment exchanges is not how we roll on this page.
when I was young and papa was frustrated with me not being a good little girl sometimes not listening ,, papa would swear a strings of swears it intemidated and terrefied me he never hit me but this was just as bad etc,,,, I hate swearing never swor at my children or when I was frustreted they are all married and still not allowed to swear in my home ,,no one,, I am 65 not educated I am french so excuse my english speling ,,now I hate swearing it still intimidates me and to this day I get feeling bad when someone swears I hate ,hate hate it there are other ways to get out frustrations go grrrrrrrrrrrr like a bear my way love ya all in Jesus thanks
i dont think swearing is a big deal because i swear and i try not to but its ahabit. ive been having around my steo mom and my dad for too long now so idk why people are offended but its part of life so SUCK IT AND DEAL WITH IT TOO BAD IF YOU DONT LIKE IT….
My ex wife cusses like a sailor. I hardly ever cuss. As a former business owner and presently as a college instructor it has occurred to me that unnecessarily offending students was not helpful. Interestingly, my daughter finds that kind of language offensive, but that does not deter my ex wife. Although my daughter is thirteen, goes to a mediocre public school, and is incredibly smart she still is quite innocent. I would like to keep it that way for a bit longer. I try to be a role model for her and my students. I think modeling good behavior might be a way of improving this world.
So I am a follower of Christ and I believe that the Bible tells us to take all of our thoughts and words captive and let no unwholesome talk come out of our mouth. Enough of the soapbox though.
Before I knew the Lord I could swear with the best, and was trained by the best (thank you United States Navy).
However, someone explain if swearing, or cursing is not bad and I will let you have that for sure. Why then are people keeping their kids from doing it or why do you change your language in social or work situations? Isn’t the fact that you do those things reason enough for you to not do them outside of those situations?
Interesting for sure.
First, let me say that I’m a 51 year old man who has worked in trades, mostly building and remodeling, all my adult life. I’ve also driven dump trucks, tow trucks, and various equipment. Suffice it to say that I’ve heard and used every conceivable cuss word and combination thereof, and tend to do so in my everyday speech. I don’t get why some people are so off put by certain expletives, especially fuck. My ex Grandma in-law would go apeshit on somebody if they said fuck in her presence, or even within earshot. Drove me fuckin nuts at times. I mean, there are far more offensive words, words like genocide, for instance… Or how about infanticide, rape, hatred, racism, fascism, oppression, totalitarian oligarchy… Those words, or the notion of them, the feelings behind them, are offensive to me. How come there are obese couch-potatoes with an IQ of 42 watching some talking head on the idiot-box blathering on about the very things I find offensive, while their li’l nosepickers listen to hip-hop on their i-pods, “Fuck-fuck, motherfuck, drugs, guns, and hoes, fat stacks o’ motherfuckin greenbacks… (blah-blah, etc.)” ..But the same asshole will go and have the audacity to say something fucked up to me because I pepper my comments with the word fuck. Something is fuckin rotten in Denmark, methinx.
Now when it comes down to little kids cussing, I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere. But where? A first-grader saying fuck in public seems bad, doesn’t it? But by the time they get to fourth grade they already know all the words, even if they don’t comprehend all the meanings yet. I grew up in the 70s. I wasn’t allowed to cuss around my parents, my dad would’ve given me a fat lip. But they couldn’t stop me from saying (or doing) whatever I wanted to when they weren’t around. Same goes for kids today. I got labeled as “incorrigible” and “hyperactive” because I was wild, but all kids are wild. It’s human nature. Learning self-discipline is a process, and kids are only at the beginning of it. I’m a grown man and I’m not always that good at it. Fuck it, let your kids cuss. They’re going to anyway. My daughter managed to make it thru high school on onto college without losing her fuckin marbles, and that’s something commendable nowadays. A lot of 20-somethings are on drugs, prostituting, stealing, or stuck working retail or fast “food,” with no foreseeable way out. A lot of kids are having kids of their own, with no parenting skills, no resources, and no clue… If I hear a 6-year old yelling “Fuck! Goddamnit! Son of a bitch!” I just figure he heard it at home, or in a movie, or his parents are kids themselves and they think it’s adorable.
My mother got uptight over me using the word fuck or shit, so I laughed and said “its just a fucking word, stop being to uptight about it”. She still got upset lol. Then she went on about words are powerful, and I respond with “Words are powerful if you want them to be powerful”
#1) Jesus totally swore. Of course he did. When he was tearing the money lenders in the temple a new one do you think he said “Um… pardon me good sirs but please refrain from all this hootenany.”?
#2) Stop using Christianity as a yardstick for propriety. Most “Christians” I’ve met are more than in favor of billions in military spending to launch bombs at dirt poor people they’ll never meet in th4 name of a war they’ve been deluded into thinking is about “freedom” and “democracy”.
#3) You shouldn’t go to Boston. We use “fuck” like “um”. Your sensitive ears would burn all day long.
I got to this thread because I had dinner with a guy last night who corrected my profanity use. He said there was a little girl around and it made him uncomfortable.
To me, a guy like that has issues. You cannot, in 2o17, go around an urban area and have a reasonable expectation that shit is gonna be G-rated for kids. Plus… the Internet. It’s all out there.
So if I want to leave the peace of my house to venture to the city to have dinner, don’t correct my speech. Grow up and deal with it.
Later in the car, he was uncomfortable because he knew he made the dinner weird.
I’m not gonna call on him socially again. I dont want to have dinner with another male who cant handle usage of the word “fuck”.
Fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck.
Haven’t we had it with speech policing yet?