Let us now praise famous cusswords

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s just a fucking shame.


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

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