Recently in one of my online communication courses, the subject of profanity and cursing was discussed. Many do not realize there is a difference between the two, as profanity, or the “profane” can be a conceptual idea while cursing is utilizing specific “bad” words. As one who essentially never cursed the lion’s share of my adult life and now curses liberally, I find the subject of great interest and, actually, pretty important.
Thus, the conversation was started with a 25 year-old female stating the following on our discussion board: “Let me start by saying that I spent a lot of time as a child with my stubborn grandma who smoked like a chimney. She also cursed like a sailor. With that said, I didn’t curse so much when I was a child, but as I’ve grown, I have picked up this sailor cursing habit; and yes, I blame it on my grandmother. So, as many of my peers and siblings do not mind the cursing (I also believe cursing is embedded in my generations’ language) I do realize that my elders and the older generation do not find this language attractive. Some men that I have dated have also commented on my cursing in a negative way, and I just say “Fuck you.” I’m kidding… I have realized that I can come off “unladylike” and childish to certain people, so I have learned to refrain from cursing in front of certain people. I do this to respect that particular person I’m with; I don’t mind cursing and it is simply the way I was raised and a part of my language and expresses my laidback personality. I never intend to insult people with this type of language and I’ve learned it can do just that. So I now am very cautious of who I curse in front of. It’s amazing how something as little as cursing or slang can have a big impact on how one perceives you or your culture as a whole.”
A female, approximately the same age, responded with this:“I completely agree about cursing being a staple in today’s generation! I also find it comical that people say it is “unladylike”. What is “ladylike” anyway? Crossing legs? Being a man’s beck and call? Then count me in as “unladylike”!
You go girl. I’m down with the feminist stuff. Totes.
So, what is it? Cursing good? Cursing bad? Should we? Shouldn’t we? So many different ways to go with this blog. I could write of the philosophical outlooks on using profanity and its cultural effects. Or perhaps even the psychological dimensions of the interplay of profane language with human thoughts processes and behavior. Naaaah. Instead I realized that there are essentially 6 different types of people and their relationship to swearing and it might be fun to recognize each type. Which one are you? Be honest.
1. The Never, Ever Curser. This is essentially what I was for many years. Cursing to me was a sign of weakness and expressed a lack of self-control. I mean, if one cannot control their tongue how could they control anything else in their life? There is no hint of the profane in this person’s vocabulary. Even in times of extreme anger, silence is the preferred choice over any hint of profanity. This is “Father Know Best” language meets Ward Cleaver for a good delicious dialogue over milk and cookies. In my opinion, when one has young children this is not a bad route to take. Therefore it was quite a compliment when my 20 year-old daughter recently told me “good job” as she explained she never even knew the “F-word” existed until she was 11.
2. The Replacer Curser. This is the goshdarnit crowd. For gosh sakes, you know the ones, they replace what would be a nicely placed swear word with a freaking PG version. This is the world where crap becomes crud and the ass is transformed to a butt. All the intent of a swear word is present without actually committing the swear crime, for Pete’s sake. Some might think this person is just full of bullroar, as I do. Think of the person who violates the spirit of the law yet cleverly remains true to the freaking letter of it. They like to think people do not give a fudge about their picking replacement vocabulary or else they can just go to heck.
3. The Cleaned Up Curser. In the cleaned up curser world, they like to dangerously push the language limits yet will only dabble in the swear words that are deemed only moderately profane. Typically the word ass can be used because it can also refer to a donkey, hence acceptable. Even dick and pussy can be used due to their relationship to a person’s name or pet feline. In this world, shit is still far too much yet crap is just fine. Of course I never really understood the difference between shit and crap; I guess the former is just a shittier version of the latter. In addition, damn is ok because water can be collected behind it and god can still declare you to hell in its name. Oh, and speaking of damnation, hell is ok as well. And if it’s good enough for god? It’s good enough for the cleaned up curser, godddammit. Generally these people are very poor cussers and do not use even their cleaned up versions effectively, perhaps due to the fact they are not privy to the full arsenal of profanity. For example, they may confuse the hard-headed man to be a pussy while the soft coward to be a dick. Whoops. This could lead to real fustercluck.
4. The Regrettable Curser. This is the person who will liberally use swear words yet still feel a sense of shame in the process. These people will often try not to cuss, yet fail quite miserably. My suspicion is that these people probably got their mouth washed out with soap or their ass backhanded at some point in their childhood, due to cussing, and never really got over this traumatic experience. Typically this is the final phase for many before transforming into the next possible phase of cursing, the Discerning Curser.
5. The Discerning Curser. I would probably place myself in this category. Why? I do use curse words yet not flippantly so. I think about it. I gauge my audience. I assess. As the conversation above will attest, I communicate with a generation -by and large and with many exceptions- of those who liberally curse. You know, the 18-28 year old motherfuckers who do not give a shit about profanity in language and actually respond quite well to it. However, the discerning curser can still reign it in when necessary and not drop F-bombs while visiting grandma at Beverly Manor or to their little brother at Mountainview Elementary. The Discerning Curser will occasionally drop a profane bomb at the wrong time yet will instantly recognize and address the transgression.
6. The Out of Control Curser. This curser is the completely out of control asshole who has no idea when fucking too much is just too fucking much. Whether a fucking ball game, bar, nursing home, or goddamm kindergarten playground, for fuck’s sake, it’s all fucking good shit and the right time to drop profane fucking words to any dick or cunt within earshot. I think you assholes get the goddamm idea.
So which one are you and why? I really do believe a nicely placed profane word, given the right context to the right audience is not only acceptable, it is the preferred nomenclature. It is a bit like watching a film and the characters are drinking a made up brand of soda, like Cole instead of Coke, or Pipsi instead of Pepsi. I feel cheated. I want the real thing. So it is with my language -I want the real thing dammit. Don’t cheat me and the rest of the world out of profane sugar with your aspartame language.
And so the discussion will continue. As a former “never, ever curser” just realize I have a lot of damn time to make up for.