Let’s get to it. I recently heard through the gossip grapevine that one student of mine did not like me. Why? I apparently used too much profanity for his liking in one of my classes.
Well la tee freaking dah.
Of course this is not the first time one has not appreciated my colorful and free-range use of the English language, nor will it be the last. Yet, there are reasons behind my profanity madness. My use of profanity is neither flippant nor without deep critical thought and consideration -it is quite calculated. So, today, I share with you these reasons and perhaps you will be enlightened to the reasoning behind my profane ways. Thus, I bring to you:
Four reasons why I, and why YOU, should use profanity.
A wise person once told me that when delivering a potentially controversial message, it is important to begin with what you are definitely NOT saying before you address what you ARE saying. Soooo…
First and foremost, I am in no way suggesting the use of profanity is good for everyone, all the time. Like everything in life, there is a time and place. Context is everything.
Secondly, I am vehemently opposed to hateful, vengeful, mean-spirited words and speech intended for ill will. However, such speech knows no specific words, only motivation and intent. One could be mean spirited with or without profanity -there are plenty of “non-profane” words that are obscene in intent. Isn’t it interesting how our culture delineates between words that are profane and words that are not while the “profane” words may be kindly and gently spirited in intention, while the non-profane words are acceptable-yet full of ill will and contempt? Ah, such tension. And hypocrisy. Now let’s get reasonable and get started.
1. When prohibiting yourself from using profanity, you are limiting your word choices to most accurately communicate with others. Communication is a difficult enough process -why make it more difficult by not allowing ourselves to use the full arsenal of vocabulary choices available to us? Good communication is all about knowing your audience and/or the person to whom you are communicating. In many contexts, profanity is going to be the best language choice available. In other cases, one might argue that profanity might be the worst possible choice –talking to a classroom of preschoolers, let’s say. However, even if the person/group you are communicating with does not use profanity, what better way for them to get to know you than by using words that you feel most comfortable using? I have found that using profanity in normally formal environments brings about a tone of realness and genuineness to the occasion while making others feel more comfortable and able to share their true thoughts and feelings on issues. You might say it serves to breakdown the bullshit formality that exists so often in life.
Again, am I suggesting to always use profanity? Of course not. I am saying that sometimes the intense beauty of a finely placed profanity is an unparalleled and wonderful experience and should be considered a communication option.
2. Profanity has a positive, relieving effect on your psyche when used in the proper context to let off steam and/or decrease your feeling of pain. In June 2009, researchers at Keele University in England sought to determine why the automatic response for so many people in pain is to blurt out profanity. You know, like after stubbing your toe, a good “FUCK ME!” is usually in order. In snippets taken from this article, researchers found 68 college-aged students and asked each to submerge one hand in icy water for as long as they could possibly stand it. They were trying to test if students could keep their hands submerged longer if they used curse words or non-curse words.
During the first trial, the students were permitted to swear out loud as often as they needed to see if it could lengthen the period of time that the hand could stay submerged. During the second trial, the students submerged their other hand in the icy water and this time, they were permitted to say whatever they wanted, as long as it did not contain swearing. It was determined that, on average, swearing students could hold their hands in the water over 40 seconds longer than when they did not swear. Why were the swearing students able to keep their hands in icy water longer? These researchers have found that the amygdala, a gland that makes the heart speed up and the resistance to pain stronger, as the key. It is basically responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction. The theory is that using actual cuss words somehow activates deep primitive negative emotions, which somehow triggers the amygdala to choose the “fight” response. The fight response then raises your heart rate and decreases pain sensations, just like swearing after feeling pain.
So, even though cursing is often thought of as reflective of inappropriateness, it may be that profane language has the power to decrease pain that general speech does not. Keele University psychologist, Dr. Richard Stevens, summarized his findings and offered this sound advice after the study was over: “I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear.”
And you all thought it was just me. Fuck you. ☺
3. Like Marlita Hill contends in this brilliant speech concerning the word, “nigger,” (if you have never watched this 11 minute speech, treat yourselves to this gem) words only become profane when we deem them profane and allow them to be such. Using “profane” words only serves to demystify their meaning and decrease their social power and control.
I recently had a student write me an email describing her anxiety concerning an upcoming speech assignment. In her words, she was “sh#$ing bricks” and “scared off her a$$.”
She then went on to say that she does not like profanity and cannot even write the profane words out. Poor f#@king girl.
I would suggest this “camouflaging” of “profane” words only serves to heighten their social taboo and perpetuate their power and intrigue. Seriously, are you all aware that some strands of Judaism are forbidden to write out the word, God? They must camouflage the word to G*d, for example, with this or some such other replacement symbol. I understand the reasoning behind this idea –it is all about giving God the highest amount of reverence and respect while not cheapening the nature of an eternal, infinite and all powerful G@d by simply being able to write out his (yes, his) name.
Using such logic, do you realize that all of you “profanity camouflagers” are elevating profanity to a deity-type status? You are providing profanity both reverence and respect. Your camouflage is providing the exact opposite effect of your intentions while continuing to perpetuate the perceived power of certain words. It is not necessary to use any variation of profanity, written out phonetically incorrect or not…just use a non-profane equivalent. And while you’re at it, stop with the substitute freakins, goshes, darns, cruds and fudges. Stop the madness –cuss for G%d’s sake. These words also serve to make you look like a pretentious d^%k…whoops.
If you want to deflate and cheapen the power of profane words, use them, in excess.
4. Because we can! This is America, correct? The land of free speech, correct? Why would we metaphorically shit all over our founding fathers by not using what they fought so hard for us to attain? Fuck yeah Thomas Jefferson and hell to the yes George Washington! I, for one, will not give in to this very un-American madness of not using profanity.
So, for the sake of good communication, our health and wellness, our society and our American right to free speech, cuss away my friends. Again, I am not suggesting to use it all places, all the time, without good reason -it simply must be an option in our vocabulary arsenal.
As for all of you “holier-than-thou” douche-bags who want to restrict and ban others use of their G*d-given right and very American right to use profanity -grow a pair and well, just grow up. If you don’t want to use it, don’t. Just don’t tell me and others what we should or should say in terms of our own self-expression.
Now ask me how I really f*cking feel.