Those who hate to hear people swearing have it all wrong.
Whether it be the explicit and sacred name of god in the pentateuch, the great hero’s name in Beowulf, or Harry Potter’s Nemesis he-who-shall-not-be-named, writers have know for millennia that a word develops magical powers when you’re not allowed to say it. It’s a funny thing too. The words that no-one says must be the most magical, right? But if no-one says them then how would we know them at all? Everybody knows them and no one says them? Not likely! It’s just not said in polite society.
The important question is: why do the people who hate swearing want people to stop saying certain words? All they do is give those words magic powers. There’s a word that we’re not supposed to say that means exactly the same thing as poo, dung, feces, turd, doodie, doo-doo, bung, crap, droppings, stools, and endless other words. All of these words were considered naughty at one point. Today they are hilariously PG. Only the “S” word is illicit. Why? Why do people think it’s bad to say that word even though it has precisely the same meaning words that are allowed? Yet those who hate swearing act like that one’s special and extra bad. They act exactly as if they want more naughty words. I assume that the end-game of the anti-swearing folks is to avoid hurt feelings. But all they do is create more increasingly shocking and powerful words to be used against the emotionally frail and easily offended.
Alternately, those who curse all the time make illicit words commonplace. They take the F-word and drop it into every single sentence so that we become desensitized to it. The first time someone tells you to f@$% yourself it’s surprising. The second time it’s annoying. The third time it’s just a figure of speech. The result is that in an environment where anyone will say any word, like a high school hallway, there is no language you can use to shock people, no way to crank up the tone of your language.
Just because words mean the same thing doesn’t mean the have the same function in language. Here’s what I mean.
DOO-DOO –> POO –> CRAP –> S#%$
BACKSIDE –> TUSH –> BUM –> A$$
SLEEP WITH –> DO –> SCREW –> F@$%
Each of these sets contains (or implies) four words that have exactly the same meaning, but as you approach the dirtiest word you turn up the intensity. This variety of terms, and shock values, gives us the ability to craft sentences in an endless variety of tones from the clinical tone of a doctor to the emblazoned tones of a street preacher.
That’s why I don’t swear: because I love swear words! People who swear all the time steal away all the shock and disgust for when we really need it. Anyone who is interested in softening the English language ought to swear all the time to end the stigma and shock of those words. Those of us who want those words to hurt and crush souls when they are uttered should use them sparsely. And finally, all those people who swear every second word for no reason at all can just fuck off.
You see? It works.
So what do you think? Do you mind swearing? Do bad words make you cringe? If so then why?