Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Profanity

I love profanity. If you know me well, you know that I have a decently foul mouth -I swear often, and with relish. Many people say that using swear words is a sign of a limited vocabulary, or a limited intellect, but I find that nothing could be further from the truth. Those people have obviously never listened to the podcasts of Greg Proops or spoken to my ex-boyfriend, who could paint a verbal masterpiece of profanity and 64 dollar words, the likes of which should have been typed and framed and placed in the Louvre.

The only anti-profanity rule with which I agree is the one against taking the Lord's name in vain. I never take the Lord's name in vain and here's why - if you are a religious person, then calling upon the name of God is a powerful, meaningful activity, and it isn't one that should be taken lightly. So by refraining from using the Lord's name in vain, we are practicing our religion, and showing respect for our God.

But as far as I'm concerned, all other swear words are on the table. As long as it's used well, there is nothing inherently rude about profanity. If the waiter brings the wrong drink to my table and I shout at him "Fuck you you stupid motherfucker!" then yes, I'm being rude. But if I'm telling a story to my friends about being attacked by a mountain lion, and I say "The fucker came out of nowhere!", I am not being rude - except perhaps to the mountain lion. But do you see the distinction? Of course you do, because you're a reasonable person. If you're using profanity - or any language for that matter - to be MEAN to someone or to make her feel bad, then you are being rude. If you use profanity to pepper up your speech or to make a point, you are not being rude, you are simply utilizing strong language.

Here's the thing. I have always associated severe aversion to swear words with mental illness. For instance, when someone complains about profanity, I always think of Annie Wilkes making Paul Sheldon burn his manuscript for "Fast Cars", or shouting "COCKADOODIE! CACA CACA POOPY DOOPY!" Alternately, I think of Rod and Todd Flanders with their wussy, overly sheltered cowering. Either way, all I can think of is mental instability, and a generally unhealthy outlook on the world.

Because, when you think about it, there is no good, rational reason to be opposed to using words like "fuck" or "ass". They're just words, like any other word. Strong words, yes. But sometimes, strong words are appropriate. Sometimes "Darn you, you bad man!" just isn't what you mean to say. In fact, "darn you, you bad man!" is so soft, that it could even be a lie, depending on the circumstances.

And if you ask people why they think it's wrong to say "shit" or "damn" or whatever, their reasons are vague and irrational. They'll say things like "I was raised not to swear" or "It's rude" or "It's the sign of a limited vocabulary". They have no solid, rational reason for opposing swear words; they just think it's wrong to swear... because it's wrong to swear. Their mothers told them so, so it must be true.

Now, all of that being said, I do consider myself to be a polite person, and I DO care about the feelings of others. I don't ever WANT to offend anyone, even the mentally unstable. So if I'm around someone who I know is bothered by profanity (or who I suspect may be bothered by profanity) then I refrain from using it. It's not because I think it's immoral to swear, it's because I don't want these people to hate me and think badly of me. It's an easy sacrifice to make on my part, and so I do it.

I just wish I didn't have to make it. I wish there were not words that are taboo to use "just because". Profanity, when used well, enhances your speech and makes it more colorful. Profanity, when used rudely, is just rude. And it makes me sad that many people don't have the moral maturity to know the difference.

No comments:

Post a Comment