Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rebecca Likes Swears

Profanity is tits. “Tits” isn’t profanity, but I wish it was.

I was really, really not allowed to use profanity as a child. I still don’t curse around my parents. I sincerely hope my mother does not read this. Ever. But as I became an avid reader and sometimes writer, I developed affection for the spectrum of words. Profanity makes good things great. It is the MSG of language.

Don’t act all offended. I believe that if you looked into your heart, you would agree with me. Your favorite line from Gone with the Wind contains profanity. Your favorite line from Die Hard contains profanity. The dialogue of The Big Lebowski (according to unlicensed, unbonded sources on the interwebs) includes 271 incidences of the word “fuck,” and it is the best movie ever made.

Now, it should be noted that there is a time and a place for such juicy vocabulary choices. People betray their ignorance when they cannot differentiate betwixt formal and informal communication. I am a high school English teacher. I would never, ever use profanity in the classroom, in written or spoken feedback to students, or in conversation with my colleagues. This blog, by contrast, is quite informal. Its objective is to amuse and possibly generate thought and conversation. You dipshits.

Here are my thoughts on profanity:

·         Words are words. I wish I could mutter “lumos,” all Harry Potter-style and illuminate my darkened bathroom in the dead of night. But sadly, words are just words. “Shit” and “poo” mean the same thing. If the objective of language is to communicate, profanity succeeds in doing so. All profanity that I know has synonyms. None exclusively represents a concept so reprehensible that avoiding it would brighten humanity’s existence in any way.

·         Variety is good. Language is like food, in that it is best to seek out the widest variety of both that can be acquired without causing harm. I would prefer to eschew food that results from force-feeding geese or putting calves in boxes or gutting pregnant fish; meanwhile, extended exposure to profanity fails to even blister the skin.

·         Profanity drinks the blood of its enemies. What do I mean by this? Connotation. Let’s say Ned comes across the word “bitch” in the novel he is perusing. In that instant, he recalls every annoying tsk noise, every lowered brow, every shaken head, every “Oh dear, oh my,” that he has witnessed in association with this word. Then he thinks, “Well damn! The author must really mean what he or she says here.” The more people react, the more of an effect the word will have. It’s brilliant, really. Like Chinese finger cuffs. Or quicksand, maybe.

My editor tells me to add more profanity to make the article edgier.


Fine. I don’t have an editor.

Strangely, I am interested in my readers’ thoughts on this.

I may have been arrogant in putting the apostrophe after the “s” there. Time will tell. Leave a comment!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Rebecca! Sent here back to the past from a blog by Chuck Wendig, in re an app called "Clean Reader" that apparently edits the profanity from eBooks. Personally, I call that censorship, no matter that it is on a one-work basis or not.
    I swear. Sometimes I swear too much, and I go on a quest to stop swearing so much. In my life it's often a way to vent stress, but in my life there are better ways, and I should try to use those. In my books, however, that is how my character talks. Real people talk that way, regardless of whether we'd like them to or not. If I want my character to come across as real to the reader, then he had best act the way that he would in the real world. Don't like how my characters talk? Then perhaps you should be reading something else.
    Or pull the stick out and recognize that your way is not the only way.

    And keep that apostrophe after the "s" -- I'll be adding your blog to my list of reading material!