|swearing in cartoon Suomi: Kiroileva sarjakuvahahmo Nederlands: Schelden en vloeken in strips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
This is the second of a series that began with my May 6th post. If you missed that first post, you might want to start there to get an overview of the topic. The comments are well worth reading through so if you did not see those you may also want to go back to read them. Thank you to all of you who participated in that excellent discussion.
In my previous post I asked the question "Why is swearing important?" Of course, I asked this question with tongue in cheek since I do not see any reason why swearing is important. And from the answers I received, the best answer I got was to make speech a bit more colorful. Isn't that what adjectives, synonyms, metaphors, and other poetic and linguistic devices are for? I've yet to get an answer that I find absolutely suitable and I doubt that I will. What can be communicated through crass language that offends can be achieved equally or better through creative and intelligent use of language.
However, accepting the fact that many people use blue language in their everyday conversation or for other means of expression and don't have a problem with it, and recognizing that others who might not use the language have no problem hearing others who do, I would like to understand the reasoning behind use of blue language. I will present my opinions about this and then listen to your thoughts in the comments.
Why Do People Swear?
I will be approaching this question from the following perspectives:
Intent of the action
- One of the most common reasons cited for using profanity is venting after an event that causes anger, frustration, or pain. This is often a isolated reaction that does not reflect the typical speech of the user. "Keele University researchers Stephens, Atkins, and Kingston found that swearing relieves the effects of physical pain. Stephens said "I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear". However, the overuse of swear words tends to diminish this effect." (Wikipedia) There might be better ways to deal with these situations than using profanity.
2. To appear cool, bad, or naughty. Profanity is prevalent in rap and other forms of modern music as well as in movies and other entertainment media. Users can identify with thug or gangster life or certain celebrities. Using obscene language will make the users seem less like nerds, religious followers, or boring types. The incessant attitude that others should "just get over it" and accept their language exhibits a selfishness that is similar to the spoiled child syndrome.
3. To intimidate or offend others. There are probably some sort of psychological roots to this one. Does the user of the blue language have some unresolved inner anger about their own lives or in feelings toward others? There could be any number of reasons an individual would deliberately want to upset others by using certain language. The causal roots may stem back to a young age or be something that has developed in a latter stage of life.
4. To be funny. Once again there could be some psychological implications to this reason. I will explore this one further in my next post.
5. Because others in their peer group do it. This is one of those jumping on the bandwagon things where a user of profanity wants to be accepted as part of their group. If everyone else swears, the user will be doing it too.
6. It seems like the liberated liberal thing to do. This is probably mostly the case with the more educated and higher income swearers. The swearing by these individuals probably also can be connected with some of the above reasons.
7. Habit. After starting the swearing for one of the previously cited reasons, eventually the mode of speaking becomes ingrained in the user's speech and often they don't even notice they are doing it.
Background of the users
1. Upbringing -- The blue language was commonly used in the users family.
2. Cultural influence -- Certain groups of people, especially in urban areas and certain occupational settings, accept the blue language as part of the culture.
3. Psychological issues-- This would be related to some of the issues listed in the category of "Intent". This might involve trauma at some stage of life, depression, anger, fear, or any number of other situations that might influence a user to resort to blue language as a means to attempt to express their inner emotions or to gain attention.The language filter depending on circumstances
Most users of profanity are able to circumstantially control their use of the language depending on the time, place, and audience. Typically they would not use profanity in a situation where its use could be problematic for them such as a job interview or an appearance in court. Fortunately, most casual users of blue language will respect the company they are in and filter out obscenities so as not to offend. They swear when they are in company that accepts the language or if they intend on offending or upsetting others.
The effect on society
During the 1960's profanity in public became common in demonstrations such as those against the Viet Nam War. "Liberated" groups and movements often incorporated profanity into their protests against societal institutions. As the swearing become more common and less scandalous, the language became more common in movies, music, and other forms of entertainment and expression. Now more people swear because it seems to be more the norm having less repercussions for the user.
Where Do You Fit In?
Now take an honest look inside of yourself. If you are a casual user of profanity in your typical conversation, why do you do it based on the above assessments? Or do you disagree with the analysis I have presented? If you disagree with what I've said here, on which points do you disagree, why, and what is your alternative analysis? Is there a truly good reason that you infuse profanity into your speech?