The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Is Swearing Important?

English: "No Swearing" sign along At...
English: "No Swearing" sign along Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Now that we've got the A to Z Challenge out of the way, we can settle back into the regular routine.  In case you are new to Tossing It Out, the typical Monday post concerns matters that might be considered controversial.   For me they are things that have crossed my mind and I'd like to get some other thoughts about them.  I may have already drawn my own conclusions or I could be trying to come up with an answer. I'm not trying to start a fight, but an intelligent discussion.  I'm tossing some ideas out to you and hoping you'll be willing to engage in some mental juggling.

The Topic of Swearing

      The topic of using "blue language" as it pertains to ones writing has been tackled previously on Tossing It Out in a guest post from Bridget Straub and a post of my own.   I've also seen other blogs address the topic.  There are varying opinions on this, but the most common defense is that profanity is most often used in writing in order to create realistic characters.  I won't argue the point again and if you're interested in knowing my views you can click on the above links.

       In this first of three posts concerning swearing on a personal level in everyday life, I basically want to get  your thoughts on the subject.  I will be asking a few questions for you to answer in the comments.  My response will be low to none for the comments for this post as I will be addressing the ideas you bring up here in my next two posts.

       For those who may be wondering what happened with the series about gun control and violence that we left off with back in March, this mini-series will be actually related to that one in a sense and will be connected later on.  For those who dislike my debate features on Mondays, you can also let me know in the comments.

Terms of Debate

         If you're wondering why I'm discussing this particular topic now, I will explain.   During the A to Z there was some concern about the AC (Adult Content) labeling of certain blogs.  I was not thrilled about labeling, but after some complaints last year there was a general agreement among the majority of the A to Z Team members that a warning was needed if a blog could be deemed particularly offensive due to language or content.   Some bloggers felt that this was unfair and they should be able to write what they wanted without labels.   Now I'd like to get some feedback concerning this and the use of language that might be deemed offensive.

         The language that I'm dealing with includes blasphemy (offensive to a religion), vulgarity (crude language), cursing/swearing (oaths of a traditionally offensive nature),  profanity (cuss words), and obscenity (unscientific words of a sexual or scatological nature).  Generally speaking this will be what might be called bad words or foul language.

         In the next two Monday posts I want to look at a few aspects of the everyday use of blue language on an individual basis.   Some of the questions I plan to address:

Why Do People Swear?

  • Intent of the action
  • Background of the users
  • The language filter depending on circumstances
  • The effect on society

What's So Funny About Swearing?

  • The humorous aspect
  • Devaluation of the impact of words
  • Degradation of the language
  • First amendment defense of swearing

Today's questions for you in regard to your daily life:

Do you swear?    To what extent?

If swearing bothers you, why?

Should there be an age limit on swearing?

Is swearing constructive or useful in any way?

Why do you think swearing is important?

         I hope you will help me with this so I can get better clarification for my upcoming posts and to find the best solutions for the content labeling issues for Blogging from A to Z.

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  1. What guy doesn't utter an expletive?
    If I swear, it's usually uttered in anger. (Whacking my guitar case against my car will definitely do it.) In normal conversation though, I don't. And I never take the Lord's name in vain.
    It doesn't bother me as much in the movies as in real life.
    Swearing can be used for impact. It's when it's constant that it loses meaning.
    And I thought the AC label worked well this year.

  2. I think what I am about to write covers all your questions.
    Swearing I think comes from the up bringing of a child. I never heard swearing at home so never heard it, although other people swore outside my home I never thought of using it.
    I brought me three not to swear, I have never heard them swear but heavens know if they do when I'm not around. I am not a prude but it don't like to hear swearing. espeicially by the younger generation.

  3. I am not prone to swearing and can't remember the last time I did. However, on a theoretical level, I don't see anything wrong with it. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not tell us not to use profanity (and I'm not going to try to explain the nuances of what the Bible does say, right now), so the fact that so many Christians get all bent of shape over it is based on a misconception.

    When it does bother me, it's probably because it's being used to name call, but, then, it's the name calling that bothers me more than the language being used.

  4. I swear, as Alex says, mostly when I am angry, when I was younger it was frequently for effect. I get offended when a total stranger uses strong language in front of me, the stranger has no idea whether I find it acceptable or not and apparently doesn't care anyway. I think the f word is being over used everywhere these days and in many instances detracts from the movie or written word.


  5. I swear more often than I want to, and the key reason is that swear words largely mean "emphasize this" or "angry!" It's very base, and my key reason for trying to spool it back is because it renders me less articulate. Inventive swearing, though, is highly funny and helps bonding between parties.

    Any writer who is striving for verisimilitude in dialogue or first person narration is going to run across swearing. It cannot reasonably be banned from fiction. Non-fiction is touchier.

  6. Wow Lee you take on the interesting (hot) topics.

    I was raised as a staunch ( don't say Geez) Christian. I was in the military and heard nothing but 4 letter words.

    Swearing is largely cultural. There are some words that (to me) are offensive.

    I'm in that category of when I'm angry or hurt they come out.

    I appreciate people who mark their blogs - we are getting more and more young people in the blogsphere a rating system is still nice to have.

  7. Swearing in a story? Yes, if that's what the character does. Swearing in life? Well, if I stub my toe, I usually don't say gosh darn it. I think all writing should come rated. I see a lot of books that teens pick up that have stories that are not appropriate. That way, parents can see at a glance what they're kids are reading.

  8. As a believer who tries to follow Biblical guidelines in life I bow to the ones that tell us to avoid foul language, taking the name of God in vain, etc. If the issue is important to God, then it should be important to us, and age limits don't apply. I admit to letting a word or two slip occasionally, too, but it's not something I'm proud of and I find that it's pretty easy to avoid such language with a little practice. Although I never say anything in protest, something in me rebels when people swear around me; I think we can and should live better than that. I avoid people, writings, music, etc. that have no such limits on their emotional expression, and was VERY grateful for the AC labeling on the recent A-Z blogs as a result. I want to be encouraged to do better in this regard, not continually pulled into the gutter by people who are more free with what they let slip out from between their lips.

  9. I'm not going to lie, I swear a bunch for a bunch of reasons. Mostly, I view it for humor, emphasis and stress. As the fake news source The Onion can show in multiple articles (including landing on the moon and when selling bibles), putting swears in environments where they do not belong juxtaposes the intent and can be hilarious. When I really want to put a point on a subject, a carefully placed swear can act as a highlighter in spoken and written speech. As for stress, I remember reading a study that showed screaming a swear during pain raised the threshhold for pain allowing the subject to take on more. Also, I really just like swearing.

  10. Good comments so far. Thank you.

    I will occasionally interject some questions for clarification in case anyone is monitoring the conversation here.

    Evan-- You said: "Also, I really just like swearing."
    Can you elaborate as to why?


  11. I used to swear so much. A lot of it was habit picked up from university - I was away from my parents for the first time, and it was an expression of that freedom.

    But as I've got older, settled down, had kids, I try to use it as little as possible (although it slips out all the time!)

    I cringe when I hear people using it unnecessarily; you know, when it is every other word? I hate it. I also hate it when done in public; people who don't want to hear it, have the right not to hear it. I also dislike t-shirts with rude slogans on for the same reason. But I'm not against swearing.

  12. As a Christian, I don't take God's name in vain. I was raised in a Christian home where even "shut up!" wasn't allowed. "Dang," "Gee whiz," "shoot," etc were highly discouraged. Now, I do use these... even other replacements for foul language such as "freaking" or "frickin," on occasion. On a college campus--even a Christian one--foul language is extremely common. I've become more desensitized to it than I used to be, but it still bothers me.

    The use of foul language is rude, crude, and unnecessary. To me it signifies an inability to use a more appropriate word. Bad words are filler. They don't even convey emotion or feeling well; other words would do a better job.

    In the Bible, God specifically says "Do not swear. Let your yes be yes and your no, no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37, paraphrased)

    So I don't swear. I don't take God's name in vain (first commandment). Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV) ANY foul language comes under the category of "unwholesome talk," so I am guilty of ignoring this instruction on way too many occasions.

    But this is my rationale for why I think foul language is wrong, unnecessary, and in poor taste.

    Yes, there should be an age limit for swearing... parents can limit the children living under their roof as they see fit.

    Swearing isn't 'important.' Yes, we all have free speech, so I can't tell anyone what they can or cannot say. But it's not NECESSARY. We can exercise our freedom of speech in more tasteful, less offensive, and more intelligent ways.

    The only reason swearing makes fictional characters more "real" is that it's a sin that everyone does. That's why violence and sexual promiscuity are rampant in books and movies. We live in a sinful world, and our "art" reflects that.

  13. As a Writer...there are many more swear/cuss words that express as much or more than the ones with four creative, and if all else fails rely on *+@#<*...everyone pretty much knows what you mean.

    Age Limits...Tweens and Teens these days are TextLingo Geniuses and can substitute any Swear/Cuss word with one of their own. Funny how they know those words in the first place...much less know how when and where to use them.

    I swear, I don't swear/cuss often and I pretty much quit saying/spelling "Oh, I S T when my three year old grandson said, "Nana, you forgot the S."

    Sue CollectInTexasGal

  14. Elaine, I really appreciate your take on this!

    Also, I need to clarify something I wrote... no one SHOULD swear, period, but I think there's an age limit (eighteen? whenever a child leaves their parents' house?) on when it is no longer socially acceptable. Children should not swear at all, which is why parents need to strive to set a good example for their children--in that and everything.

  15. Hey Lee! I f**king swear all the time...Lol! Not really, but I do think that sometimes too much is made of it.
    That being said,I don't like it when I hear people talking and every second word is f**k, it makes me think that they're either really really angry, or they don't know any other words...
    ...see, I even feel the need to not write out the whole word in this comment, not because it offends me, but because I am concerned with offending someone else.
    Fuck it, we're all grown ups here, right?
    I admit, I do sometimes swear in regular conversation. Not much offends me in people's choice of words, but the intent with which they use those words can be offensive.
    Quick story, one of my grandsons, when he was 2 years old, was jumping on the trampoline with his cousins. He was so excited and happy, with each bounce he exclaimed, "Fuck yeah! Fuck yeah!" We all thought it was pretty funny, but we didn't let him know that! My daughter in law put him in the 'naughty corner' for a couple minutes to teach him that that word is a no don't come knowing which words are acceptable and which aren' son was to blame for that one! When he's happy he often shouts, "Fuck yeah!", but he's 31 years old and entitled to use whatever words he wants.
    I heard years ago that that particular word started as an acronym, meaning For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge..don't know if that's true, but it would be interesting to find out how some of these words came to be lumped in the 'bad word' category.

  16. Honestly I think that swearing is an unintelligent way to try to get shocks when used in writing quite often and it's a bit of a lazy option but at the same time I fire out swear words on a very regular basis which I need to stop, thought provoking post though man.

  17. Swearing can be stress relieving, I've sworn under my breath before. But personally I try to avoid swearing because I think I can get my point across without doing that. Also remember the man who got fired from being an anchor because he swore on live television by mistake. Swearing can get you in serious trouble if you're not careful.

  18. Great conversation going on here. I hope it keeps coming in. Will I be able to contain this in just two upcoming posts?

    Eve -- "We're all grown ups here" is a line that I frequently hear as an excuse to use the language, but all grown ups don't have the same sensibilities. Repeated use from our own mouths or pens and from hearing the language or seeing it can desensitize us to the language. I hope your comment is as strong as anyone gets here. But thanks for the comment. I always like to hear from you, Eve.


  19. I think that swearing, or the lack thereof, speaks volumes about a person. I was raised to not swear at all. So... when I went to college I embraced the "F" word like a long-lost friend. Hahaha. Then, I had to lose the "F" word like a red-headed step child that I wouldn't be caught dead with EVER when I got my first job. It quickly becomes clear that Professional People do not speak that way. And if you speak that way at home... well, you will slip up and speak that way at work. So, I ditched that word. And all it's cousins.

    And the pendulum was set to right. I now think my parents were right to raise me as they did. No cursing was the way to go. It is unbecoming to hear a young person curse. I find it very disturbing. I know that they are hearing it at HOME. People talk what they hear. People talk in public what they talk at home. I know. I had to match my talk at home so that my talk in public was APPROPRIATE.

    That said... do I sometimes let curse words slip now and then? Sure. Do I think cartoons with curse words are funny? Heck yeah. Am I annoyed by too many curse words in a movie? You bet. Do I think genres like rap music would benefit from removing most of the curse words from their lyrics? Yes. Your music can still have edge without using the "F" word every time you turn around. In fact, it can be *EDGIER.* Anything that is overused actually loses its meaning.

    It's the reason that the Eskimos have 52 words for snow. It's important to them.

  20. I swear because I don't believe in what I like to call the Voldemort Effect. See, in the world of Harry Potter, avoiding the name of the evil Lord Voldemort tends to lend it more fear than it truly deserves. So Harry + his friends decide that in order to take some of the strength away from the bad guys, they will use his name if/when they are referring to him. Saying "He who must not be named" still conveys the same message, so you aren't really avoiding saying his name ANYWAY. Toward that end, dropping F-bombs is no different than instead saying "Fudge", since they both mean the same thing. Saying "POOP" when you could just as easily have uttered the S-word doesn't change your intent. Saying "Gosh" is the same as saying "G-d" because you are putting forth the same idea, an expression of agitation or surprise. Substituting syllables when the message is the same doesn't make one person more or less lazy or unintelligent, if we're all saying the same dang thing. I studied this a bit in college, and what it comes down to is societal elitism.

    It also depends upon your audience. For example, I cleaned up my language and used excellent vocab because your blog is directed for the most part at a Christian crowd. My blog, however, is not aimed that direction, so I use potty language freely over there. I believe we should all respect each other's personal spaces. I am not Christian, but I would never, EVER come antagonize someone on their own blog and ask/demand them to change their formatting. Likewise, I would expect a Christian to realize my material is not for them --- to lowbrow, too base, too naughty, too evil, whatever --- and move along. I would never, EVER expect that, in my own paid corner of the interwebz, I would be chastised for saying what I am paying to be allowed to say. Really, how hard is it for someone to click away?

    Or here's another perspective: Without dark you cannot appreciate the light. That is a truism upon which we can all agree. So to avoid all instances of "bad language" means to lessen your ability to understand what makes "good" word choice so awesome. You have to be able to know what you DON'T like in order to have a more firm grasp upon that which you enjoy most. So... read a variety of blogs. If one doesn't appeal to you, consider it a learning experience as opposed to a dip in dung from which your pristine character can never be cleaned: You now know you really, really, time infinity, do not like my blog (or whichever blog happens to be on the receiving end of the reader's disdain).

    I have read that there is no good form of censorship, because it's kind of an all-or-nothing deal. Either we're all free to write (and thereby read/avoid) whatever we so please... or we are all prisoners to someone else's tyranny. There are a lot of blogs I avoid for this reason. And sure, I wish they'd go away. But it's not my place --- not ANYONE'S place --- to tell them they may not speak as they desire. We are free to be as moronic (or not) as we choose.

  21. Robin-- Exceptional point eloquently stated. Thank you.

    Andi--Thank you so much for this well expressed comment. I do think that there was a vast lack of communication with the blogger to which you refer. I don't think my comment was read carefully. At no time was I telling anyone to change their style, but to respect the readers by allowing a label to warn those who did not care to read that type of writing. This type of labeling is common in the media and in no way does it represent censorship. I have never advocated censorship, but have had readers who have not read carefully suggest that I have. Or maybe I am not expressing myself well enough? In any case I appreciate the respect you have shown on my site.


  22. While I would still say I swear too much, I have cleaned up my mouth over the last twenty years....although when I see my old friends back in Philly (who still cuss like sailors) I usually have to detox from the "F" word.

    One thing I was never even aware of until Stephen T. McCarthy pointed it out, was while I'd cleaned up the blue language, I was taking the Lord's name in vain a LOT (that was what I'd used as a verbal crutch to eliminate the "F" word, I guess) that has been my missions the last few years since he pointed it out.



  23. I do swear when I'm angry. Sometimes there is no other word to express what I'm feeling. I don't take offense at that. If it were ongoing and consistent, I think it might be a problem, though. I know I'd find it bothersome if someone else did it all the time.

  24. I agree completely with Jaimie. Casual swearing is a sign of low intelligence. (By that, I mean using it all the time in normal conversations.) I learned not to swear when I worked auto salvage, because every other word out of those guys' mouths was a foul word. (And they were not the sharpest knives in the drawer.)

    I can handle some in movies, but it really bothers me to see it in print.

  25. I try not to swear because I don't think it does anything for me or those around me. Of course I slip up and say things some of the time. I would probably say fewer of these words if they weren't so acceptable.

    I don't think swearing in conversation shows ignorance because I hear incredibly smart people using it all the time.

    I live with someone who cusses all the time. Dropping a fork on the floor leads to a rant that would make just about anyone blush. This same person complains when there is too much swearing in movies -- I guess there's a double standard there.

    I don't like it when my (adult) children or their friends swear. My children know it and watch what they say in our house. But their friends don't even think about watching their language. I would never have dreamed of swearing in front of my parents or my friend's parents growing up, or even now.

    My mother used to say the phrase "bad words". I don't know about you, but I would much rather hear a three-year old say "bad words" than the actual words.

  26. Neither of my parents swore in the home, I went to 12 years of Catholic School and I admit to swearing. Some days I am better at never using a swear word than other days. When I write, I try to hardly ever use it but sometimes I slip, I write close to how I am talking and thinking, so if I am wound up about something swearing slips out. Oh, and the reason I try not to write swear words is to not offend my readers. Personally, swearing doesn't offend me. At times, I think it can be overused but I can deal with it.
    As far as blogging goes it nice you don't have to read anything you don't like it. I prefer to have a wide range of bloggers on my blogroll. I have never been a "Birds of a feather flock together" kind of lady, you don't learn anything new or get out of your comfort zone when you only hang with people who are of like minds and tell you "You are awesome" and agree with everything you say. That is a dangerous and boring way for me to live.That is why my blogroll it is all over the place.

    Lucy Lucy's Reality

  27. Oh yes, I've been known to rip off a few choice phrase, especially when I stub my toe, get a late payment charge on my credit card, or my computer goes wonky.

  28. More fascinating thoughts on the topic. Thank you!
    Thea - I agree that ignorance is not always the reason why people swear, but I would wonder why highly intelligent would use foul language. It would be interesting to hear some of their explanations and know their backgrounds.


  29. I don't swear much myself and as a teacher, I never would do so in front of my students and tolerate none from them. It's amazing how much they respect my stance and I seldom have to deal with it.
    In my fantasy novels, I use some mild curse words, sometimes ones I invented. I have a limit on what I can tolerate in movies or books and little tolerance for it in real life.

  30. This is a very interesting topic and you've got me thinking. As a teacher and a parent I have to lead by example ,right? However, I cannot change how I was raised. These words were common in my home, so like the person raised in a home where they were never uttered and is easily offended by them, I may or may not take offense depending on my situation, place, or company. My tolerance varies. How's that for a dilemma? Perhaps for some it may be the difference between their personal life and professional life. Now here's another dilemma, writing is so personal and I find that I am caught between filtering my content so as not to offend. All too often holding back feels as if I am filtering and denying creativity for those readers who may not be so tolerant.

  31. Hey again Lee, Just a note, I did say that I am more offended by the intent behind whatever words a person is using than by the words themselves...If a person is using the 'bad' words in a hateful and ugly manner, with intent to intimidate, humiliate, or cause harm, then I totally don't support that..I do agree with what George Carlin said.."no bad words...bad thoughts...bad intentions...and WORDS.."
    I feel as if I've been told because I chose to write the dreaded 'F' word out using all of it's four letters instead of a euphemism, or a series of asterisks..when I said that we are all grown ups I didn't mean it as an excuse to be somehow, 'uncultured' or crude..just that I'm sure there's no one on this forum who has not ever seen that word spelled out. And if anyone says they've never seen that, I say they're lying. What are we, in grade four? Why are people so upset by that one word? There are millions of words, but that one word seems to cause an uproar..I don't get it.
    And I still think it would be more interesting to research the history of some of these words and try to figure out why they are considered 'bad'...after all, people created language, why would we create some words that are never, ever, under any circumstances (!) to be used? It doesn't make sense, and I know I'd like to know why.
    I appreciate you Lee, always, for allowing opinions that differ from your own and most of your readers to be expressed. Thank you so much and I hope you're well!

  32. Good pick for some controversy. Yes, I swear, but I didn't until my youngest turned 13, so I guess for my kids I had an age limit. As for my writing, I keep it "kid friendly" but it doesn't offend me when others use profanity on their blogs (I would most likely edit it out of a comment on my blog, but I don't think it has happened yet). Is it constructive - yes and no, depends on it's use. For shock value and humor sometimes it is very useful. It also help to add urgency, if I say a bad word my family knows it is important. However in general I think it reflects poorly on the speaker/writer. Important - no. That's my opinions.


  33. As I read your questions I’m already snickering.

    Do I swear? Yeah
    To what extent – not sure I’m a good judge of that
    Does it bother me? That I swear or someone else swearing? It generally doesn’t bother me when someone else does it, but it does when I do.
    Age limit? Like at some point you’re too old to swear? Ha, ha. Ha. I cringe when I hear children swear.
    Constructive or useful and/or important – Well you certainly know that the person is showing some emotion to the extreme when they swear.

    Let me explain my answers. I have never been big on swearing, although my favorite expletive is another word for manure and I admit to its overuse. I work at changing that from shit to crap, but because I can’t spell or type faster than my brain works it generally comes out as carp. Therefore carp has become a trademark work of mine. As in ‘Oh carp!’ or a particular favorite ‘Holy Carp!”.

    One of my best friends (a woman) swears like a sailor. She manages to use the F-word in every imaginable form and some are hilarious. Funny, I accept her as who she is and it doesn’t bother me. On the other hand, here in the Caribbean the f-word is a part of common speak and everyone from children age 5 or 6 to their grandparents use it frequently. That does bother me. Double standard? I guess, but what can I say. I suppose that also answers you age limit question. It somehow seems inappropriate for the very young or the very old.

    Constructive seems an odd word to associate with swearing/cussing or any form of rude language. I can’t wrap y head around that. Useful, maybe. It certainly gets a point across. Unfortunately if you scream Shit when your are excited, happy, surprised, hurt, afraid or whatever, it tends to lose some of its usefulness or even importance.

    I always cringe when someone takes the Lords name and uses it to damn something or someone and I don’t think I have ever uttered those words, but then again is it implied if you just day ‘damn’, which I do on occasion.

    I find it interesting to study the evolution of swear/cuss words and their acceptance. One of my favorite examples is ‘suck’. Today everyone and everything sucks. People who would never use the f-word, which BTW is a slang term for sexual intercourse (as if no one knew that) have no problem with saying the s-word ‘suck’, which BTW is a slang term for oral sex (when I explained that to one young woman, she was shocked and had to have further confirmation before she was mortified at having used it regularly). Funny how one is still gutter language and unacceptable in certain company, while the other…

  34. Susan & Teacher-Mom -- Teachers are in a tough position these days with a lack of support from many parents.

    Eve -- I'll be getting into the matter of intent in my next Monday post. And you are right about the "words", but our society's corruption of language is having, in my opinion, some dangerous implications. Most of the words are merely terms of Germanic or Ango-saxon or whatever roots that have entered into a realm of abuse.

    Rhonda -- Excellent observations

    Faraway --You make many points here that get to the root of how I look at the issue. I was being a bit ironic in the way I phased some of my questions to purposefully add a sense of gravitas to the concepts I am exploring. Your example of "suck" is an excellent example how words can lose impact with the loss of meaning that in a sense corrupts our linguistic abilities to express ideas. Thank you for the very thoughtful and insightful comment.


  35. Interesting topic.
    I swear I was such a goody-goody growing up that I did not swear at all cuz I knew if I did, there'd be consquences. It started filtering in during college when everyone (even the teachers) threw down the occasional swear word.
    "Beavis & Butt-head" had me saying "this sucks" and "hell," which is playful compared to some of my animé series where the commonest cuss-word was "damn it"...

    Why do we swear in general? It's fun cuz it feels scandalous. And sometimes, when given a certain situation, there is no other way to say than to [insert swear here]. There's been times where I'd do regularly, even write it out when I'm blogging, but it's filtered out over the past year or so. The only time it got into my own writing is simply when it's that character's personality, they express themselves in swear words. But I use it tastefully when I did (unlike rap music where it's every other word... that's just plain overkill).

  36. A lot of people swear in real life so the use of swear words in a story makes sense to me as it would make the dialoge more realistic. That said, I don't mean extreme vulgarity unless it is used to portray a truly nasty character.

  37. Jackie -- Our environment and peers are a big influence on the language we use.

    Vicki -- But I'm talking about swearing in everyday life. I understand the argument for using the swearing in writing, though I don't totally agree with it.


  38. Swearing in books and movies doesn't bother me, unless it is done in excess. As for everyday... we all can do it without, especially without the "heavy" swear words.

  39. I don't swear at all, and maybe that's because it's very rare for anyone in my family to swear so I'm not used to the idea of it really.

    Other people swearing doesn't bother me, unless they do a lot of swearing. I'd rather not listen to someone speak when every second word is a swear word.

    I'd prefer it if children didn't swear. It's fairly rare for me to hear them do that, but it does happen. You'd have little chance of getting teens, especially older teens in my opinion, not to swear, but younger people I think it would be better if they didn't swear.

    I don't really think that it's constructive in any way. I understand it being used to let out a sudden feeling of anger, but in any other way, I don't feel it adds much to conversation.

  40. What Andi said in her comment, is exactly my opinion on the whole issue (beautifully said, btw!).

    I would like to add that I feel censorship is a really fine's either all or nothing because what one person would find offensive or inappropriate, someone else would find it hysterically funny. For instance, my blog is littered with curse words and I have a warning in my header that I swear a lot, so if you have delicate sensibilites, my blog is probably not the place for you. I have that warning out of respect for other people, because I realize my sense of humour and colourful language is not for everyone. However, I'm offended by religious rhetoric and bible quotes, but I have yet to read a religious blog that contains a warning in their header that this blog contain religious content that may be offensive to some readers. See where I'm going with this? Since no one person has the universal job of arbitrator of what should be deemed offensive, either everything should have a label slapped on it, or nothing should. A content warning, be it about language, sexual content, religion or whatever, should suffice...and interestingly, most humour blogs I follow that swear a lot already have some kind of warning in their header. Seems like those of us afflicted with trucker-mouth-itis are already doing our part...can anyone here who has a blog with a religious bent say the same? Glass houses, and all that.

    To answer your questions, yes I swear. All the time. But I don't start dropping f-bombs during parent-teacher interviews or at work in front of clients or during a doctor's appointment.

    Swearing does not bother me at all. They're just words and I find it amusing how much curse words get demonized.

    The age limit thing should be up to parents. My son is 13 and I made a point of watching my language around him when he was little, since children really don't have a filter and don't recognize what's appropriate and what isn't. At this point, he's old enough to engage that filter, so if he drops an occasion s-bomb in front of me, I let it slide.

    Is swearing constructive? I think that depends on your perception. I find it a constructive way to express myself at times, especially for emphasis. But that's just my opinion.

    Is swearing important? Important in what sense? I certainly wouldn't die if cursing was suddenly wiped from my vocabulary, but my world would be slightly less colourful, that's for sure.

  41. This is a great discussion! I never used to swear, was brought up that Christians don't swear. However, in the last few years with my health deteriorating and me feeling like I had less and less control over ANYTHING anymore, I realized I DID have the ability to control what came out of my mouth, and there were times when a well turned, vulgar phrase made me feel a LOT better. I guess the forbidden fruit thing. I have my Best who also subscribes to this philosophy, so we frequently share creative uses of bad language we've come across, purely for entertainment. She's a writer too. However, I don't swear "in real life", just with Best. There I find it therapeutic. Maybe that's weird, but then again, I also highlighted my hair a crazy bright red (cuz I could control that) and I smile everytime I look in the mirror.
    As to swearing in books, I haven't quite made up my mind, but I certainly won't finish one that is excessively "blue". Same for movies.
    Looking forward to more of this series.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  42. Angela -- There are limits on everything. If I start eating too much chocolate I can start getting kind of tired of it.

    Imogen -- I'm always puzzled by people who pepper their conversation with profanity. I tend to get distracted to the point that I miss what they are saying much of the time.

    Maple -- Thank you for an excellent comment. Very well stated. I would like to know why people are offended by religious content. These sorts of writings pertain to the expression of ideas much like writing about politics or philosophy might be. The intent in this sort of writing is to explain and perhaps sway belief. One can disagree or dislike what is said, but it seems strange to describe being offended in the same way that some would be offended by a delivery technique using words that are intended to be crude and offensive to some people. I'll get to this aspect in my Monday post, but I'm still looking for enlightenment on this aspect.

    Tina -- I can understand swearing as a release for frustration and pain. I've done it, but I do try to avoid it is I have a better way to vent. The "forbidden fruit" aspect only goes so far. When the words become acceptable for common use then what?


  43. I fear my answer is all over the place on this one. I do swear. I wasn't allowed to as a child (and I still don't in front of my father), I picked up the bad habit as an adult, tried to break it when my kids were little, slid back into it when they were grown, went through the same cycle again when the grandkids arrived. I use some profanity in my writing but I can't bring myself to use the f-bomb even when it's appropriate for my characters (i.e.gang members). It bothers me terribly to hear young people (teens) swearing openly in public, especially the girls. I'm not sure if that makes me a hypocrite.

  44. I swear on occasion, but I actively try to avoid swearing as a matter of principle. I worked hard for my education and feel I owe it to myself to express myself in the most precise manner possible, and in my opinion--just my personal opinion, no judgment here--swearing reflects laziness, or an attempt to draw attention to oneself, which most often ends up as negative attention, and I prefer to remain positive. Again, this is how I feel about my use of swear words.

  45. LD -- It really makes me sad to hear the middle schoolers and high school kids using very foul language without regard to who hears them. Even worse, my wife, who teaches kindergarten, tells me that some of those little ones say "f- you" and will give other kids and the teachers the finger. These kids must come from very disturbing homes.

    Darla --- I'm with you on this. There is too much negativity in the world and writers should be doing something to lift humanity and make the world a better place.


  46. Yes, I'm a potty mouth. I had a strict Baptist upbringing, and I had a hard time fitting in in high school, and later in the military. Eventually I taught myself to use profanity casually. However, as I started raising kids, and obtained a professional career, I don't use it nearly as much. Mostly I use it during times of high emotion - excitement, anger, depression.

    I don't think there should be an age limit on swearing or sexual content; but every parent set the limits of what is acceptable. If that's none, then it is their right to enforce it. Nothing wrong with teaching your kids proper language skills. But no matter how strict or lenient, kids and even parents will find a way to swear. Any word can be considered profanity if used in the same manner.

    So I have to say yes, swearing is useful and constructive sometimes. It is an emotional valve, even for kids.

    My blog has an adult content warning also. I post occasional sexual content and frequent profanity. My blog, I'll post what I want. If someone reads it with the content warning in place, then that was a choice for them and they have no room for complaint. But I'm mindful that many of my viewers dislike profanity (I keep f-bombs to a minimum) or sexual explicit language. I put a warning on those posts specifically.

    I don't cater to viewers, but certainly don't want to offend either.


  47. Donna -- Thank you for your perspective on this topic.


  48. asked what people find offensive about religious content. My answer was waaaay too long to write in a comment, so I turned it into a blog post

  49. I want to thank you for the honest debate and consideration you're giving to the subject. I can honestly say that I am foul mouthed, both on my blog and IRL. Not all the time- I know when to turn it off, and I know when to hold back. But once I know that I'm "safe" to use curse words, I'm more likely to let them fly. Like others have said, I use it them for emphasis, to react more strongly, and just because sometimes they're really fun to say. I actually wrote a post about this a long time ago. I don't have any good answers as to why I do, other than it was probably a socialization thing, which some other folks have also addressed. I grew up in a house where swearing was normal, the only restrictions were knowing where and when it was appropriate and when it was not and using them accordingly. And the more I am around "creative types" (art, writing, theatre) the more often I hear them. Which I think negates the whole "lazy and uncreative language" argument. But even for me, there are some words I use and some words I don't. I have no problem throwing around the effenheimers, but I can't say the C-word because it really bothers me. Or if I do use it (which is super, super sparingly) you have to REALLY earn it.
    Not sure that I've really contributed much productive to the conversation, but wanted to put it out there. This is one area that people have a lot of different feelings about, so I don't think there will ever be an easy answer. But based on the responses, it definitely looks like cultural,socioeconomic, and religious issues come into play.
    Sorry. Probably as useful as a bag of cats. But thank you again for raising and addressing the question. :)

  50. Stacey -- Thank you for your explanation at your site and allowing the discussion to continue. It's just too bad that some of the other commenters were not receptive to exchanging ideas and resorted to derision instead.

    Nagzilla -- No apology needed as this was an excellent contribution to the discussion and respectfully tasteful as well. Your post is a good one and I left my comment there. It's funny that you mention that you are bothered by the "c-word". I think most have certain limits no matter how fluent they may be in any type of speech. When that is the case I think it rather ironic. In any case, I think you gave a great response. Thank you!


  51. I am quite late to this party (business travel with no time for blog hopping)but would like to weigh in just the same.
    I can't to this day explain why, but I never did swear or use foul language much. My dad swore occasionally as did many people around me so it isn't that I was taught it was immoral or bad. I am naturally disinclined to do it except for when I'm really really angry about something. That's rare for me.

    Years ago when I was working in labor/management collaboration, I was close friends with a union organizer for whom swearing--especially using the f-word--was just part of her speech. One day she told me she'd noticed that I don't swear. She thought that if/when I did, I'd make a greater impact on those around me than her because it would be so unusual, coming from me.
    I am not offended by swearing unless it's used with the intent to cause harm in some way (a point an earlier commentor made). Nowadays, I actively avoid it due to my profession (conflict mediator, knowing that some people would be offended. As a fiction writer, I allow my characters to speak as they must to be authentic. I'll be curious where you take this topic.

  52. Jagoda -- Thanks for weighing in as you offer a good perspective on this. It's interesting about what your union friend said. I was just talking to a guy tonight who doesn't swear, but he said when he used to work as a security officer he was instructed that he had to swear to certain people to have credibility with them. I disagree. I also believe that authenticity can be achieved in fiction without using foul language.
    Hope you check out the next post along with the comments. Some very interesting dialog going on in the comment section.



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