On a personal note, most of us have had those moments, especially on social media, where someone notices or comments on words being used in posts, whether we hit “like” on a Facebook post containing “bad” words, or “favorited” them on Twitter, or whether we ourselves have used words which someone finds objectionable. I have a wide mix of friends, from the entire spectrum of educational ranges, including both devoutly religious people as well as atheists. We all know how our internal filters challenges us as we reveal ourselves to the world. Do we worry about the words we use? Is the possibility of someone thinking less of us because of the words we use – or “like” passively – going to censor our own comfort zone? I’m tired of being concerned that I’ve interacted with someone who has chosen to use profanity in social media.
For the record, profanity per se isn’t controversial for me. Much of the content generated by opinionated people is going to contain a huge variety of language, warts and all. I watch a lot of television and movies containing profanity. It would never occur to me to avoid it solely due to language content.
Like most things, “profanity” is truly in the eye/ear/mind of the beholder. For the purposes of this, I’m mostly referring to the spoken or written word. Flip a coin – it’s just semantics. For some, “ass” is a word carefully used, while others use the vocabulary of a naval veteran and no word is forbidden to them, even on social media.
It’s not a question of sin, whatever and however you define it. We create the words, shape their meanings, and give them power. Try as you might, adding an element of morality to an issue involving mainly social grace and etiquette is a disservice to language and weakens any attempt to clothe it in religious ideology. Puritans who cry at the mere idea of cursing fatigue me. There is no innate sin to be found in profanity. Words are substitutes for feelings, thought, and ideas and no better or worse than the feelings, thoughts, and ideas they represent. Profanity exists because we have decided that it does and under what circumstances it might be acceptable. That’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t go into a roomful of children and start reciting Pantera lyrics, nor would I deliberately punish your eyes and ears with inappropriate words.
Profanity exists in some form in every language. And it always has. It must be fun for someone!
While in certain circumstances profanity can add necessary emphasis, I can’t stand unadulterated profanity, the truth is that people who rant on and on about profanity and its unpleasantness are sometimes more vulgar to me than those who curse sparingly. Those who curse unceasingly are guilty of of excess and a lack of creativity – that irks me, too.
(As an aside, I’ve also seen a lot of mean behavior coming from those who get angry when they are exposed to profanity, however they define it. I’ve seen some real violence coming from the objectors, aimed toward those allegedly doing the offending. Being able to label words as profanity has given some people the illusory ability to demonize or judge their counterparts.)
While I always try to be mindful about over-indulgent cursing, the truth is that profanity adds character, spice, and accent to many conversations. (Sometimes it is effective at ending conversations, too.)
Wantonly cursing around someone who has a genuine dislike for it is not okay, either. There must be a balance between your usage of profane language and the sensibilities, if genuine, of the other person. People who insist on wearing their list of profane words on their sleeves, ever vigilant toward transgressors, should not be given undue attention.
Once you examine the ideas of profane words, you will find that there isn’t a consensus, even among the religious conservatives, as to what words are profanity and which aren’t.
But we will all agree that, in general, swearing won’t win you a Nobel Prize, land you a great job after an interview, or usually lend credence to your otherwise valid argument. I owe the existence of profanity to the schizophrenia inherent in our society. Our vain attempts to control thought and behavior inevitably fail when we extend this reach to language. We will always try, of course, but profanity will also shift, creating new words and unintended “offense” to those who agree to find it.
Profanity only holds the power all of us give to it. No more, no less. It is our fault that such a thing exists, even as a concept.
I would ask that anyone reading this listen closely to the words you loosely think of as “bad” and think about these words in the context of language. Most people who curse, I’ve found, do so knowing that they don’t really care, they just don’t want it to be noticed by certain friends, family and society. It is an issue of reputation and seemliness. Others, of course, resoundingly denounce cursing in any form, in any setting, for whatever reason.
If I use a word that you find objectionable, I’m not using it to punish you. If I hit like or comment on posts which contain profanity, you are going to have to decide for yourself whether that lessens me as a person or not. It is your opinion and you own it, not me. I’m not going out of my way to curse to draw attention and it in no way should be taken as a personal affront.