One of the things that surprised me as I grew up and entered the professional work world was that yes indeed you could wear nice clothes, stand up tall, polish your shoes, claim to be well educated, be a power player and still drop a casual cuss word without anyone batting an eye.
Let me be the first to say, I’m not past it myself at all! I have a few choice phrases that I use on a regular basis. Mostly in a cathartic way. I use all the obvious excuses having been taught by the best of the best. Pappy, is a retired Gunnery Sgt from the Marine Corps. I think it kind of goes with the job description. But, I imagine my upbringing was pretty typical as depicted in the movie ” A Christmas Story.” Ralphy gets grounded and has to eat soap for dropping the F-bomb, even though his old man probably said that word at the rate of 30 times per minute while fixing the furnace.
For a while now, I’ve subscribed to the philosophy that cursing casually is actually a defamation of the power of cursing itself. In fact I feel like a curse is somewhat sacred. If you use it every other word it loses it’s meaning. It becomes trite and loses it’s power for when you really need a quick release of the confusion, hurt and pain you feel. Because sometimes dropping a curse actually feels appropriate and really good. So moderation in all things, right?
This is of course a great justification and a little bit of self stimulation of my own intelligence.
While we (society) give(s) concession to it pretty regularly, the reality is cussing is unsavory and offensive. It clearly is a lack of self-discipline, ability to express yourself, and disrespectful to others. Regardless of how much we justify it in our lives we all know this to be true. Have you ever known a caring parent to hold their children to a standard less than that? That’s why we all continue to tell our kids to do something we haven’t quite mastered. It’s not because we think being hypocritical is OK, but that we recognize our own weakness in living up to the standard. Still that does not mean the standard should be lowered. Just that our own recognition of our weaknesses ought to be higher and our dedication to overcoming it a little more diligent.
This is a good example of behavior that we all know we’re all susceptible to but that we hold the general public to a certain standard. To let go of the standard would be like saying that we’re less than human.
The interesting thing is that if you discipline yourself enough to develop a way to express yourself without using profanity people notice and really respect you for it, and yet no one really misses it.
This topic is not fully covered unless we explore the ever so popular replacement words for cussing.
Let me list the ways: Darn, Shoot, Crap, Fetch, Flip, Fudge, Scrub, Holy Smokes, Shnikeys, Gosh, Geez, Son of Gun, Son of a Biscuit, Oh My Lands and hundred other silly concoctions of sounds.
Really what’s the real difference between dropping the F-bomb and the word Fetch, Flip or Fudge? They have the same hard consonant sounds that surround an open vowel.
Effectively they have the same mechanics as to what resonates a personal release of frustration.
Difference in definition– When you look at the meanings of cuss words, especially the worst ones they all are meant to debase subjects that either do or should have a degree of sacredness or personal nature to them. Sexuality, Humanity & Spirituality. In essence to use the words in an angry & flippant manner in which you’re using them is a debasement of the human race and others’ personal values. That is what makes them offensive. That is why they create such an explosive response. My guess is that there is historical base to this as well.
Perceived Difference. – The replacement words are generally mundane words whose meaning is abstract in a negative context. In many ways they are absurd in the context and therefore are not as offensive. In some ways the replacement words are less offensive to others because they are not on the generally understood naughty list. Maybe if the world started to be offended something like “Darn-it-all!” it would carry an extra weight. But then undoubtedly there would be replacement words for replacement words.
I was once told that if you want to quit using profanity altogether you should just say the real word until you go so sick of yourself that you’d stop. I think that’s terrible advice. For many reasons, but mostly because I think that might only work for a select few. Not to mention all the folks you might offend in the mean-time.
The point is the only thing that replacement words do is potentially not offend others on a large scale Replacement words are still indeed a type of profanity because you are still not expressing what you mean to say. They’re used in the same exact same context and in the same way.
In thesame way that anger is a secondary emotion, profanity is a misuse of our expression. If we use language to convey a message to an audience, and negotiate the social relationship between the speaker and the audience, what are we saying with a string slurs. Not much apparently.
So this then begs the question if you shouldn’t cuss or use and replacement words, then what should we say? (And of course when I say you, I mean me.)
It’s moments like these when all the over analyzation make you think there’s some over-top-answer. It’s surprisingly simple really.
Say exactly what you mean.
Imagine you’ve bumped your toe on the coffee table. Rather than dropping any number of epithets Why don’t we trying some like this!? OUCH! I’m surprised and hurt that I bump my toe on the coffee table. It really hurts! I’ve never felt any pain like that… I think I might have a seizure! I also a little embarrassed, Ive been walking for 30 years now and I haven’t quite figured out how to navigate around coffee table.
It actually sounds really silly, but I wonder how it would come off if you actually did it. I’m guessing people around you would know exactly how you feel. They might be able to know how to comfort you or just let you be until you’ve recovered.
Of course you do realize that I really don’t want to publish this blog, because it certainly calls me back to an effort I choose to shelf every once in awhile. Because the reality is among all the other things I’ve got to work on I’ve got to define some priorities hopefully I won’t offend you while I’m figuring that out 🙂
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