On Profanity

This was something that I was going to address earlier, but for some reason have been putting off.

But first, I'll put it off a bit further by giving Candi a warm welcome back to the blogosphere.

An English teacher once told me that use of profanity was evidence of lack of vocabulary; that it meant, or suggested, that you were too ignorant to use "proper" English. In high school I was caught by a teacher saying, "you need to attack the guy whose got the fucking Wumpus!" (which will make no sense to anyone unfamiliar with Magic: the Gathering) He told me to write fifty ways to say the same thing without swearing. I guess the point of the exercise was supposed to teach me that there were better ways of saying these things. What I learned was that there were fifty other ways of saying it that didn't get the point across nearly as well.

Of course, that's not the last I'd heard of it, but it came up as a topic in a blog I frequent (I actually can't for the life of me remember which, but its one of you) and at once it brought back years of me hearing those mantras and disagreeing and never quite being able to argue my point eloquently enough. Let me note here that in the blogpost it wasn't at all dismissive of those who do use foul language, but it got me thinking that maybe now was the time to finally speak my mind on the subject.

There are, of course, people who curse, and do so like idiots. Those people are below my mention. I've already done them too much undue honor by making reference to them.

Lets take a look at where this all started. It dates back to the days of the Roman Empire, which tore the world a new one, and spread Latin wherever they went. And so it came to pass, as Latin was incorporated into all of these languages, that words from the native languages came to be known as vulgaris: language spoken by the common people. One such word was fokken, an Anglo Saxon word meaning "to thrust" or "to plant," whose current incarnation may be the most versatile word in the English language.

I'm just making the point here that looking down upon foul language began as a form of oppression.

That having been said, I understand that it is tactless to in polite company shout something like, "sic semper, biatch!" or, "don't fucking castigate me!" I am resigned to finding other ways of expressing myself in such cases. Not better ways, just other ways.

What I attempt to do in writing is be a musician of the English language. To write in a way that flows. Profanity just works so goddamned well with it, (or so I find) that to part with it would be sacrilige. It would be like a chef never using peanut oil because some people are allergic. You just use it with discretion is all.

What I'm trying to put forth is that profanity is a way in which intelligent people can communicate. Try it, its fun. Mixing 3+ syllable words with four-letter words is one of my favorite things to do with language.

In short, those who would impugn my vocabulary or my taste due to the fact that I like to swear (and I don't mean any of you... or at least I'm pretty sure I don't) can go fuck themselves.


  1. I agree. It's the milieu that matters, and class is not usually an appropriate one for profanity (besides, you know these English teachers and their rules).
    Another taboo that I question is against using dialect. Of course one doesn't want to stigmatize people as inferior because of they way they talk, but aren't the ways people's origins influence their speech part of the music of language?

  2. Holy Fuck! I read all that!

  3. Well I never said that I was using it in class, but yeah.

    I'm a fan of dialect. (you kind of have to be to be an actor) That having been said, its often a matter of making yourself understood. Barring that, I say go nuts.

  4. As a "Musician of the English Language" you surely know that a little fuck every now adds a certain staccato to prose that one can just not obtain another way.
    I mean Fuck, Fuck, Fuck............you could dance to it.

  5. and in fact it has been done, and in fact was the begginning of that great American movie clasic, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

    Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
    Mother mother fuck. Mother mother fuck fuck. Mother fuck mother fuck.
    Noise noise noise.
    1 2 1 2 3 4
    Noise noise noise.
    Smokin weed, smokin weed.
    Doin' coke, drinkin beers.
    Drinkin beers, beers beers.
    Rollin' fatties, smokin blunts.
    Who smokes the blunts? We smoke the blunts.
    Rollin' blunts and smokin um'
    15 bucks, little man, put that shit in my hand.
    If that money doesn't show then you owe me owe me owe.

  6. im surprised saije didn't have a comment about this...

    and just for good measure, fuck

  7. perhaps it was because she didn't want an arguement. I was interested in hearing what she had to say on the subject.