50 Shades of Blue: The Use of Profanity at The Green Study

canstockphoto8636729A friend of a friend was directed to my blog. Her first comment, after reading one of my posts, was, “she uses a lot of foul language”.  All that writing, all that effort and her takeaway was the occasional swear word?

I’ve wrestled for years with my propensity towards the profane. As a parent, I managed to go the first 7 or 8 years of my daughter’s life without swearing in front of her. Lately, that’s been slipping, as I’ve struggled with health issues and exhaustion – just too tired of trying to do everything “right”. So a damn or shit or hell slips out. Then she and I have a discussion about language and I do penance by wondering how much her therapy bill will be in the future.

It’s not as if I don’t understand some people’s reactions. As a teenager, I was prim and proper and pious. I did everything I could to seem different from the Dukes of Haphazard with whom I lived. I didn’t swear, I didn’t go all the way and I believed that there was one way to be right – and a hundred ways to be wrong.

But I’m a grownup now and I see the hypocrisy of sounding perfect while behaving like a complete shitbag. It rankles me that some people get hung up on a word or 10, but are selfish, arrogant and unkind in all other nonverbal ways. I’ll be the first to admit that constant streams of profanity are tiresome, but they are tiresome in the way that overused words, phrases and acronyms are – grow the economy, stay on message, zombie apocalypse, LOL, OMG and most recently, twerking.

I love language. I love its nuances – the rhythm, the power, the melody. Sometimes the staccato of the profane livens things up, makes a point in a way that all niceties fail to accomplish. As a child, using naughty words was a way of rebelling against authority and there are still vestiges of that kid in me today. Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t find calling my friends bitches (as in “Hey bitches, how ’bout we meet at Applebee’s?”) particularly empowering or rebellious.

And there are limitations to meanings when swear words get overused. If what I read and hear is any indication, the world is peopled by assholes. Every other person is such an asshole. My first thought is “In what way? Can we be a little more specific?” Media, both entertainment and social, has made profanity run-of-the-mill, overused and unrecognizable in the steady stream of swear words that flows from every avenue.

On vacation, where I was overrun by fellow tourists, blue language startled me. It wasn’t the words, it was the context. In a public space, with children and grandparents, people were letting loose left and right, with little regard to the audience around them. I wondered at my prudish reaction. Why was I appalled – a person who could put sailors and truckers to shame (those stereotyped doyens of profanity)? Like spouting off about religion in a mixed crowd, a captive audience – there’s an issue of respect for the beliefs and sensibilities of others.

Context is important, but also subjective. There are no hard and fast rules. What is cringe-worthy for one person is everyday chitchat for another. I believe in boundaries, but it takes diligence and awareness to know time and place. The oft-repeated idea that the use of profanity shows a lack of education or is merely laziness, bothers me. I’m an irreverent person, so profanity, when used sparsely and concisely, amuses me. When used in everyday conversation, with no real point or emphasis, it seems a waste. And swearing at someone is inherently different than swearing about someone or something.

As to anyone taking offense to this blog, I am reminded of a quote by one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut: “profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.” It reminds me to always listen for the message under the method of communication. Is what is being said more important than how it is being said? As a writer, this is a constant battle I have with myself when reading others’ work. Do I let myself get hung up on typos or grammar or cursing or are they saying something worth paying attention to?

The brilliance of blogging is that if you offend, you only have to do it once and the reader is gone. Your audience is one of choice. My takeaway is that if you only get to offend once, best to go balls to the wall, whether it be with words or ideas. And so, The Green Study will continue with its usual tinge of blue. I hear the writer is a complete asshole.

 

Some Blogs to Be Offended By:

The Outlier Collective   I absolutely love this relatively new collaborative blog (and wrote for it).  I disagree frequently with the opinions expressed, but these bloggers are passionate and fearless when it comes to taking on the issues. And I always come away with so much to think about – the comments are just a bonus. Stellar idea, well-executed.

Melanie Lynn Griffin   She’s a writer, an activist and has strong spiritual beliefs. She, too, is a passionate person and involved. I don’t always agree, but I do admire her willingness to participate in the political process, to express her opinions loudly and to be optimistic for our future in this world.

Forming the Thread   This has been a longtime favorite eclectic blog of mine – strong opinions, travel, fiction. Talented writers, easily digestible posts. I love reading blogs that make me scrutinize my own beliefs.

Views from the Couch   This irreverent blogger makes me laugh out loud. If language offends, this won’t be your cup of tea. And no topic seems to be off-limits.

236 Comments on “50 Shades of Blue: The Use of Profanity at The Green Study

  1. whenever someone frowns at my tinged language I tell them, “the day I stop cursing, that day I’ll become physically abusive, I’ll hit and kick and just go HULK on everyone… so let me be and let me curse, it’s in your best interest, believe me” it is a way of letting go of anger and anxiety caused by so much shit going on and hitting the fan all at once… and yes, “Every other person is such an asshole”…a hypocrite asshole… of course teaching my children the when and where of this art has been another complicated story… great post, read you soon, Alexandra

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha – I laughed at this. Yes, swearing and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia are all that stand between me and the world destruction that would ensue. My daughter is old enough to be able to critically think about language and concepts. It has been somewhat freeing, but I still try to exercise some discretion. On occasion, something will come out of my mouth and I am embarrassed. Usually it happens in the car. Other drivers are such assholes!

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  2. Online, I keep my cursing to a very minimal level. In writing, while I (try to) write in a casual conversational style, I don’t often need profanity.

    In real life, it’s every other word I speak.

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    • In real life, most of my profanity stays in my head, which is probably why I find it impossible to squelch it in my writing. I don’t need to curse and given a homework assignment, I could write competently without it. I just enjoy it.

      I do wonder, though, if my writing career ever gets its leaded-ass off the ground, whether I should be concerned about this blog. But I’m not writing anything a Christian publishing house or the AARP would ever be interested in. That’s right, when the chips are down, I will rationalize away a career in favor of cursing. It’s all about priorities…

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  3. I swear a lot too. In my writing, I use it when appropriate. And I was shocked recently when I was Freshly Pressed for a post that contained an F-bomb. Funnily enough, I had just taken it out when I received word from WP!

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    • Congrats on the FP – I missed it! I haven’t really used any F-bombs online. We all have our own arbitrary guidelines, I suppose. I’d never really given much thought to the occasional swear word in my blog until I heard the reader comment. It’s interesting how easily people can focus on one aspect of a post and completely miss everything else. It’s sort of a reader screening system, I guess.

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        • Ha, awesome! I use cursing in the same way… mindfully, and to create an emphasis… even when I’m legitimately upset, it is still to create emphasis, not just to be vulgar.

          And 99% of the time, I use a silly minced oath to infuse humor into whatever I may be feeling strongly about. I think it’s funny to use “What the F-bomb is going on here?!” And I’ve made up my own… happiness is when I’ve used my made up minced oaths enough that I say them without thinking! “Cinco de Mayo”, “Sacagawea”, and “What the ‘John Tate’ happened?” are a few of the ones that I’ve been able to get to stick.

          (John Tate was the name of a boy I hardly knew many years ago… and I think he used to be annoying… so I kinda ran with it)

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        • You seem to have stepped into the Way Back Machine — the comments you responded to are quite old! But still, nice to chat with you. Otherwise, I must work and you can’t have that …

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        • It’s Michelle’s fault … having linked a bunch of older blogs for folks who came to her recently Freshly Pressed one… AND.. because I’m newer to WordPress and am trolling around to read random blogs and discover myself and others. 🙂 Sorry for the necro.

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        • No problem! I can’t remember what I said in comments yesterday, let alone at years ago. But naturally, I was as right then as I am now!

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  4. Personally I think your blog is the perfect shade of blue. I agree with every word you have said in this post. I wish I had never heard of twerking. Love the Outlier Collective. Will definitely check out the others.

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    • Thanks, Fransi. It’s a balance, I think, but one principle I’ve tried to adhere to on my blog is that it IS my voice and that I don’t try to change it to suit anyone else. It works – I’ve met so many great readers and writers that have hung around, regardless of my potty mouth. Every once in awhile, I’m just surprised about what people find offensive.

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  5. I’m more offended by people who are offended by bad language. People who would rather say “Melon farmer!” than “mother fucker!” Those are the kinds of people that become serial killers. FACT.

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    • The comedian, Kathleen Madigan, does a whole bit on “fake cussing” – especially that done by Sarah Palin. I agree with her – either cuss or don’t cuss, but don’t do that creepy in-between “well, golly gee donut holes” nonsense.

      Frankly, what I find offensive are acts of violence, hate speech, injustice, racism, sexism, child abuse – a whole shitload of reasons to be offended that have nothing to do with profanity. I think it’s profane how much time we spend talking about some overindulged singer’s flappy butt when we’re still at war and people are being mass poisoned. But hey, if someone wants to be offended over my use of the word shitload, they can have at it.

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  6. I have an Aunt who loves the word f***. She uses it in every other word for as long as I’ve known her. She used it when it was very unpopular for women to cuss in any way much less the Fbomb. I love her, shes my favorite relative. She is in her late 70’s now and still uses it. I use swear words a lot in real life. I think a lot of my online friends would be shocked or laugh their asses off if they heard me in real life. But I do agree there are some words I wish I never heard of and twerking is at top of the list.

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    • I have a secret fear that as I age and perhaps suffer age-related dementia, that I’ll be the most profane, disturbing old broad and that every filthy word or thought will come pouring out of my mouth at the most inappropriate times. I’ll be the relative NOBODY wants their kids around. Hmmm…that might be okay, as I imagine I will also be rabidly antisocial.

      I’d never heard the term “twerking” before that icky performance. I thought it had something to do with having a lizard tongue, but fellow bloggers have completely educated me. Words may never hurt me, but seeing that tongue makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

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  7. Oh, dear. If you are considered foul-mouthed, I’m going straight to hell in a hand basket. With extra shithead points for regularly cursing about something as sacred as education.
    Meh.
    I’m ok with that. Thanks for not being a politically correct boring-face.

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    • I’ve always considered myself on the mild side out in the world. I think horrible, profane things on a fairly regular basis, so I’m using some filtering process, apparently. And in terms of education, somebody’s got to get pissed about it. On the other hand, I’m so relieved for a few moments of silence from my little extrovert, school is a bit sacrosanct right now. Until I spend time in the classroom. Holy shit, Captain Chaos! Good luck with your year!

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  8. Sometimes a swear word is the only word that will do justice to the subject; and sometimes a swear word is needed to vent anger or frustration, or some other emotion. I’ve hardly noticed any questionable language in your blog.

    What really annoys me is name-calling. This is especially common in comment threads on controversial or sensitive issues. Rather than addressing a point, many commenters prefer to simply stamp a not-nice label on a fellow commenter. “Asshole” comes to mind. “Asshole” must be the most overused word in the language. But please, don’t encourage people who use the word to be “more specific.” The conversation can only go downhill.

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    • I laughed about the “more specific” comment. Sometimes people sputter when they’re asked to explain themselves and maybe next time they won’t be so quick with a label. My least favorite comment response (not on this blog…yet) is when they call someone who disagrees with them an “idiot”. It’s too easy to call people stupid and walk away – my 9 year old can disagree more maturely than that. Real dialogue and debate is not easy.

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  9. Sometimes I find it unnecessary and distracting reading a piece where everything is laden with f-bombs. Is it for effect? Is it showing the author’s anger? Is it funny?
    Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I am also no prude. It’s true that if I don’t like what I am reading, I am free to move on.

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    • For me, it really depends on what the writer is trying to say. There are some writers who don’t bother me with frequent swearing – often it is because the subject is compelling and they are passionate about it. I don’t enjoy reading profanity where it’s just ranting and complaining with no real viewpoint. The same as when I hear it.

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      • I agree. When the profanity is larger than the what’s being said it drowns out any interest I have in listening (or reading).

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  10. I read your first paragraph and said to myself “Michelle uses profanity in her blog?!” I truly never noticed.
    I think if profanity is properly used, it can actually be inconspicuous. If this is true, then your use of it is proper.

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    • It’s probably a good sign that you don’t notice it, but irritating that I probably will from now on. I’ll have to send that reader a thank you note for making me more self-conscious about my writing than I already am.

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  11. I haven’t noticed it in your blog, but I do notice the gratuitous use of it in other blogs. I find that tiresome and not very imaginative. Sprinklings of it, used in context, and in the rhythm of the rest of the post, can work. I avoid the use of some swear words – the F word, particularly. I don’t know why. It just bugs me – no – it horrifies me to see it in my writing. But here’s an odd thing – the character Debra, in Dexter, swears like a drunken sailor. ALL THE TIME. She is a veritable fountain of oddly combined f phrases. And I find it hilarious. The context – there it works. And that’s the thing. In blogging and elsewhere, if someone is just relying on the cursing to carry the message, then he or she has failed.

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    • I think that’s where I stand on it, too. I tend to avoid the F-word as well (in writing) and I’m not sure why. The Brits and the Russians have really cornered the market on obscenities. The British words are odd like wanker (one of my favorites) and the Russians have the largest list of obscenities. They have a tough history and culture, so I’m sure it contributes to the need to swear more frequently!

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  12. I had a professor in college who always referred to curse words as “those four-letter, Anglo-Saxon words.” I’ve always loved that description.

    My husband loves dropping the f-bomb, yet it’s my mom’s least favorite cuss word. She isn’t friends with him on Facebook because she knows he doesn’t censor himself, but she’ll occasionally complain when he comments on something on my page and lets loose with some colorful words. I’m known to drop “shit,” “ass,” or “damn” in my blog posts, but I don’t do it that frequently because it is like those non-censored terms that we hear in the news — eventually, we all roll our eyes or just start overlooking it.

    What I hate is people who ask me to censor myself. My roommate from college posted on her FB a couple of months ago that her children often read over her shoulder so would everyone please stop cussing? She is one of my oldest friends, which is why I didn’t open that can of words, but it’s my page, and I’m not holding back to help you parent your children.

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    • Hi Carla – Somehow I missed this comment, so my response is late. Your college roommate is irritating. My child is not allowed to read over my shoulder unless I give her permission or we are looking at something together. Fortunately our bonding moments are usually away from the monitor. It reminds of the woman who got a lot of flack for sitting around with her teenage sons condemning young women on the internet. Really, that’s how you’re spending your family time? I believe a prompt “Bite me” would be in order.

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  13. “The Dukes of Haphazard”!!!!!!!!

    I’m with you on a lot of this. I get irritated when people swear around my kids–usually complete strangers in a public space. I work pretty hard not to swear in front of my children, but it does slip out. I don’t think the words are immoral and taboo, like I did when I was little. I just don’t want my children using them casually. I want them to understand the context–they are words to be used when you’re really mad!

    I do enjoy the fact that “fuck” can be conjugated to any part of speech in the English language including the rare infix. And I do use it for emphasis, sometimes, when talking with my husband or close friends. It can be powerful when used judiciously.

    The term ‘douchebag’ offends me more than just about any other one, and people seem to throw it around really loosely. It bothers me because it’s sexist– connotations of women and their ‘parts’ being dirty and so that’s the worst thing you can be. It really annoys me. We aren’t dirty.

    I agree with you on the sanctimoniousness of people who criticize you for swearing but then do truly awful things, like smoke around your children. My aunt just did this to me. I’d shared a post from a page I follow on Facebook. It’s called ‘I Fucking Love Science.’ My aunt actually thought that was MY phrase and commented that my ‘potty mouth’ wasn’t becoming or necessary for a mom to express her love of science. I was so annoyed. I kinda want to start a Fuckwa.

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    • Ha! There’s a great excerpt that Salon.com ran on the history of swearing and I think the point about the f-word being used a different parts of speech is interesting, since that is sometimes an indicator that it is being neutralized or entering mainstream vernacular. I don’t think that’s the case quite yet.

      I’ll admit that douchebag is one of my favorites, but only because it sounds funny. I never made the connection to body parts since it literally refers to a product. I don’t think calling someone a colostomy bag or penile pump sounds as funny. Sometimes there is a disconnect from the literal meanings of obscenities. My least favorite is the word “bitch” in any context. We all make our own associations, I suppose. It makes it even more important to be mindful when around others.

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      • Appropriately enough, my 7-year old just exclaimed “Oh, poop!” And then “dammit” because she can’t get her squirrel trap to work.

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      • Oh no, Michelle! I love your writing and I totally agree with this post! However…”penile pump” doesn’t sound as funny as douchebag? Here we digress. This has just entered my vocabulary for-e-ver. I am extremely guilty of using douchebag quite often, even though I totally agree with Kylie that it’s wrong to imply that are special lady parts are dirty and thus offensive. Hang in there sailor, don’t censor!

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        • Thanks so much. Penile pump is good, but I don’t think it, uh, rolls off the tongue as easily douchebag. I agree with Kylie about the weirdness about women’s body parts, but I think every man, woman and child could use an occasional douche….or is one? Anyway, I appreciate your very funny comment!

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  14. Love this blog! Every word. I am a cornucopia of curse words. I think my affinity for expletives really blossomed when I was in the military. Sometimes, you just need to cut through the bullshit, and I think a well placed F-bomb can really drive a point home. I have had a LOT of people comment on different posts, wagging their virtual finger in my face, admonishing me for using profanity. I’ve thoughtfully reminded them that they are free to close my blog and move on.

    Thanks for the mention.

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    • Thanks. I learned my curse words at home as a kid and my stint in the military merely encouraged my foul mouth – that and heavy drinking. Your writing is funny on a lot of levels – you say what I so often think! I’m glad you appreciate the mention – I wasn’t sure if bloggers would enjoy being on my “this might offend” list.

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      • LOL, a fact is a fact. I think a lot of people that share my posts do so with a disclaimer. 🙂 People either get my point of view and my delivery or they don’t and, sometimes, they absolutely hate me for one or both of those reasons. That’s fine. When I do write about something controversial, I expect that I will offend people and that’s okay. Even when I write about something mundane, people seem to look for reasons to be offended, and that usually has something to do with my colorful language. I just wish the people that are offended or hate me, or my viewpoint or my writing style would just realize that they aren’t being forced to read, much less engage. They can just close the window and move on with their lives. I don’t know if they think that their strongly worded comment is going to make me see the error of my ways and replace “damn” and “shit” to “diggity dang” and “fishsticks”, but I hope they don’t hold their breaths.

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  15. I have never even noticed profanity in your blog, probably because of context. If something is there as an expletive with no meaning or emphasis then it doesn’t play for me and I have never noticed that with your posts. I have noticed that I am far more comfortable swearing in the comments on other blogs than I am on my own – maybe because I just don’t swear a whole lot in the real world and it cracks me up to respond in kind on certain blogs.

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    • It’s funny how you swear in the comments on other blogs – I’m always a little hesitant to do that. I have that moment right after I hit “reply” filled with self-doubt, but that happens no matter what I write. I have a lot of mental swearing going on, hence my fear that eventually when I’m too old and tired to censor myself, I’m going to be quite horrid to be around!

      Glad that whatever profanity I use is not so far out of context that it gets noticed. I was surprised when a reader reacted that way, but I suppose swearability comfort levels range from cutesy fake swear words to ones that would scorch a person’s ears. As usual, I over-think things…dammit.

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      • Fuck yeah! Wow – that was liberating 🙂 I did actually use that word in a caption this week on my blog. I guess I just don’t swear much in person. I grew up around it though so it never bothered me.

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  16. You echo my thoughts!
    Till high school, I was the prim and proper mouthed one. Public transport and lecherous men have given me powers of profanity any boorish drunk man would be proud of.
    Sometimes profanity becomes a necessity.
    I love how a simple cuss word takes off the strain threatening to explode my head.
    I feel its therapeutic
    Cheers to cuss!
    😀
    Fuckin loved the post!
    .

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    • Nice! I love the therapeutic approach – often I feel much better and am ultimately a safer driver if I can call the guy who cut me off a dumbass. At least that’s what I tell myself, shortly after I apologize to the rest of the family in the car. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  17. My best friend’s kids always “correct” me when I curse (“YOu said a bad word”), and I tell them, “Yes, it’s a privilege of being a big kid.” LOL. That’s what I tell my kid when I say something I shouldn’t and she repeats it (she’s only three, so she doesn’t even know what she’s saying usually!)

    Swear words have power. Some are better than others. If I stub my toe in the night, a loud “SHIT SHIT SHIT!!!” is still not as satisfying as one big “Fuck!” lol

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    • I’m reminded of what happened to one of my friends. At a large family gathering, her child said loudly to her mother-in-law: “Mommy doesn’t like you.” I bet she wished that the kid had just said “Fuck!” and been done with it.

      Relative power of swear words? I’m going to have to think about that. I imagine people would rate their words differently. I can whip out a pretty vicious “Jerkoff!” while driving. Feels more satisfying than asshole. Thanks for commenting!

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  18. Michelle,
    Sometimes, nothing replaces the punch that can pack a well-placed “fuck”. And I mean, really.

    And a heartfelt thank you for mentioning The Outlier Collective.
    Le Clown

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    • This is true. If I think of any word that puts staccato in a phrase that would be it. I generally know I’m losing my mind when I think: Fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck!

      You’re welcome – The Outlier Collective is such a great resource to get one’s brain gears turning.

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  19. Michelle,
    Great post and great blog.
    I look at the comments and see so many of my favorite bloggers I have to wonder why I am just finding your work.
    Congrats on the well-deserved exposure on the front page!
    Red

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  20. I’m so tired of the overuse of the word asshole, that I’ve recently taken to calling the worst offenders a wanker.

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      • I think I first heard it in the movie Sliding Doors, but didn’t adopt it until recently, thanks to a friend of mine who moved to Ireland and adopted much of the lingo.

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  21. Good post! I say ‘bloody’ all the time (I’m English, can you tell! :P) but I don’t consider it a swear word, many other people do though and don’t like to say it. Maybe it’s perspective, but I say if it’s not offensive (or racist!) it’s fine!

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    • Thanks! It’s a tough call when you take other people’s sensibilities into account. I was asked, “Why even use a word you know might offend?” Self-censorship may be an important tool in order to negotiate cultural and social mazes, but when it comes to writing or art or expressing one’s self, it seems a slippery slope. And there are certainly more profane things to say than swear words (as you pointed out by mentioning racism).

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  22. I had to inhibit my cursing for I was for forty years in the classroom. If I slipped up I heard about it. I tried to curtail it at home two. Even when I was single. For if you get use to the words they will come out and bite you when you did not expect it. Now I am retired and truthfully these words are not comfortable with me. I hear them so often on television and when I was in the classroom heard them as my students would make a trucker blush. I tend to go refined and yet I assure you I will be the first to defend your right to curse. It is in the constitution of the United States of America to express your views. And let us face it when talking about politics whether you are left or right or in the center blue language is mandatory.

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    • You’re absolutely right about becoming a little too accustomed to swearing – you never know what will come out under pressure. You mention free speech rights and I would simply say that yes, it’s our right to talk as we wish without government interference. However, that does not mean we get to speak without consequence – something that some people fail to understand when they open their mouths (especially in politics!). Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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      • Consequences, ah yes. I have seen the valley and the valley has consequences. Therefore if you curse do it infrequently so when you do people will take notice. Sometimes cursing sparks the fire and that causes the change. I believe the colonists cursed frequently and look at the consequences of their actions.

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  23. Great post. It’s interesting how many people can be more offended by swears than things that do real damage to others like sexism and racism. When I was in high school, for example, two of the productions that our theatre program performed were blatantly sexist but the powers that be thought that cutting out swear words would suddenly make them completely appropriate and non-offensive. It bothered me at the time and continues to bother me today.

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    • I missed this comment when it came in. Sorry for the late reply. It brings to mind the nature of offensive ideas versus offensive words. Sometimes censorship strikes me as extraordinarily profane and we can see throughout history, from book banning to attacks against art funding, how easy it is to focus on the obvious words and miss the overarching message. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective!

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  24. Loved your post. I live in Ireland & the word “F**k” is simply part of our vernacular…everyone “F**ks” – even on TV.

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  25. Once I realized that my in-laws were reading my blog, I felt compelled to go filter out the fucks. But when I re-read them, I still liked them tucked into my niceties, and there they stay. The filter is slipping with my little boys. I tell them, “It’s totally OK to know the bad words… just don’t use them. Mommy shouldn’t use them! Sorry.” (Maybe a jar is in order.) I have oodles of wicked Church-y and readers, and older readers, and the odd 10 year old who finds my blog because I once wrote about Minecraft, and I don’t think I’ve lost a reader yet because of well-placed swears. Three cheers for potty mouth!

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    • I would like to lose readers that are that easily offended, just so I can relax and write. It’s like having someone at your party who doesn’t even like you, casting a pall on the entire room. My family isn’t interested in my writing or computers, so I rarely worry about who I might offend, but on occasion a friend will direct someone else here and this is how this particular situation emerged. My daughter is finally allowed to read some posts (mostly that pertain to her), but not all. She gets in-person lessons on what she should or shouldn’t say! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  26. Yep, sparse and concise use of profanity is amusing, especially when the artist is already clever, eloquent, and funny. It’s like little exclamation points. I have even more respect for those who tweak (not twerk) the usual vulgarities into new things–effing, asshat, sweaty nut bag, and frack come to mind. If you can combine some sort of oil or mining metaphor with the substitution of frack for fuck, you win one hundred bonus points. Stuff like that.

    In the end, clever writing is just that. It’s an art. Vulgarity isn’t original, so if a writer has to resort to a lot of it to get attention, I lose interest. It’s like listening to a self-conscious fourteen-year-old trying to sound tough and grown up in front of his buddies. He sounds grown up, alright, just not the kind I would call a “artist.”

    Like

    • I agree with this up to a point although I am already heartily sick of the ‘Frack off’ that has taken over it seems to me from a perfectly good expletive. Vulgarity is surely in the eye of the beholder. I have no problem with strong language well handled…indeed I would go so far as to say that I am a fan of bad language….and yet, some years ago I was in the Cabaret tent at the Glastonbury festival &* a number of young thrusting comics had seen fit to bring back the C word with a vengeance….for some years I had struggled with this word but have got over it to the extent that I will on the odd occasion use it myself now ( mainly it has to be said in conjunction with expressing concerns about right wing politicians!)…I digress….so as I was saying there was a wearying amount of swearing that night…but not so much that I would leave because I didn’t want to miss anything.I’m glad I stayed as at about n1 in the morning a new comic I hadn’t seen or heard of before came on…he performed one of the funniest sets I have ever seen 45 minutes no swearing just pure undiluted silliness…it was Harry Hill !! OK so I concluded my blog by undermining my whole argument…would refer you to a You Tube clip in which Stephen Fry defends swearing in a charming if somewhat childish manner ….check it out…it made sense to me ( Just try S.Fry …swearing & I’m sure you’ll find it…if you want to….

      Like

      • There are several words that while I can find amusing in context, I rarely use. Since the words bitch and cunt (I’m tired of asterisk censoring) are used on a regular basis in America to verbally assault women, they’re out of favor in my lexicon and it’s a rare occasion when someone else uses them, that I find them funny. As I pointed out in my blog post, sometimes overuse really flattens a word until it imbues communication with very little meaning.
        Although it does bring up the subject of whether widespread use of a word is the signal that its life is at an end.

        Like

  27. Yipppeeee! You did it. You wrote about something I just could not bring myself to do. Good for you. When I started blogging I made a decision to write about everything in every which way I needed to to get things off my chest. When I had done that I settled down and got serious and felt concerned about what people might think. You snapped me back to reality so I am back on course and can continue to be me whether I’m liked, hated or asked to run for president. Ok never mind the last part. Thanks for the much needed direction. Or should I say kick in the ass? Yeah that’s it.

    Like

    • That is the clear lesson I’ve learned from blogging over the last couple of years. The minute you start worrying about who you are going to offend, you might as well stop altogether. Depending on your goals, whether it be socializing, developing better writing skills or just as a form of therapy, the point is to find and clearly enunciate YOUR voice. Sometimes that means swearing or offensive ideas or inanities, but it’s your space and if people don’t find it appealing, they can easily move on.

      Like

  28. Every time this sort of topic comes up, I keep remembering when I was a small child in school … a small, relentlessly bullied child. I was that kid who was reading at a high-school level in 1st grade and felt like she was living in the Twilight Zone through most of my school years. And all I remember from the nuns around me was that if you beat the living CRAP out of a kid (me, specifically), that was fine. Swear, and that got a reaction out of the nuns. I think that was my first real awareness of the impending atheism of my adulthood, that God has got to be a bunch of made-up bullshit if that’s what the concept turns you into, the sort of person who thinks the word “shit” is worse than unalloyed viciousness.

    I’m also reminded of a news story from way back about a bunch of “concerned parents” who didn’t like the “obscenity” in the movie — I shit you not — “Schindler’s List” because it showed people’s naked backsides. Seriously, this is a movie about the near-extermination of an entire group of human beings like vermin, and the only obscenity on the screen that jumped out at them was a naked butt.

    Those are the kinds of people who are Offended™ at profane language.

    The only kinds of profanity I despise are the kinds that turns humans themselves into obscenities. Insulting words for women, black people, gay or lesbian people, etc. etc. etc. Any people. “Shit” means nothing to me. “N*gger,” “c*nt,” and “k*ke,” though? Yes. Those I won’t tolerate in my presence. It’s reasonable to me that a casual word for excrement be an insult. It is NOT reasonable to me that an actual kind of human be turned into an insult.

    Like

    • You have hit the nail on the head. The things that offend people baffle me. People lost their minds over a nipple showing, during halftime at a game where players are being encouraged to permanently maim each other to win. God forbid we see somebody’s ass on TV, but let’s ignore the 20 acts of visceral violence we just witnessed on a crime show. To me, what constitutes obscene and profane has little or nothing to do with cursing and everything to do with the violence we commit against each other (and sometimes, as you pointed out, that includes some words). Thank you for adding to the discussion – I absolutely agree with you.

      Like

      • Funny enough, it seems that in order to make the violence even more wonderful, you can often add a little ass TO it. A movie that shows average people getting chopped up and put into shredders will get a very different reception from one that shows strippers chopped up and put into shredders. If you disapprove of the latter, you’re just a prude. The ways that different categories of “obscenity” interact with one another is tangled enough to make you just toss in the towel.

        Besides, all that nipple bullshit was staged anyhow. Jesus, people are fucking naive.

        Like

  29. Reblogged this on My Beaten Track and commented:
    So I found this blog post in the “freshly pressed,” and I haven’t found myself nodding in agreement to an article as I have here for a long time. I have grown up with people that tried very hard not to swear in front of me as a child, but sometimes I wondered about the content and context of certain discussions, particularly as we got older. Why are we discussing multiculturalism just after we’ve got on the train to come from Central Sydney? There is more than one way to cause people to raise eyebrows at a situation, and frankly, so many people swear these days, it’s becoming an ineffective attention-grabber. I find more and more people are reading articles with a lot of profanity just because they’re expecting it to be funny, not offensive.

    Like

  30. I swear a lot. But I would never swear around my parents and my grown son would never swear around me. Swearing is very situational and that whole respect thing often comes into play!

    Like

    • I think all kinds of behavior is situational, to include swearing. I don’t know that I would be upset about my daughter swearing around me when she’s adult, but at this point, she has to mature and learn about boundaries first.

      Like

      • Well to be fair, in my mind, my 23 year old son is always 11 years old. And I tend to revert to being a teenager whenever I am around my mom (youngest child syndrome!).

        Like

  31. As a European I’m afraid that my level of profanity tends to shock most Americans. If you add the fact that I’m Spanish and live in Ireland, it is kind of a necessity at this point.

    On a recent trip to Omaha a work colleague ended up blushing when we went for drinks as we would use at least one swear word in every other sentence. It’s funny because I hear people swearing all the time, even at work, and nobody bats an eyelid.

    I guess it is a cultural thing. A great Irish comedian once said that English was his cage and F*** was the chisel he used to try to break free.

    Like

    • Americans are incredibly prudish about a lot of things, even if most of the world considers them loud and vulgar. Apparently we can still be vulgar while simultaneously blushing at the superficial. And if you’ve read any of the above comments, a tizzy will be made of any sort of nudity, but people barely bat an eye at gruesome violence. It’s very weird.

      Like

      • I agree that Americans can be strange for some things but I also think that we Europeans are not much better. We’ll moan and complain about American hegemony while proudly remembering when we ruled the world. It’s easy to point out the failings in others and ignore your own.

        I guess the important thing is to enjoy diversity and to realise that at the end of the day, nobody is getting hurt by words or by a bit of nudity. Violence is a whole different ball game.

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  32. Ughk! I share your pain. I’ve entertained the thought of family friendly cursing, but it just seemed awkward and unnatural. Got down sat in a ditch, crud and shiiiii taki mushrooms!!!!!!!!! don’t quite do it for me. 🙂

    Like

    • That’s understandable – those are downright awful replacements! I tried to mend my ways over the years, especially driving with my child in the backseat, by muttering “jack butt” or “dipstick” at other drivers, but it just didn’t have the same punch and it made me sound like a doofus!

      Like

  33. There are times when i just plain speak my mind and don’t think much about it after, but you’ve given me quite something to think about now lol 🙂 congrats on freshly pressed by the way 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks for the congrats. I tend to be a more cautious person all-around when angry (repression as skill, not requirement) and tend not to spout off until I come up with a more balanced perspective – I’ve written some very hostile first drafts, though!

      Like

  34. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 49: Welcome To Hell, Enjoy The Buffet | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  35. I have a tendency to use a swear word here and there while writing and I don’t usually give it a second thought. I write how I speak and profanity sometimes sneaks right out of my mouth. I’m not usually offended when others used it in their writing, although an overabundance of *F* bombs will cause me to move on. So I appreciate you addressing this topic and will come back and visit again….swear words and all.
    ~Debbie~

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    • Honestly, for the most part, I write without swearing much (not a deliberate decision), so it was a surprise when feedback focused on my “harsh language”. It made me think about the different attitudes and levels of sensitivity people have about profanity. I think an overabundance of curse words can detract from whatever viewpoint the writer is trying to get across, but for me it’s not that the words carry power, it’s just a device one can easily tire of in the absence of solid writing.
      I appreciate your visit and comment – thanks!

      Like

  36. Earlier this week I commented on a post that I liked and told the author that I would happily have put him on my blogroll except for what seemed like a number of unnecessary f-words. I felt like an old fogey saying it – but then he replied to say he had removed the offending words! Your post has reassured me that I am not the only one who feels like this. I can swear with the best of them – I just choose not to on my blog. Thanks and congrats on being FP-ed. Cheers Pip

    Like

    • Thanks for the congrats and your response. I like the free-for-all nature of blogging and don’t shy away from blogs or posts that have profanity. I guess I am more concerned with compelling stories and strong writing. If profanity does not support the story or if there really is no narrative, just stream of consciousness ranting, then I move on to other blogs. But I think there are some very funny and passionate writers that can pull off F-bombs with ease. Again, it really has to be part of the flow and not the flow in its entirety. I appreciate your perspective, as it shows how varied attitudes are about the use of profanity.

      PS – I often embrace old-fogey curmudgeonly attitudes. Just practicing for the future!

      Like

      • Happy to have you following at #88. In Australia it is not good to be on 87 (at least if you watch or play cricket) as it is 13 runs short of a century. I’ll be sure to come back & check out more of your posts soon. Cheers

        Like

  37. You make me laugh. I agree completely with your take on the appropriate use of the profane. And you’re a good writer. Your writing makes me wonder if we attended the same parochial school? If we did that means you’re also a good speller.

    Like

    • Glad I could give a laugh or two and thanks for the writing compliments. I attended tiny schools in Iowa, none of which were particularly stellar. I was fortunate to have a few teachers here and there who really encouraged me to write and sometimes that’s all a kid needs. Spelling is a strong interest, as are linguistics, but everything originates with a love of reading. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  38. A well written and expressive post.

    I work as a Certified Interpreter, a position that requires me to say what is being said in one language to another as quickly and accurately as possible, regardless of content. I find it amusing when people don’t seem to realize this despite having been warned, and when perhaps frustrated with how the conversation is going may mutter something like “What does this shithead want,” only to have it interpreted. Laughs all around.

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    • Thank you for the compliment.

      If I were writing sketch comedy, the interpreter scenario would be at the top of the list. I can only imagine the missteps and miscues that can occur. Expressions and turns of phrase can end up being entirely different in another language!

      Like

      • A classic example: “Oh, fuck” in English is “Do prdele” in Czech, which back in English is “To my ass.”

        Legal system equivalencies are the hardest to work with. How do you express that which may not exist?

        Like

  39. “Do I let myself get hung up on typos or grammar or cursing or are they saying something worth paying attention to?”

    It’s something that plagues every time I sit down to write a blog post. In my country, many people perceive swearing or using “inappropriate words” a sign of rebellion, going -against-culture. This assumption of moral high ground particularly annoys me no end.

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    • I think swearing is viewed the same way everywhere. Although, in America, we’ve fetishisized being shocking to the point that it simply no longer is – our counter culture would be hard to discern, now that everyone has political action committees and petitions and their own line of clothing.

      Moral high ground based on word usage is annoying, but very easy to poke holes in/fun at. That might be to a writer’s advantage! Thanks for sharing your perspective – it’s appreciated.

      Like

  40. I see in you a kindred spirit. I have noticed that the older I get – and now with a family, I am looked down upon for uttering the occasional WTF. But let’s face it – sometimes the situation warrants just that. I’m a God fearing, educated woman and if I want to drop a vulgar word to make a point, then I’m going for it. Kudos to you!

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  41. Love the post! I too enjoy the odd bit of blue language, and you’ll find it in my blog musings as well. I also cuss about things, not at people, and find blue language amusing. Your bit about hearing adults swear on the street in front of kids is something I’ve been thinking about lately as well. Yes, I like to swear, but even for me there’s a time and a place.

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    • I think it’s a challenge, if you do allow yourself the pleasure of swearing, to maintain decorum and boundaries as a measure of respect for those unwitting ears that might be around. I was put to rights when I heard my daughter (5 at the time) referring to the cats as “hairy bastards”. Apparently she WAS paying attention, even when I thought she was preoccupied!

      Like

  42. I can’t even recall how I stumbled across your blog. Was I googling ‘Please! Give me swear words to look at…feed me! I’m a swearer and I’m trying to quit’? Maybe. Maybe not. Like I say, I can’t remember. But I read your about page and I read this post and I’m going to read more because I followed you.

    I’m not a spam follower either despite my blog being new 😉 I promise!

    Mrs ASU

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    • Thanks for reading and the follow and giving me a heads up that your name is not synonymous with knockoff handbags and instantaneous weight loss! Welcome to blogging and enjoy the journey!

      Like

  43. Aha! So you’re responsible for my stats shooting up today. Thanks! Nice to be vicariously Freshly Pressed – congrats on being directly so, again!
    Should have known it wasn’t my nice little poem drawing the attention – it was a profane, self-proclaimed asshole. Sigh.
    Hey – aren’t you ex-military?? You guys are *supposed* to curse. It’s what makes our country great…or something like that.
    Thanks for sending folks over to be offended — and congrats!

    Like

    • Hi Melanie – I was actually hoping you wouldn’t be offended by being on my list, but I was trying to think of a variety of bloggers with strong beliefs, profane or not and you came to mind immediately. Thanks for the congrats and being so gracious about the imposition on your blog!

      Like

      • Of course I’m not offended. I like to cause trouble and to be recognized for causing trouble! I especially like to piss off people who don’t believe in global warming. 🙂

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  44. I gotta say, I was thoroughly entertained by this post. As a connoisseur of cussing, I can totally appreciate this. But I am probably one of those people that cusses too much, and in everyday language. I do censor myself around children and my elder family members but I LOVE to cuss. Sometimes there’s no better way to passionately describe how I feel or what I think. But some dub me as immature because I’m a little foul at times. And being religious, I hate that people decide I’m not as good of a Christian as they are because of my obvious “sin.” At any rate, cuss on sister…give us a little blue from time to time!

    Like

    • From all the great comments, it strikes me that one’s reaction to profanity is based on how a person is perceived, raised or where they are from. The association of profanity with some sort of low brow sinner has historical roots, but some of the smartest, most thoughtful people I know have a propensity towards swearing (and creatively so). On the flip side, not swearing is no indication of virtue.

      Glad I could entertain and I appreciate your comment!

      Like

  45. Excellent post and so well written! I’m also guilty of the odd out-burst in front of my kids, but more so in my day to day life! My husband is no longer offended by my bad pet names for him haha. Great post, glad to know its not just me!

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    • My husband rarely, if ever, swears, so I often get the raised eyebrow. Apparently to no effect, as I’ve not mended my ways! I work from home and have 7 years or so, which means I’m often swearing out loud to no one in particular, usually about the laundry and picking up random shit that my pack of wolves leaves about. I probably need to get out more…

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  46. Thank you! Thank you! I have had a couple of people call me out on my (occasional) cussing during the course of the April A to Z Challenge. One in particular commented that she didn’t care for my writing style, especially my use of expletives. Which made me wonder who was more rude- the person dropping the occasional f-bomb? Or the person who could have left when they read said f-bomb, but decided instead to stick around and make a comment about how much they didn’t like the post?

    Like

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Your experience – wow. I love it when assholes take time out of their busy day to make sure you feel like shit. This is the beauty of blogging – you don’t like something, you move on to something you do like. There is something for everyone out there. I like discussions about issues on my blog, but no one has ever had the cajones to tell me my style sucks. I don’t understand the point of that, anyway – it’s not like you are going to become a different person based on their comment. Oh, but you do get to feel miserable for a bit. Thank you, kind reader.

      Hopefully most of your experiences blogging are more positive!

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  47. I’m that person who cringes at swear words. My mom thinks “gosh” is a bad word, so that explains a lot. I have a good friend who says the most colorful things in front of young children and grandmas, and that makes me pretty uncomfortable. (I blame it on the fact that she’s European.) But I find that when I do finally fly off the handle with the occasional SHIT!! everyone is shocked and shuts up for a minute. So I find this reservation to be quite effective. Thanks for the good read!

    Like

    • My family swears like truckers, so I went the opposite direction – constantly cringing. Obviously, I changed somewhat over the years. I have had friends who swear vociferously in public places and I won’t lie – I’m completely embarrassed. From the comments, being from another country definitely impacts the comfort level with swearing. I never realized the Europeans were such potty mouths, having been told how vulgar we Americans are for so many years!

      And you’re right about the impact of a swear word depending on frequency of usage. I’m not a fan of conversational swearing, since I like having some words in my arsenal that pack a little punch. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

      Like

      • She’s Eastern European…wonder if that makes a difference. I would also like to add that her father speaks in sentences made of curse words strung together…and he’s not even upset about anything. It always seemed like he was very proud of himself for knowing those words. Half the time, I barely understood him. 🙂

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  48. Great post, I would rather read no holds barred, straight talking honesty over Fake (trying to be nice) posts! Thanks for keeping me entertained, great comments too

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    • Thanks for stopping by – I always enjoy the comments as well. You bring up another aspect of using profanity. It often lends authenticity to a person – you sense the filters are off and that you are getting the real deal. I’m automatically suspicious of super nice people, because they’re usually the ones that want to get at your children or embezzle your life savings to feed their gambling habit. Apparently in my head, there’s something up with everyone and the more they try to mask it, the more suspect they are. I might just be a little jaded!

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  49. You’ll like my friends blog I believe, http://themft.wordpress.com/ , the latest one is called something like “insisting on correct grammar is classist, racist, ableist bullshit…

    PS. I’m a big fan of language too, and I count swearing in there. I differ from you slightly in that I tell my child that I’m not offended by his swearing and it’s ok if he uses naughty words in front of me but that other people may be so we don’t use it outside. Ironically and quite handily this speech takes so long and is so boring every to e he swears that he doesn’t bother swearing at all now!

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    • The classic parent trick: bore them out of having any desire to do what you are lecturing them about. I’ll check out that blog. Insisting on anything for anyone else seems pointlessly frustrating, although I really do try to push myself to use proper grammar and spelling…and swearing (I’m really good at that aspect of language.) Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

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  50. Michelle –

    I loved this entry!! Profanity is something I had to wrestle with when I first started blogging over a year ago. When I used the occasional curse word, I would get feedback from various people (mostly family members) who told me that they thought I diminished my talent as a writer when I used “unnecessary” curse words. I gave it some thought, really labored over it for awhile. Then I decided to say fuck it.

    If I have to censor myself, either in my beliefs or my choice of language, then I’m defeating the whole purpose of blogging – getting my voice heard and (hopefully) entertaining people while I do it. And I can’t do either of those things if I’m afraid to say exactly how I’m feeling, free and uncensored.

    Like you, I think a thoughtfully chosen, well placed curse word can really add to the tone and emphasis of a blog entry – especially if it’s not overused. Besides, it’s fucking hysterical.

    Congrats on being FP!!
    Linda

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  51. Your points are well taken. I haven’t read any of your other articles yet, but your writing skill is in plain view.

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  52. Pingback: Freshly Pressed…Shameless Vulgarity and Ingratitude | The Green Study

  53. profanity has its own rules – overuse and they seem to be a part of the language, use ’em before a child and you have the guilt or tongue biting experience, underuse them and you feel them missing….
    aaah, the balance….where the hell can one find the damned semblance!
    f**k it!!!
    congratulations on being freshly pressed. interesting read.

    Like

    • Thanks for the congrats! My husband thinks that cuss words should be used in no context ever, under any circumstances, just to avoid all the confusing “rules” you have mentioned. Sometimes it strikes me as bizarre that we have words that are considered more powerful than others, regardless of context. I still think they have a place, they can be amusing, they can be part of emphatic context, but as you pointed out, it requires some effort to use them wisely.

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  54. As a sailor I can relate strongly to the use of profanity. Language at sea and language ashore, or at home are miles apart, and so they should be! There’s a time and a place for some ‘unsavoury’ language, and in my opinion this is what people should learn, no matter what their mastery of the English language.

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    • True. Although these days, especially in pop culture, the boundaries are very blurred. I am still shocked, as an adult, about the kind of language used on television during what are traditionally considered “family viewing” times. More and more, you see the option of buying “clean” versions of songs. We’re surrounded by it, so I think it makes it very difficult for some people to understand where those boundaries lie. So glad to hear from an actual sailor – such a maligned group when it comes to salty language! Unfortunately or fortunately, the general public is catching up. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

      Like

  55. I just finished reading Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr. It’s a surprisingly academic work on, you guessed it, the history of swearing and how the idea of what is considered offensive changes with time and place. Very interesting read.
    I just wrote a post where I used the “f” word and I struggled with whether I should keep it in or not but taking it out would not have been true to what I was feeling at the time. So it fucking stayed in.

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    • Salon.com ran an excerpt of her book, which I referenced in one of the older comments. I have that on my reading list, since I am interested in the history of words and language usage.
      I still get hung up on the F-bomb. It is likely because in real life, it’s used as a constant adjective in my head and I tend to edit out a lot of adjectives. Reviewing my posts, I appear to favor shit, bullshit and a lot of ass variations: dumbass, jackass. Really, I need to branch out a bit more.
      But I feel like I opened the floodgates with my profanity post, so now I have to reel things back in a bit. I still know how to write without swear words and for the most part, I do. It was weird to hear that somebody noticed them.
      As you illustrated, sometimes there is just no other word that does the trick!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting – it’s appreciated!

      Like

  56. Pingback: is there any need for it? | beanreviewing

  57. Such an interesting debate…as a Literature student with a very prudish parent I find myself entering into this discussion a lot. I think that swearing, just like with slang, idioms and regional-specific dialect makes our language more vibrant and colourful, and when used sparingly and correctly, can add meaning, conviction and humour to our conversation. I’d be more offended by used-up cliches being thrown at me than at the occasional ‘shit’ ‘wank’ or ‘bollocks’.

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    • I put the overuse of profanity on par with cliches. It just gets tiresome, but because it’s all so subjective everyone has a different line in the sand. I think because of that, awareness in public places should be cultivated. Here, on a blog or in conversation with friends, your audience is one of choice. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  58. I enjoyed this post. It made me think. I try as much as I can not to swear in public or in my writing, but admittedly, my mind is full of it. I worked at a summer camp this summer, so I had to stifle myself even more than usual. I tend to find profanity more acceptable in writing, than in everyday speech, especially when I’m assaulted by it constantly outside of my college. Profanity, like any speech has a time and a place, and constantly hearing it used tastelessly just makes me feel numb.

    Like

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! It’s interesting that you feel differently about it in writing, but perhaps since writing demands some level of organized thought, the use of profanity is more thoughtful and measured – although I’ve certainly seen where that doesn’t seem to be the case! I think in everyday conversation it becomes annoying, since it loses its emphatic purpose and strength.

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  59. Really interesting thoughts! I grew up around a lot of builders, so I was always surrounded by profanity and even now, as I become more educated and cultured, I always fall-back on a string of obscenities whenever anything gets too much. The trick is knowing when such language is appropriate, such as among family or friends who know you well and not in a business meeting! At the end of a long, hard and frustrating day, there’s nothing more satisfying then coming home and telling it like it is to your understanding partner! It’s the quickest and least-violent way I know to vent my anger, and as someone who’s passionate about language, I can’t help but enjoy a little bit of linguistic rebellion from time to time!

    Like

    • That is the real trick – not just knowing when language is appropriate, but also being able to maintain those boundaries. I like the description of “linguistic rebellion”. I’ve had a long, hard frustrating day – there will be some verbal rioting this evening (after the kid has gone to bed). Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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  60. Wow there were so many places in this article that I wanted to jump in but I guess one of the more prominent was when the term ‘asshole’ was mentioned. My dad used to use that a lot and it was a stress point in my Mom’s life and so much so, she hates the expression today.

    Sometimes the language is born of frustration and indeed to alleviate our own anxieties. When we realize that we too are the author of someone’s else’s angst, we can take a step back and see how we can challenge our notions and perhaps keep things in perspective.

    When colorful language becomes a battering ram to decorum. When conceit and general rudeness is imposed on us relentlessly, then it is more than a point of emphasis, like the N word for example, then is destructive. Otherwise it is just poetry and drama.

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    • Context is everything, as well as recognizing, as your family story illustrates, that words carry different weight for different people. Hence the need to have some boundaries in mixed company. I’ve never taken to the notion that the use of the word by the minority it insults removes its ability to be powerfully hurtful. In the case of profanity, however, overuse seems to diminish its usefulness and its power.

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  61. Hey Michelle, thanks for writing this I loved it and it inspired me to write my own article on my new blog. Have a look…

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  62. Swearing is a strange thing, everybody does it at some point, and some overuse it, as you’ve said. But in the end, they’re just words. And while I try to curb my language I understand that most people don’t even bother! And I never swear AT someone…more at myself or just at the situation… I guess. Ha, anyway it didn’t seem like you overdo it. x

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  63. Thank you for this. I agree entirely with everything you said. If people don’t like the way you speak your mind, they can get the hell off your page.

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  64. Hey Michelle,
    Thank you for this. This is one helluva post and it inspired me to create my own blog. I love the way you speak your mind and I am attempting to do the same….we’ll see where that leads me.

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  65. SHIT ! My language is ‘terrible’ by choice….I have not read all the responses to your blog but I would urge you to check out the You Tube clip of Stephen Fry tackling the enemies of swearing/’bad’ language….he is ,as ever charming and persuasive and by the end of it I for one felt fully justified in my use/overuse of profanity….thank you Stephen.
    It’s funny though because I have made my living as an entertainer for over 20 years, mainly for a ‘family’ audience…on occasion I am required to perform to an ‘adult’/post watershed audience and on these occasions I have taken the opportunity to deliberately swear. And far from being the liberating experience I thought it would be it has felt gratuitous and self indulgent. Odd because so many performers I like and admire make a virtue of swearing Billy Conn
    elly Richard (Motherfucking) Pryor, Bill Hicks et al
    Also funnily enough , like you ,all my adult like I have been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut and read an essay of his lately from the wonderful collection Palm Sunday in which he discusses the fact that his book ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ was burned in some states in America on the grounds of its supposed profanity & ‘anti patriotic’ stance. He writes a letter to the governer of one of these state pointing out that there is only one instance of profanity in the entire book…and it is this “get out of the goddam road you dumb motherfucker” shouted by a soldier to a pastor who was in danger of drawing enemy fire onto allied troops…he points out that using coarse language in the military and at a time of high stress should be seen by no-one as unreasonable!! However seeing as he was writing to people who burnt his book without having read a word of it I guess he may well have been wasting his words !!! Hey Ho…..as the man himself might have said..

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    • Being a tremendous fan of standup comedy and improv, I’ve thought often about what makes the use of profanity funny and when it just seems gratuitous. Most of the comics I follow use some profanity, but I find their humor smart, incisive and the use of profanity fits into whatever narrative they’re telling. Swearing, in and of itself, is not funny, which is where I think a lot of entertainers go wrong. As you discovered, if it’s not part of your usual narrative, it can feel awkward and really disrupt the flow of a performance. And I think you can tell when a performer is not “feeling it” and unless he or she can include the audience in the joke of swearing awkwardness, it detracts from that which might otherwise be a solid set.
      The book censorship issue has always been disturbing to me. What constitutes profane is so incredibly subjective that I find anyone shrieking about profanity and banning books to be highly suspect, both in their character and thought processes.

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  66. Hm this definitely made me sit back and consider my rather liberal use of expletives in blog posts- I’ve always tried to play it be ear and use them for strategic comedic effect. Reminds me of a “scientific fact” my friend shared a few years ago- that using swear words when you’re pain can actually help alleviate it, but only if they retain their full potency in your mind. So she has a few zingers saved for the day she’s like drawn and quartered.

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    • “strategic comedic effect” – perfectly phrased! Those adjectives are fairly subjective, leaving a wide margin for interpretation, but readers are a subjective lot, so one person’s abundance of swearing is merely conversational English to another. I believe swearing alleviates my stress when I drive, scientific or not! It saves lives.

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  67. I didn’t read the many previous comments on this as I itched to come here almost as soon as I started reading this post. I’m a fairly new blogger (5 Iweeks) and in my About page I give a bit of a “warning” to readers that I’m an adult and I’ve explained to my kids, because I swear A LOT and in front of them, that when they turn 18 they can make the decision as to whether or not they choose this “strong/impactful” kind of language. I don’t smoke, drink, do drugs, shop, or gamble, and I refuse to apologize for swearing. Would I swear in front of the Queen of England or Mother Teresa? Maybe not, but in the meantime I’m so thrilled to meet, in the blogosphere someone similar to me 🙂

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    • My 10-year-old is pretty sharp so we have a lot of discussions about when things are appropriate. I think context is everything. I’ve loosened up as I move into the fiction realm and as my daughter gets older.

      Congratulations on starting a blog! It’s been a very good experience for me and I’ve enjoyed “meeting” so many people. I hope you enjoy your experiences in blogland.

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    • That’s a good point. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments that followed. I have some favorite words and words that I really dislike using, with no specific rhyme or reason, except personal history. The Brits and the Russians have some outstanding swear words and expressions, many of which I catch myself thinking, if not using.

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  68. There’s certainly a great deal to know about this issue.
    I really like all of the points you’ve made.

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