I’ve got a dirty mouth, according to some (most) of my acquaintances. I have no compunction against profanity-as-punctuation, so to speak. I’m the first to fly the f-word and the slightest provocation – or to use it as such, if there is none – and respect those that can cuss like a drunken sailor without pause or consideration. The proper use of profanity can be, at times, an indicator of verbal dexterity and mastery of language. As Mark Twain once said, “Let us swear while we may, for in heaven it will not be allowed.” [As a side note, to fully invest in this missive you'd have to a) believe in heaven, and b) have faith that those who swear will still make it to heaven. Wouldn't that violate the 3rd Commandment?]
Detractors would argue that profanity is the last refuge of the intellectually vapid – those without more dignified means of expressing themselves without resorting to 4-letter words. I disagree. Once again from the brilliant Twain: “The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong. He can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way.” This obviously poses a conundrum of sorts – how does one swear in a nice, benevolent, affectionate way? If, for example, I call my wife a ‘bitch’ in anger, that, to me, is profane (and not in the good way)… If, however, I say “you’re a silly bitch” whilst she is, in fact, being silly, and I follow the statement with a smile and a kiss on the forehead, have I still sworn? Yes. But have I sworn in order to cause offense or denigrate? No. The difference here is intent – regardless of the words used, what is the intended effect of the uttered statement?
I knew a pastor years back – a brilliant man, incredibly well-spoken and versed (ha!) in the bible, who, instead of using any of the more common and un-church-like ‘derogatories’, resorted to calling people ‘bounders’. For example, if someone cut him off in traffic? “That bounder!” If someone missed an appointment? “Bounder!” The term ‘bounder’ is not widely recognized as a common profanity, so he felt justified that he wasn’t, in fact, swearing. (Although if he used biblical theology as his linguistic litmus test, I’m not convinced that ‘fuck’ would appear in ancient Aramaic.) However, the intent was the same – he simply used one seemingly innocuous missive in place of another, more widely regarded, swear. Thus the question: Is the word, or the intent behind it, more intrinsic to its classification as a ’swear word’?
I, on the other hand, do tend to use profanity to its fullest, most vile, malignant, shock-inducing intent. I love swearing. The fact that we as an evolved primate have developed a means by which to express hatred, dislike, discomfort, annoyance, surprise, appreciation, and damn-near every other emotion or reaction speaks volumes about our collective intellect. Sometimes it’s a positive affirmation; sometimes it’s a threat. Sometimes it’s full of rainbows and bunnies and still, mayhap ideally, it’s full of putrid vitriol that stuns and scares and emboldens the self. Perhaps profanity is the last level of linguistic evolution, beyond the basic ‘need food, make fire, breed’ guttural exchanges. It eschews the notion of ‘communication fosters life’ and allows one to communicate about, not just for, their life. True, the same can be said for poetry, music, abstract philosophy, but that’s not germane to this post. Fuck it.
‘Fuck’. I love that word. It is arguable the most diverse word in the English language. It’s a verb, noun, adjective, adverb, modifier, place-holder, expression, question (“what the fuck?”), exclamation, and many other categorizations I should have learned in school. It can be used anywhere, ubiquitously, interchangeably, and is nigh-unto-perfect in its form, function, phonetic appeal, and intent. I once heard a street preacher in Toronto shout “Jesus Fucking Christ!” Awesome. And why not? It’s just a string of 4 random letters – the intent being far more important than the form.
But one must have limits, of course. I do moderate my speech in the presence of those with whom I’ve just become acquainted, those whom I know are easily offended by less-than-christian tongue, those with a fucking stick up their ass who believe a random gathering of 4 (or more) letters in some man-made language is just cause for feigning ‘the vapors’ and fainting in some puritanical display of sanctity. I find their offense humourous, laughable, and confusing at the same time, but I acknowledge their stuck-up-edness.
There are a number of curse words one can use in daily life. George Carlin did a greatservice to the world by expounding on the “7 words you can’t say on TV.” (Although, this being Europe, one has to chuckle at the fact at there are uncensored shows, movies, and porn(!) on TV…) Of them all, still, my personal favourite is ‘fuck’. A wise yogi can describe the word’s dexterity far more eloquently. I drop the F-bomb daily, if not hourly, in any number of ways, intents, and situations. I have, however, co-opted the phrase “pooh-sticks” as a more benign, socially acceptable way of saying ‘darn’ or ‘damn’ or “shit’s fucked up, yo.” A. A. Milne would be mortified…
But again, fuck it.