Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Vulgarities of Language

I swear.

I mean, I really do swear. Sometimes I can curse like a sailor who just had his leg chopped off by pirates welding machetes.

I don't mean to, but those words just pop right on out of my mouth. I remember having my mouth literally washed out with soap and water when I was young, usually by my grandmother. Apparently the lesson did not stick. But my mother also could swear a blue streak and did so frequently. I think it is an inherited trait.

I try very hard not swear when it matters - in school or on the job, for instance - but sometimes the words flow without any awareness on my part. Sometimes the vulgarities are not even what we might consider swear words, but words that have crept into our language and are now in frequent use.

You know, words like:

Those words in and of themselves are not bad words, but when you use them as a rude verb then the vulgarity kicks in. However, I believe some of these uses are now so commonplace that when someone says, "That sucks," the meaning is simply "that's bad or terrible or not good" and opposed to the more indecent use of the terminology. The dictionaries may disagree, however.

Most vulgarities should make me rather indignant as a woman. Words like "b#tch" and "b*st*rd" are inherently feminine in regular use and thus reflects more upon women than upon the person being yelled at. The two "s" words above are still not great and still reflect upon the female, you know. I am hard pressed to come up with anything that is equally profane that is masculine. The general "dick" just doesn't quite do it; neither does "bull" or anything similar.

Blasphemy goes along with this, too. You know, all of those "Oh my God," and "Jesus F Christ" that people say. Although generally I do less of that, unless I am simply not hearing myself say it (which is always quite possible).

Interestingly, I very rarely use vulgar language when I write. My characters usually don't curse, unless I happen to be writing one who does that with great frequency.

So how about you? Do you try to watch your mouth? Do you have to, or do you have such a good handle on it that you never let it fly?


  1. I swear when I stub a toe... in fact I REALLY swear when I stub a toe because it hurts for Christ sakes!!

    I wonder who was put in charge of deciding which words were curse words?


  2. My dad swore a lot. I don't use the same words he did. Mine are probably worse. I don't like the "son of a..." phrase or the "b*strd one either. But there are some words that are so mean and so harsh that they at least give a slight indicator of the pain I might be feeling at the time. I wish I were nicer and didn't swear. However, I think I am probably healthier than some who never do, since I don't stuff things inside. I try to watch my words around other people because I know that swear words hurt others terribly. But sometimes I forget. Being a farmer gives me lots of opportunities to forget.


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