Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I hate mild expletives...

You know… words like "shucks", "darn", "shoot", "heck", "gosh", or "frick".  I don't like those words.  I don't get pissed if someone uses those words, unless they presume to censor me with them, but I don't like using them myself.  One time, Bill and I went bowling with another military couple.  The wife was a real estate agent and we were thinking about buying a house.  So we went out to dinner and bowling.  I almost said the word "shit" at one point, until the husband quickly (and I assume he thought cutely) butted in and said "shtuff" for me instead.  I bet he caught the profanity in my eyes when I glared at him.

I don't like these mild expletives because I think they are often used as "less offensive" versions of real swear words.  I mean, if you stub your toe and yell "Darn it!", what's the difference if you change a few letters and yell "Dammit!" instead?  Of course, it's a matter of personal preference, I guess.  But I have been known to let 'er rip a few times.

I do acknowledge that there's a time and a place for everything.  It's not appropriate to curse a blue streak in a church or at most job interviews.  Although just yesterday, The Pope accidentally dropped a cuss word by accident.  A lot of news articles are saying that he said "fuck" in Italian, or something equivalent.  An Italian friend says that what he actually said was more equivalent to the word "dick".  She writes:

The GUARDIAN got it wrong. Cazzo does not mean fuck. The expression "Que Cazzo" can mean What the fuck? or What the heck? He meant to say "caso" and instead said "cazzo" which means "dick".

Having once taught English in Armenia, I empathize with The Pope.  I inadvertently dropped a few swear words myself when trying to navigate a new language.  Indeed, some of those inadvertent swear words were not really all that inadvertent.

I think sometimes swear words are useful.  Yes, we should be taught when and where to say them.  But to use them instead of curse words when you really mean the same thing is sort of like using fake fat or artificial sweeteners… somehow not as satisfying.  And the words heck or darn as substitutes just seem silly in some situations.

I remember one time hanging out on a message board run by former Pensacola Christian College students.  These folks went to one of the most conservative colleges in the country.  In fact, it makes BYU and Liberty University seem positively liberal.  At PCC, you can get kicked out just for staring too long at a member of the opposite sex or using the same stairwell.  At any rate, someone on that board wrote that using words like heck or darn is just as blasphemous as using damn or hell, since your intent is essentially the same.  You are using an epithet-- swearing-- and it ultimately means the same thing, just in a "socially more acceptable" form.

Carla Ulbrich sings "If I Had The Copyright on the Word Fuck"…  For some reason, it skips at the end, but you get the idea.

I disagreed a lot with most of the things this guy said… but I had to admit, he had a point when he pointed out that damn and darn are really not so different.

I don't get upset when people use mild expletives, though, unless they are obviously trying to act like they are somehow better people for not using official swear words.  The only reason we have "bad words" in our language is because people have agreed the words are bad.  I wasn't in on that decision, though, and I disagree with it.  And if I choose to express myself with profanity, that's my business.  You may, in turn, choose to think I'm a bad person or uneducated for using that kind of language.  And you'd be wrong.  Words are mere tools.  Pay more attention to the context, not exclusively to the content and you may find yourself thinking differently about language and the black and white definitions of what constitutes good and bad words.


  1. My immediate family consists of prolific cursers.

    1. Bill says that in the Army, it's part of the language. I have always sworn like a sailor.


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