It’s pretty obvious which side we’re on when it comes to cussin’ up a storm, but we’re well aware of people who think profanity is always inappropriate. Here are our answers to the criticisms most often flung at us lovers of lewd language:
“It’s a reflection of a limited vocabulary”
(or poor communication skills, or low intelligence, or poor education, or poor breeding)
- The maximum vocabulary of someone who swears will always be 5-50 words (ish) larger than the maximum vocabulary of someone who doesn’t swear. Math, bitch.
- And most of the time, there simply isn’t an alternative that captures the nuances you want with a profanity.
- It’s science. Swearing increases pain tolerance, makes your speeches more persuasive, and can be used to build rapport.
- Using the word which captures precisely the sentiment you want, vs using a word which isn’t quite right – which one demonstrates greater language competency? Pretty sure it’s Option 1.
- If you’re the sort of person who uses the word “breeding” in reference to humans… you can fuck off back to whatever KKK chapter you crawled out of.
“It’s a sign of how bad society’s becoming”
(or a proper lady/gentleman/pomeranian wouldn’t swear, or it’s not decent, or those young whippersnappers)
- Times change, and change isn’t always a bad thing. People in the past were fond of racially segregated classrooms, bathing once a month, and women not being able to vote (inter alia), so let’s not kid ourselves about the good ol’ days.
- There are actually some offensive words that are used less these days, particularly those of with a racist bent.
- Profanity is a time-honoured literary tradition. The main swear words used in English today are centuries old – Shakespeare has a bunch of jokes centred around the word “cunt”.
Of course, there are some caveats:
Hateful language =/= profanity. We’re just defending the use of certain words here. We’re not fans of bigotry, of the sweary or non-sweary variety.
Swearing too often diminishes its power. The analgesic effect of swearing is less for people who swear more often, and while there’s no science (yet) to back me up here, I’m sure most people would agree that’s the case for cussing’s emotive power. It’s like spice: none is bland, some is amazing, too much is too damn much.
There are some occasions when it’s inappropriate. Job interviews, in front of senior citizens prone to heart attacks… perspective, people.
I’m going to leave you with this fantastic delicious tidbit from Stephen Fry:
Swearing is a really important part of one’s life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing, and without enjoying swearing. There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary. It is such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies, and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a poor vocabulary themselves. The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a fucking lunatic. I haven’t met anybody who’s truly shocked at swearing… really. They’re only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that’s preposterous. Or they say, “It’s not necessary,” as if that should stop one doing it. It’s not necessary to have coloured socks, it’s not necessary for this cushion to be here, but is anyone going to write in and say, “I was shocked to see that cushion there, it really wasn’t necessary”? No. Things not being necessary is what makes life interesting. The little extras in life.