I try to be careful about it. And, as with most people, I am careful especially in the work environment. I am even cognizant of it here in my writing.
But, in the end, I swear.
I am not opposed to dropping the ‘f bomb’ if it is a useful adjective (although I believe I have used it as a pronoun, noun, verb, adverb, compound word … whatever … and even possibly as a piece of punctuation if that is possible).
I have found it significantly more effective than simply “talk to the hand” methodology (which I have actually found to STIMULATE swearing).
I imagine swearing when someone is stressed, extremely angry, when one gets hurt, or when someone is surprised by something major (such as being in a car accident) is understandable and even may be acceptable in today’s world.
But I discuss with myself (typically in my own head and not out loud) if it’s pathetic when swearing is part of someone’s everyday language <me included in the someone’s category>.
“Swearing is the means by which the inarticulate give themselves the impression of eloquence.” – Talleyrand (and the bastard said it a couple centuries ago …)
I have a couple of choice words for Talleyrand but that said it does make me think. And, yet, having said that …. pretty much everyone swears (excepting maybe my mother …. but I did draw a “damn, damn … damn you” from her at some point in my tweens … oh … but that is a different post).
Does ‘the majority’ make it acceptable? Maybe even diminish it’s ‘inarticulate’ label?
Well. Here is what we swearers have going for us (and my belief that “swearing is a good and healthy activity”).
Some guy actually studied swearing in the workplace (go figure … they got studies for everything). Because swearing is risky, you would tend to believe the safest situation in which to swear is one in which your hearer has already been a co-conspirator in the world of swearing (translation: you have shared f-bombs in the past).
Au contraire mon frère (that’s not swearing … even in foreign language).
Not true the study says.
Its one thing if someone steps up to the plate and calls you or someone else an asshole but quite another situation to use that as an invitation to do some swearing yourself.
That is a swearing faux pas according to the study.
My mother believes swearing is a weak mind trying to express itself because they aren’t smart enough to articulate it with “real words.” And, honestly, a part of me agrees with her <even though I do believe word choice, even swear words, is a generational characteristic>. And, I will add, even though a swearing proponent am I, I would agree that it’s one thing to swear a blue streak if you stub your toe on a piece of furniture or if you’re having a very rotten day.
And it’s another thing if a person feels the need to use the f bomb every second or third word.
That person seriously needs to buy a dictionary in order to expand his/her vocabulary.
I guess I could argue my use of swear words is lazy thinking. I imagine I should find another word that captures the essence of the f bomb I am tempted to drop on significant amount of occasions.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh … but here is another “but” (to defend myself).
On the other hand, the Guardian (one of my favorite best written papers in the world) thinks the appropriate use of swear words is effective in communicating the message. They’re just words for fuck’s sake (those were their words … published as a matter of fact … so who the fuck am I to disagree?).
Swear words do carry emotive content, that otherwise is more difficult to convey, and they really are just words.
I believe the Guardian is typically judicious in their use of ‘mature language’ and a bit of well-placed swearing works wonders in communication:
- “After Blair’s duplicity and warmongering, Blunkett and Straw’s attacks on liberty, Blears and Smith’s tendency to charge their Kitkats and porn to the public, Prescott fucking his secretary, and Brown fucking the economy, what an indictment of Cameron that the Tories aren’t a shoo-in at the election.”
(how awesome is that)
Same goes for the journalism in the paper. If it works, use it. But don’t if it doesn’t. Oh. And don’t overdo it.
How do people, like, not curse? How is it possible? There are these gaps in speech where you just have to put a “fuck.” I’ll tell you who the most admirable people in the world are: newscasters. If that was me, I’d be like, “And the motherfuckers flew the fucking plane right into the Twin Towers.” How could you not, if you’re a human being? Maybe they’re not so admirable. Maybe they’re robot zombies.— Nick Hornby (A Long Way Down)
So I have some things going for my swearing habit.
Swearing isn’t always a good idea, but the writers of the Guardian, and most of its readers, are grown-ups. In fact … most of us are grownups (I won’t do the research but assuming I look at the global population I envision a bigger % in the 18+ column than in the 1-17 column).
And in today’s world many of these words are not ‘bad’ language … they are just language. Often they are used because we don’t have the vocabulary to use a different word, sometimes because they can be exceptionally expressive.
Look. In his day Shakespeare was quite happy to use them.
I probably have a well earned reputation for this type of language, but, c’mon, nowadays even the most saintly person we know has trouble resisting a “jesus christ!” or “shit!” on occasion <just doing a good job of avoiding several key monster swear words>.
Another good piece of news … well no .. its GREAT news.
It turns out that swearing actually relieves pain. This according to a new study by Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University in the UK (yeah … no shit … ANOTHER study on swearing).
Their study shows that there are many positive, beneficial aspects of swearing, including harmless venting and social bonding.
Swearing does a lot of good.
In Stephens’ study, college students were asked to list “five words you might use after hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer” (they came up with fuck, shit, bugger, bastard, bollocks, etc.) and “five words to describe a table” (such as brown, flat, and hard). If there was a swear word on the first list, they would repeat that word at a steady rhythm and volume (no yelling allowed) while one hand was submerged in cold water.
The same procedure was then followed with the non-filthy word.
Going into the study, the researchers believed that swearing was actually a type of pain-related catastrophising—in other words, a “maladaptive response to pain” that made things like horrible agony worse, not better. But Stephens and company found that “…repeating a swear word, compared with repeating a neutral word, allowed participants to hold their hands in ice cold water for 40 seconds longer (on average), they perceived less pain on a pain perception scale (questionnaire) and they had a larger heart rate increase. Because we saw an increase in heart rate we think that people had an emotional reaction to swearing (indicated by the increase in heart rate), bringing about the fight or flight response, which is known to increase pain tolerance (make people more able to withstand pain).”
In a nutshell, swearing has an analgesic, pain-lessening effect that could give Ibuprofen a run for its money, probably by working us into an aggressive, heightened state.
(so we swearers have this going for us)
But there is more.
If pain relief isn’t enough to make you part of the swearers of the world consider the work of Timothy Jay, Professor of Psychology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who has repeatedly found that “…swearing is a common conversational practice resulting in no obvious harm.” (no shit <part 2> … ANOTHER study on swearing)
His work makes clear that social cohesion, emotional satisfaction, and humor are among the top good things about bad words.
Wow. This is Maslow stuff. Self actualization, self esteem and socialization … all in association with swearing … kind of makes you wonder if Maslow was a swearer.
Anyway. Back to the study. Jay also defended another positive of swearing:
“Angry swearing can help the speaker change the listener’s behavior—yelling at someone who did something wrong—‘you fucking idiot, you made an illegal left turn, cutting me off.’ Much of swearing is like this, a corrective measure, but usually between people who know each other.”
And much less dangerous than road rage pulling out a gun and shooting someone as far as corrective measures.
Next (as you ponder that last thought).
You have to wonder whether more innocent exclamations like “Zeus’s lightning bolts!” or “noodlenuts!” (or ‘frak’ from Battlestar Gallactica which I have to include because I include a quote reference soon) have the same beneficial effects.
Fay emphatically has an answer:
“NO. Euphemisms exist because they don’t do what the more offensive words do…. We already have a rich vocab and the inventions have to compete for space, which they don’t very well, historically speaking. The seven dirty words have been around for centuries.”
And apparently Stephens agrees:
“…I doubt they (pain-sufferers) would have the same emotional reaction to frak, although because frak is somewhat similar to fuck, maybe there would be a lesser effect. That remains to be seen.”
One last thought (from an expert on swearing not me).
Stephens said, “…it fits with our theory that people can self-regulate their own emotional state by swearing—think of a sports team coach using four letter words in a team talk about getting at the opposing team). On the other hand, if it is the shock value of the words that produces the effect then one would expect overuse of swear words to lessen the effect. Investigating this would make a great follow-up study.”
One last thought (from me).
Hell yes … investigating this would make a great follow up study.
All that said. Swear on, my friends.
It relieves pain, is a great social bonding tool and its fun.