In Defence of Curse Words

Photo by Derek Jensen.
Photo by Derek Jensen.

We all know people who don’t like hearing profanity.  If you’re one of them, stop reading now. 😉

There are a handful of things in this world that I find incredibly offensive. With one exception that I’ll talk about in a little bit,  swearing isn’t one of them for the following reasons:

1) Everything is inappropriate sometimes. Of course there are times when it’s inappropriate to use salty language, although the same thing can be said for a lot of different ways of speaking. No one who is serious about finding a new job would write “LOL” in their cover letter, but it’s completely ok to respond with that sort of thing when a family member tells you a funny story about their kid.

2) Sometimes they’re the best choice for how you’re feeling. There’s a difference between having a long, exhausting day and having a shitty one. A long day can still be filled with a lot of joy. For example, getting married or having a baby are life-changing events. You’ll probably end up feeling really tired at the end of them, but it’s a good kind of exhaustion. The memories you make on days like those are almost guaranteed to be warm and happy ones. The memories you make on a day when you nearly die in a car accident are probably going to be filled with pain and terror. Calling that experience shitty is completely justified.

3) It’s persuasive.  It takes a lot for me to become this angry (or surprised, or shocked). Anyone who knows me well can instantly tell that I have exceptionally strong feelings about whatever it was that riled me up based on that one little word alone. I don’t need to give a long, involved speech about what I’m feeling in those situations. It’s blatantly obvious.

4) They’re just words. The worst thing they can do is give you a temporary derpy expression if you weren’t expecting to hear them. I have an aversion to the word fester. It sounds so disgusting, but I also realize that it can’t actually hurt me.

Which brings me to the one exception I make in this argument: it’s not acceptable to use curse words against someone. There’s a big difference between talking about that fucked up thing so-and-so did and referring to them as a fucking *****.

Certain words have horrifically violent histories. They were – and are – used is absolutely reprehensible ways by people who intend to cause physical harm.

I’d never support any legislation that makes it illegal to use these terms, but I would quickly back away from a friendship with anyone who insisted on saying them around me. Having the legal right to say something doesn’t mean that other people have to listen.

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