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Friday, April 18, 2014

What Makes A Word Profane?

Warning:This post contains strong language.

Profanity means words considered wrong or dirty to say. What makes them bad? I won't say as a whole, but I will discuss particular words. Some have multiple meanings which may contribute to their negative ones. But first, there are a couple things I'd like to address.

First, I would like to talk about curses being "just words." Of course they're words. But without words, you wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about. That is what language is all about. If it weren't for words, then this post would be just a bunch of meaningless squiggles.

Second, using profanity in a work does not make it "realistic." True, some people like to curse, and a guy who gets shot is probably going to say something stronger than "gosh." I can accept that. But swearing for the sake of swearing does not make a story realistic.

Instead of using asterisks and hyphens to censor the words, I will just say them. (Interesting note:The spell check got set off only on "frick." And I share this computer with other people...)

Damn:This has connections to eternal condemnation, hence why it's cursing.
Hell:This refers to a pit of fire where the damned spent eternity in torment. Are you surprised it's not something one says in polite company?
Ass:The non-swear version of this means donkey. The swear version can mean posterior, jerk, or stupid person. Not sure how it got started.
Variations of God's or Christ's name:The third commandment states you shall not take God's name in vain. Hence why the varieties on His name can be used as dirty words.
Shit:This one tends to mean feces or something worthless. Not sure how it got its start.
Crap:A milder version of "shit." Again, not sure how this got started.
Bastard:I'm not sure why this one is still used as an insult, considering the stigma attached to being an illegitimate child is largely gone now.
Bitch:Not sure why this one in particular is stronger than saying other female animals. After all, calling someone a cow is still an insult. I still don't like if people use it like it's a synonym for "woman", though.
Fuck:This is associated with sex. Hence the reason it's a strong profanity.
Frick, freaking, frig:These are less extreme versions of "fuck." I'm told the last one has connections to masturbation.
Cunt, pussy:This one is easy. It refers to genitalia, more specifically female genitalia. The latter is often used as a stronger version of wimp or wuss.
Dick, prick, cock:Again with the genitalia references. And notice how all these words look similar (two even rhyme).
Tits:Breasts are often considered inappropriate, hence we would have a particular word that is as well.

Not all this words offend me all the time. My policy on profanity is like a story my mother told about a housesitting job she had. At the house, there was a leather couch. The people who owned it told her to wash her hands before sitting on it, and not to eat anything with salt, grease, oil, etc. on the couch. She decided to just eat at the table. That's sort of how things work here. Instead of giving you a list of when you can use certain words, it's simpler and less confusing to just ask you to keep the language down period.

You can use strong language for discussion here.

© 2014 by M.R.R.
All rights reserved.


Laurel Garver said...

Constant use of profanity is a sign of a weak vocabulary, at least to me. It can be as annoying as any other catch phrase if used too much. Substitute "duck" and see if it makes as much sense to have it appear on every single page. Probably not so much. (Boy do I wish the authors of Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist had considered this. Their constant f-bombs just got boring after the first ten pages.)

Nana Prah said...

I like this post. Thanks for sharing. By the way I don't think ass is a true cuss word, but it's my favorite.