July 22, 2011 4 Comments
Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits.
You may be wondering why there is a post on swearing on an atheist blog. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost I want to emphasise this is not a blog for everyone. And if this doesn’t help prove that I don’t know what will. Secondly, although I am an atheist I’m less interested in hammering on religion than I am in hammer on critical thinking. So let’s begin.
Words don’t have meaning. They are a random assortment of sounds, compiled in a way that is just as random. Any meaning words have they have because we assigned that meaning to them. Any offence we take to words then, is offence we choose to take, just as we choose the meaning to the word. Therefore it is not the word itself that is offensive, but the meaning behind the word.
We all swear. This is something that needs to be recognised if we are ever to get over this ‘proper’ crap. Remember it is not the word that is offensive, but the meaning behind the word. Therefore when your dear grandmother says ‘shoot’ or ‘sugar’ when stubbing her toe you should instantly recognise that she didn’t actually mean ‘shoot’ or ‘sugar’, she in fact meant ‘shit’.
How do we know this? ‘Shoot’ and ‘sugar’ are words that already have meaning. ‘Shoot’ is something that someone does with a gun when rabbiting, and ‘sugar’ is something that grandmother likes in her coffee (although not her tea, she’s already sweet enough). To stub your toe and request sugar doesn’t make any sense. Sugar has no healing properties. Sucking on a teaspoon of sugar will do nothing to heal the pain in her toe. So why on earth does grandmother utter ‘sugar’ when in pain?
The answer is obvious. Grandmother believes in ‘proper’ language and wouldn’t be caught dead uttering such atrocities, however, she really wants to swear. So instead of using the improper word she uses another. This may fool some people who have come to accept that words themselves have meaning, but we should recognise better. Grandmother is in fact swearing, although you’ll have issues getting her to admit it. The meaning behind her utterance is not a request for a sweetener, it is an attempt to blow off steam and possibly to draw some sympathy. The meaning behind her language is identical to my use of the word ‘shit’ in the same circumstance.
Some people think it limits your language to use dirty words. This is absolutely not the case. Sadly it is often true that people who use such words do have a limited vocabulary. I’ve met several people who couldn’t go a sentence without using ‘fuck’. But let’s not confuse limited vocabulary as the cause for swearing as this is an entirely different matter.
To limit ones vocabulary by removing these words is almost as detrimental as only using them. Language is nothing more than a way of communicating meaning. If I were to remove my ability to communicate a certain level of pain, frustration or anger I would be limited my ability to communicate with people. Surely this can only be detrimental.
That’s not to say these words should be thrown around willy-nilly. There is a time and place for such words as the occasion calls for it. To use ‘fuck’ as every second or third word dilutes its meaning and makes it less impactful when it is truly needed.
Please understand that language is there for us to communicate and nothing more. Never confuse the assortment of sounds coming out of someones mouth for anything but the intended meaning for which they were spoken. Remember to speak with respect to your audience. Using ‘god fucking damn it’ in front of your grandmother for dropping her teacup is not going to do you any favours. But also remember that when the time calls for it, a great big ‘fuck you cunt’ may be necessary to express how you truly feel, and that when the time is appropriate not to shy away from such language for the fear of sounding improper.
And now as a counter example to grandma, here’s an occassion where I wholeheartedly agree foul language is needed to get the points across. And I challenge anyone to disagree.
Seven dirty words: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_dirty_words#The_words
Oh, and while we’re on the subject. Nigger. Suck it up princess. Perhaps at some point I’ll dedicate an entire post to this ridiculously abused word.