Swearing

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.

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About Jamie D
I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner working in 3D animation and multimedia. I also have a keen interest in technology and education.

4 Responses to Swearing

  1. Rob C. says:

    A very interesting post. I agree and disagree with what you have stated. I guess a paragraph by paragraph break down is required to explain that.

    I’m going to skip to the “Words don’t have meaning” paragraph as the first two don’t apply directly to the topic. You contradict your self by saying word’s don’t have meaning except for the meaning you place behind them, but it did convey the intent. We place meaning upon the symbols and sounds we call words, that is true.

    “We all swear.” No we don’t, as swearing is subjective. “‘proper’ crap”, once again subjective to what one deems as proper and what one deems as crap. But you are correct in that MY grandmother really would be “shit”, although not all grandmothers are like that, and according to your previous statement, her meaning could be an number of things, none of which might be referring to feces. So to state that every readers grandmother is, would be contradictory.

    And “shit” is fecal matter excreted by any number of lifeforms. To stub ones toe and request this substance makes no sense. However, if you use any word and the meaning is to say “I am in pain” or “I should not have put that there” then I guess it doesn’t matter as we place the meaning upon words.

    “proper language” would be using language that accurately describes the meanings which you are trying to convey, this is from long use of the word with said specific meaning or how the word was used originally and the intent and meaning placed upon it at that time. That would be “proper” language, however meanings and intentions are always changing with each generation so often many words are needed to accurately convey that which you are trying to say.

    It doesn’t limit your vocabulary, you are correct. It simply means you are not very creative with your words and lack imagination. (Please note this statement is for humorous purposes and not an actual argument.)

    To use a limited number of words to convey different meanings it to limit ones vocabulary. As an example people use “fuck” to describe, pain, pleasure, annoyance, interest, excitement, anger, happiness. To use a very large number of words to describe a single meaning is to have a large vocabulary. I can’t really give an example of that as my vocabulary is limited….mostly my spelling. But to purposefully limit the use of a word for fear of misinterpretation doesn’t mean that one does not have a limited vocabulary. Communication is subjective to what is being communicated, and who are communicating. A good example is with someone who speaks a different language. Simply state a word and they won’t know what you are trying to communicate, but stub your toe, jump around holding your toe yelling and they are likely going to know that you are in pain regardless of the words you are yelling.

    Yes there is a time and a place for everything, and certain words naturally convey things that shouldn’t be communicated at or to certain individuals. I agree. Umm…..there are words that should never NEED to be used. And if the word “fuck” should ever be needed it is a sad day. The original meaning is essentially legalized rape and to use it in a way that is not how it was originally used degrades the language, and it looses it’s meaning/importance, regardless of intention.

    It is difficult to take someones words at their meaning, when the words chosen have meanings/definitions contrary to their intended meaning. And if you don’t know the definitions and original meanings/intentions of the words you use, it is usually a sign you do have a limited vocabulary.

    As to the movie, I refuse to find amusement from rape. No, I didn’t watch it as that would promote that thing which I refuse, but from your lead up I am assuming that the word “fuck” was in fact used. If it was not, then my statement still stand, just not in pertaining toward the movie.

    That is an end of my reply to your post. Sadly it is almost tomorrow, so I need to get to bed. If you have questions as to my intentions, just say so and I’ll reply back when I can.

    And just to be completely clear as the English language is sometimes miss leading, especially when written. I do not mean any offense or intended to do any harm to you, or your views. All statements have, are and will be made from as neutral position as possible and still be human.

    • JohnMWhite says:

      The movie has nothing to do with finding amusement from rape. The point of the movie is to demonstrate the appropriateness and catharsis that can be found in swearing in the face of horrific situations. The word fuck is used, but not so much in reference to rape as in reference to the Pope, who is a fucking mother fucker.

      And yes, everybody does swear. Swearing is subjective, but it works both ways. I can say ‘crap’ in front of one grandmother and she’ll think it a euphemism, and I can say it in front of another and she’ll think it a swearword all on its own. ‘Swearing’ is not just what you make it yourself, it is also a cultural thing that depends on the interpretations made by other people. That is why when a grandma stubs her toe and says ‘sugar’, you can accurately say she is swearing regardless of whether she thinks she is. There is no great big catalogue of words that are permissible and words that are profane, there is simply the use of a word as an exclamation or curse of some sort.

      The fact that there is no real list of swear words (even if there are seven words you can’t say on television) is why I find the whole concept laughably immature. Swear words are just whatever words fashion dictates are not acceptable in polite company, and that will vary considerably. It is outright ridiculous to suggest that there are certain syllables that uttered in a particular order in a particular tone of voice will anger some god or otherwise be ‘bad’. Words are not inherently good or bad any more than rocks are. But you can use words to cause harm as much as you can throw rocks at someone.

      Longstory short – swearing is bullshit.

      • JohnMWhite says:

        I probably should add that I am of course aware that there are times when saying certain words is inappropriate, but that goes for any behaviour. I simply do not put a moral value on the utterance of syllables. I also, for instance, don’t see masturbation or picking one’s nose as a sin, but neither is something you are likely to do in certain situations.

        • Rob C. says:

          If the word “fuck” is used, it refers, if only indirectly, to legalized rape. You know the movie Braveheart? Well his people were conquered, the conquering nation created a law. This laws name is the root word for “fuck”. It meant that anyone from the conquering nation could legally force any woman of Bravehearts people to have sex with them. Nothing could be done, by her, her family, her husband or anyone else to stop it. Legalized rape. Going from this context, the original context for the word, a “fucking mother fucker” would be a “person who rapes their own or someone elses mother”. I’m sorry. But I don’t find that amusing.

          And for someone who actually cares about the definitions of the words he tries to use, having the word “fuck” used flippantly for the entertainment and amusement of others is disgusting.

          As you should have noticed I have not taken a stance on any other “swear word” because it most often was a result of social influence of the past.

          I am comforted to know that you would not be a person who would decide to pollute the mind of a child. And I don’t mean that in a sarcastic or negative or condescending way. There needs to be more people who realize that not all subject matter is appropriate for children.

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