**Warning: While I will not use actual curse words in this post, I will use them in a censored fashion, with the first letter shown and the rest ‘*’ed out. Also, slightly mature content, due to the nature of the words discussed.**
I don’t approve of the casual use of curse words. But neither am I one of those who thinks that all profanity is all bad in all situations. I believe that all words have a place, profanity among them. Profanity’s place is to highly emphasize, usually in a negative way. That is why the profanity I hear nowadays bothers me; not because it is used at all, but because it is overused incorrectly.
The reason I’m doing this post is because of my friend’s yearbook. She gave it to me to sign, so I open it up, and the first thing that pops out at me is someone else’s signature:
“You are f***ing amazing, and you’re the f***ing s***. Keep being f***ing awesome.”
… Really? Really? I was irked, and proceeded to write half a page of elegant prose in her yearbook, as though I could make up for the crudeness of all her other friends. That didn’t feel like enough, so now I’m educating all my readers on appropriate profanity.
Let me first address when it is not appropriate to use profanity. If you’re complimenting something, don’t use profanity. Saying something is ‘f***ing amazing’ is meaningless. It doesn’t even make sense, given what the f-word really means. If you want to use more than one curse word in a sentence, don’t use profanity. Profanity is to emphasize. If you make an entire paragraph bold, nothing in it will stand out.
Example: An attractive person walks by.
- Bad: D***, that mother****er is ****ing fine as ****ing ****!
- Better: Whoa, that person is d*** fine! (Still not good, as you shouldn’t use profanity with a compliment.
- Good: Whoa, that person is incredibly fine!
- What I would say: Whoa, that woman is incredibly beautiful. (Since I would only comment on a girl, and don’t like the term ‘fine’.)
Now, for when it is appropriate to use profanity. If you drop something very heavy on your foot, it’s okay to swear. Once. I saw a study that suggested that the hormones released by swearing actually do help you tolerate the pain. If something horrifically or catastrophically bad happens, or if you’re shocked in a way that you could never have anticipated, it’s okay to swear. Those are the situations that profanity was meant for.
Example (Stolen from Firefly): You walk into the middle of a town in which one of your crew members is a wanted fugitive, after stealing a fortune from the magistrate. You see a statue in his honor.
- Bad: What the f*** is this f***ing statue of Jayne doing in f***ing town square?! (Remember, only one.)
- Good: … Son of a b****!
Finally, situations in which you should never use profanity, even if one of the acceptable situations happens. First, in the presence of children. Second, at formal events, eg., weddings, funerals, interviews, and any black-and-white event. I would say you shouldn’t swear in front of women either, but that opens up a whole other can of worms that I’m saving for my gender roles post.
Basically, profanity is an extremely limited tool than grows weaker each time you use it. When the thug with his pants around his knees looks behind you and says, “What the h*** is that?!”, you don’t react with undo haste, since that’s how he speaks. When your pastor says the same thing, you whip around to see what he’s talking about, because if the pastor’s using profanity, it’s serious. Precision F-bombs have more effect than carpet-bombing with F-bombs.
So, know your place! Only use profanity in times of most dire need. “I dropped my keys” does not need an expletive. “The Empire State Building is falling out of the sky” does.
P.S. The expletive in the title is ironic. So don’t send me any stupid emails.