Thursday, July 16, 2009

@#$%&*(!! Swearing

Swearing is in some places in our culture ubiquitous and persistent and in others taboo and hush hush. Specific places and occupations are known for it, while in others you'd be surprised to heard even a replacement swear word. Be forewarned, you may seem some cuss words below, so if you are averse to them, please skip this post.

Still with me? Good.

Many of us as children heard something akin to the phrase "don't say that, it's a bad word." Though the unspoken question loomed, we never asked it. "Why is it a bad word?" Why is it that "darn" is taking the Lord's name in vain as I was told? A very good question.

First, let's look at what taking the Lord's name in vain really means. It has nothing to do with cuss words. The word profane is rooted in the idea of something being exterior to the temple or church. Originally, if you used the word profane, it meant something more like secular, but one thing you need to understand is that languages evolve. Eventually, the word profane came to mean what we think of it today. Profanity is something that is uttered in blasphemy of God or insult to something else. "Taking the LORD's name in vain" on it's own has to do with what LORD means. If you read in the old testament and encounter the word LORD in all caps, it means YHVH, God's "name." Transliterated it matches roughly to "Yahweh." While it could mean using God's name in blasphemy, in my view, it more likely fits more tightly in the manner of claiming to be God's follower, and not following him. If you marry a man, you take his name. We are the bride of Christ, so taking his name in vain would be claiming him as husband, but cheating, as it were.

Evolution, there's an interesting concept. I don't believe in naturalistic evolution, except for in language. Most people do understand that languages change a bit over time, all you need to do is read a KJV bible and that will be obvious, but how much do they change? If you were to go back in time more than about four hundred years, you would barely be able to communicate with someone speaking what is today known as English. The same goes for most languages. Unless there is a solid linguistic work by which everyone gets their stuff (such as some sort of scripture) languages will evolve quite quickly. The language as we know it today didn't really come to be until about a thousand years ago.

Word's meanings change and their use as profanity change as well. For instance, you might think that the top bad word would be fuck anywhere English is spoken. Not so, in Britain, it is cunt. Also on thier top ten list is bastard and bollocks. Bollocks is kind of interesting because I hear "balls" among the guys and some of the girls quite commonly in our church youth group. And bastard is generally a noun. Interestingly enough, "bitch" isn't on their list.

And then there's the George Carlin classic bit "The seven words you can't say on TV" the words you can't say on American TV. And of course, those are shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Though breasts and boobs are ok to say. I was quite surprised the first time I heard a teenage girl use the word tits.

But the biggest thing swearing communicates to me is the intelligence of the utterer. It is technically grammatically correct to say "Fuck the fucking fucker" because the word fuck can be used as virtually any part of speech. However, how intelligent would I be if I used the same word for every adjective, verb, and adverb? "Sail the sailing sailor." "Shit the shitting shitter." "Beat the beating beater." "Picture the picturing picture." "Bowl the bowling bowler" etc., you get the point.

I have worked in a number of environments where profuse swearing was commonplace. Thus, it is quite difficult for me not to swear, but I do pull it off. I don't understand how poeple can accidentally swear, for me it is completely purposeful. As with other facets of my speech patterns, I use swear words sparingly and only to make my words memorable. People say I don't have a filter, but the thing is, a filter is a distortion of honesty. It is not necessarily dishonesty, but it hides the true feelings of the speaker. The true feelings are those communicated by any means necessary, including swear words.

I've thought of trying out radical honesty, but I just don't think people around me can handle it. Radical honesty is where you say everything you think, completely and unfiltered. I'm not sure whether if I did that if I would have any friends at all and it is that ambiguity that keeps me from trying it. You see, down inside, I'm a very coarse and harsh person. Properly filtered, people see me as honest and open, but unfiltered, I think people would see me as too much to handle. It's not that I'm mean, it's just that I more clearly think about the things that other people won't say. I mean what do you say when someone says "isn't my brand new baby so cute and beautiful," when inside I'm thinking "that kid is ugly as a mangy bear, and you look just like him/her." See what I mean, people don't like it when you say things like that, so I don't.

But back to swearing. Remember, swear words are words, and while words have power, that power changes over time. The meanings of words change over time. But they are just words. Cool used to mean cold. Queer used to mean weird. Gay used to mean happy. Cock used to mean rooster. Ass used to mean donkey. Bitch used to mean dog. It's not that big of a deal, personally, some valley girl who uses the word "like" too much is just as annoying as people who use the word "fuck" too much. On the other hand, if you have a broad vocabulary and both like and fuck are put in their place, you have a better chance of being an interesting person to talk to.

Harry Bollocks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I laughed through this whole post! Thanks! I use the word "bollocks" quite frequently usually in a funny manner- or at least it makes people laugh when I use it. I like the word personally.
I find it humorous that you would even think to call someone's baby as looking like a mangy bear. I think I laughed out loud at that one. Mangy bear. man, that kid must have been ugly! I don't think any newborns are cute, personally. I loved mine because he was mine and between us, I thought he was ugly but so ugly he was adorable... like a pug or something. I felt protective of his ugliness... :)
I love random history, good job!