P, S, C, F, CS, MF, T
“Piss, Shit, Cunt, Cock-sucker, Mother Fucker, and Tits”
-George Carlin, 7 Words You Can't Say On TV
There exists today, in “polite” US society, a facade of verbal dignity; a rejection of the supposed “unclean things” that “cometh out of the mouth”. There are certain words that for some reason or another contain some sort of intrinsic immorality.
Why can we say words that describe awful things, events, and places, one being unending torture and suffering “Hell, the underworld, Outer Darkness, Purgatory, Gehenna, Hades, Abyss, Etc…” but not say “fuck”? In fact, some of you as you read that will cringe, consciously or subconsciously, you may think, “Well that was unnecessary.” or “What an unbecoming choice of words.”. I would at least like to push back somewhat on this norm and hopefully open up the English language’s potential a bit more.
Every argument that I’ve ever heard for self-censorship based off of the word itself, not the subject matter, has fallen short of any semblance of rationality, and with that being the case it’s the first norm I would like to challenge. It’s been said that they (“dirty” words or phrases) paint a negative picture of what you are talking about, indeed it might. Why does that matter though? If the simple reason for not saying a word is that it is disrespects something, well then let us never critique again! Let us speak reverently of all things, everything from Hitler to Stalin, Hillary to Donald, and God to the Devi, etc... I think it’s fair to assume that no rational person would say that it’s Irreverent or immoral to ever critique something or that it’s an out of bounds or an unnecessary thing to do. In fact, I think anyone who believes in freedom would agree that criticism plays an integral role in a healthy society.
Ok then, what about the social context of a word as being forbidden? Those who use swear words are, at least on paper, looked at generally as rabble-rousers or menace to society. It seems to me, a tragedy, and a middle finger to culture itself, to supplement one word for another simply because someone doesn’t like a particular word that would have otherwise been used.
Why do they not like it? Because they were told it’s bad, that you shouldn’t or can’t say that word, that it can’t be said on the radio because it’s that bad. At least in American society, it seems easy enough to trace this cultural phenomenon back to a sense of militaristic puritanism that overwhelmed the USA in its early post-independent years.
Not only is this restrictive norm a nuisance, but I can come up with no better term to describe our situation than dishonest. Fundamentally Dishonest because it’s not an actual reflection of what someone intended to say; the words exist and are known by virtually everyone, and like any other prominent facet in a language it exists for a reason; in general, these words and phrases have meaning. To insist or enforce that they not be used is to censor expression itself. Such a thing cannot be allowed, and in those ways in which it has been allowed and propagated, it’s only served as kindling to the culture war you see today.
My reason in writing about this isn’t simply to “bitch” about what people think about certain words I use, or to make light of language itself. Language is man’s most powerful tool in advancing life and it’s ever-rising standards. The tractor and the metal refinery are nothing without the knowledge to operate them and the ability to pass said knowledge on. Human interaction is limited at best without language.
No, my intentions here aren’t to oversimplify and belittle language as “no big deal, it’s just a word.”, but to hopefully shed a bit of light on its intricacies. Language, whether spoken, written, or signed is dizzyingly complex and important, which is exactly why we can’t afford to bottle-neck it with cosmetic rules. Language evolves spontaneously and will continue to evolve spontaneously.
Even if you don’t buy my a priori conclusions, there are numbers to back this up: a Stanford study on profanity and honesty titled “Frankly, we do give a damn: The relationship between profanity and honesty” concluded with this statement “We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level. ”
Think about it, “I fucked her.” has a different feel and arguably a different meaning than “I made love to her.”. Both on the surface describe the same basic biological function of procreation, however, both invoke different emotional imagery. Whether for comedy or to relay some other feeling, detail, or importance the wording is being used for a reason, albeit sometimes subconsciously, and to subvert the individuals intended meaning in any context for the sake of auditory preference is a travesty.
The net harm of linguistic censorship has spread its roots far and deep. To the point that we have segregated certain words so that only members of a specific race or gender can say them. We are hamstringing our culture and the culture we are passing down to our children by placing words over intention. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Fuck the auditory virginity of the atrophied.