Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Why So Serious? A swearing cul de sac...
The standard replies to my my more vulgar tweets range from shock and horror to humour and disgust. Mostly at my use of foul language. And I’ll give it to ya - I swear a lot. Any cuss-word that’s been invented: I use it. And I revel in smutty new inventions. There’s nothing better than a novel, foul utterance to indulge in. Aurally speaking.
Of all the things to be avoided on radio, there’s one that tops it: you can’t swear on air. And boy do we radio-folk over-compensate. “Fuck” is used like “the”. And I do agree that we shouldn’t swear on air. Mostly, it’s unnecessary, and at the end of the day you should decide what your own kids are exposed to, and a DJ shouting “POES!” through your speakers is a bit beyond your control.
But my beef goes beyond whether and where it’s appropriate to swear.
What is it about a four letter word that angers people with such passion? It’s actually simple. Just as we decided “dog” would refer to domestic canines and that “patronising” would be a tone that pissed people off, we decided that “fuck”, “shit”, “poes”, “cunt”, “doos”, etc would be ugly, offensive and rude.
Over the centuries, however, more and more people have made more frequent use of said “foul-language”. Thus desensitising ourselves more and more as the decades roll on.
So why is swearing still taboo? And more importantly, why are people OFFENDED by it? Everyone elects their manner of speech. And everyone has the utmost right to dislike swearing and not use it. But I find being offended by it to be a daft waste of energy. Saying “you white bitch” to someone IS offensive, because it is intended to be offensive. In other words, you can be offended and angry when someone is swearing AT you. But my saying, “Fuck, it’s cold today” hardly warrants an attack of the language bots.
*This baby means no harm, does she?*
I believe people’s habit of finding swearing offensive is an attempt at moral superiority. “I don’t swear like a pirate, therefore I am a lady and a superior, upstanding citizen.” Or, “I don’t swear, therefore Jesus loves me more and I’m going to heaven.”
I can without ambivalence of fear of ever needing to back-pedal state that some of the smartest, most forward-thinking, bright people I know are the ones who swear most. (Now, don’t think I’m trying to sound cool and smart by association eh ;) Just an observation.)
Moral superiority is a hard thing to measure because people’s ideas of morality differ so vastly. And, very important to note, is that we TAKE offense, it’s not GIVEN to us. You choose to be offended by what I say. You can also choose to leave my company or unfollow me on Twitter. I, similarly, choose to be baffled by how serious people take something as silly as swearing. Because, when you really think about it, swearing is HILARIOUS. Yes, a bigger vocabulary can very efficiently tell someone off or be brilliantly insulting. But someone with a good vocab, good grammar ability and a firm grasp of filthy words is formidable. You’ll never be able to insult them back. And it’s just poetry. Even if the swearing’s just being used to describe mandatory daily goings-on: poetry, poetry.
People are offended by swearing because they’ve always believed they’re supposed to be. And intrinsically built-in beliefs like that are hard to break. The perfect example is someone scolding you. “You shouldn’t swear like that!”
“Because! It’s ugly! And you just shouldn’t!”
Ooookaaaay. Good argument there. Has the inklings of a grade two discussion on which My Little Pony is cooler. Though I’m sure, that would have more grounds for proof. I mean, a pink MLP is much cooler than a green one. Duh.
As a potty-mouthed cretin myself, this argument is very biased, so I was kinda hoping you’d offer some wisdom. Go!