Thoughts on Profanity (warning: contains profanity)

April 12, 2010

THE FIRST PROFANITY I used with any authority was: what the hell? I found it in a PG-13 movie, and, for some reason, my parents thought it was fine. So I slid “heck” back into its original box (a child’s toy, really), and walked around with my size-too-big adult word: HELL. It had some shock value, some bite, and those were precious things to a kid. I felt worldly when I said it: like I smoked cigarettes and had solved a mystery or two.

Damn was a slow addition. Rather than shock value, it got me a laugh. Most people seemed on the fence about whether it was, in fact, offensive. Everyone, that is, except my mom. Damn got me a stern look, a headshake, and a quiet, “I don’t like that”. This, of course, made it a keeper.

Damn and hell were my workhorse profanities for a long time. To this day, they are the easiest grab. Low-shelf profanities. Mild sin.

During basketball season I beefed my curses to real, adult-type words: words that made people sort of gasp and cover their mouths like they didn’t want those words to get in their system. But that was short lived, and later I felt sort of bad about it.

Shit has never come naturally. Even in my cursin’ days it felt awkward —the Sh- too soft to punch out with any authority. The word was made to be whispered. Crap feels more satisfying with is harder consonants and the way you can you can really pop that last p.

Soft consonants work better for a word like ass, which is not so much an exclamation as a functional noun. I use it sparingly but more confidently than it’s younger brother: butt, which feels childish. I would sooner call my mom Hilary than mommy.

Fuck will never be okay, except in extremely hilarious situations. Although I do like the way the -uck flaps in my mouth like a diving board.

Apparently Bitch is less offensive than I had once assumed. Bitchin, for some people, is not offensive at all. Maybe they don’t realize that the first syllable is distinctly bitch. And bitch, to me, seems rude. It’s an ugly word that forces your face into an ugly, sour expression. And the appeal of profanity is not to be ugly, but to be surprising. That being said, the form of bitch that is pronounced Biiach is extremely hilarious, and so, mostly, fine.

This brings me to the second to last paragraph (assuming that I will wrap all of this up in some final paragraph, which, at this point, is undecided). Compound profanity is no good. Stacking more than 2 expletives is bad form and should be avoided. Again, the point of profanity is to be surprising, and by the time you reach the end of your elaborate string of expletives, there will be no surprise…other than the surprise that I am no longer your friend.

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