Saturday, March 6, 2010


I have been thinking about the place of swear words in my everyday language. I hear them come out of my mouth and briefly consider that it is a habit I should stop, but then I never do.

I have read a few articles on swearing and realize there are people who are very interested in the function of swear words in our language. They can be used to express pain, frustration, hurt or to give emphasis to a thought. I suppose the problem is that for some people this is a constant occurrence ... so it loses its emphatic quality. Swear words are meant to shock so it is jarring when you are busy recovering from that shock every other word.

I believe I started thinking about this when I realized I had used an inappropriate word in front of a customer that I like a lot. Regardless- she is a customer. I apologized and told her that I feel she is more like a sister and thus familiar. Her response- "don't worry, we're family." Phew! Crisis averted. I also used the s**t word in front of an acquaintance/banker in town. It was to make an emphatic point- but why did I feel a need to resort to this language to get my point across?

Last night I went to a social event at my local Women's Club (who knew they still existed???). I met a new women and she let fly with a few "%#%#$'s" and a few "?@###'s." I took it in the context of her personality. She was exuberant and outgoing and made it clear that she was a straight shooter. I also took notice that she was comfortable with the off-color language.

About 30 years ago an employer whom I respected a great deal said she was afraid to swear in front of me because I never did it. At 18 years old I wanted to be a sophisticated grown up so I took to swearing like a truck driver in order not to put people off with my purity. The habit has been tempered over the years, but still alerts people to my exuberant, out-there personality.

I have to question its place in my conversation though. Is it really necessary (at my advanced age) to display an exuberant personality or wouldn't it be better to be the mysterious woman with still waters that run deep? What exactly am I conveying with this language?

Do you swear? Frequently?


JAF said...

I think we've talked about this before and I truly believe that it weakens your vocabulary and it is lazy. As a woman, it can feel like expressing yourself in a very egalitarian way but really, if guys talk like that, people get turned off. Also, whether subconscious or not, there is always a measure of anger associated with it that leaves a lingering bitterness. Do you really want to have someone walking away remembering you because you swore a lot or remembering you because of what you had to say? Do you really want someone to think you had a big, exuberant personality because you swore a lot or because you just have a big, exuberant personality? Hey, I'm a big offender and have no room to criticize but I think we get it wrong if we think that someone is impressed because we swear or swearing is a sign of our "great" self-esteem. In fact, now that I think of it, isn't it just a way to try to garner attention? blah blah blah, shut the f*#$ up JAF.

SMC said...

You are right as always- it is the cheap & cheezy way out of expressing yourself.......