Monday, May 8

Swearing, Cursing, Cussing, Naughty Words

You know what? On LiveJournal, my friends write their thoughts on the end of our first year at college. Events they never want to forget, how they have grown and matured and become better people. Whatever. Here, on Blogger, I write my thoughts on swearing. Actually, I'll undoubtedly end up posting my on reflection. I just need to sort out my ideas a little more first. On to swearing!

Just like drinking, I don't swear. Even in the fifth and sixth grades, when swearing and cursing were acts of petty rebellion, I never used certain words, or I did until I learned that they were curses. Then I stopped saying them. Back then, it was like littering to me. I simply could not force myself to say a number of four-letter words. Perhaps it was the result of being terribly afraid of what my parents would do if they heard me swear, though I heard them do so on more than one occasion. For whatever reason though, the point remains that I didn't swear. Instead, I picked up a number of proxies. Among them were such gems as 'darn,' 'heck,' 'geez' and 'freak.' After watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 'bugger' and 'bloody' were added to my repetoire, even after being informed that they were considered curses by our friends across the pond. They just sounded funny to me.

Even now, in college, I still don't swear, though this statement requires a bit of clarification as my own understanding and perception of language has changed. First of all, when you read the classics like Dante's Inferno and Milton Paradise Lost, you learn to say certain words, mostly 'damn' and 'hell,' if you do not want to be thought of as the greatest prude ever. Great, so there are now I few words commonly considered curses that I can now say. The story gets better.

Well, I happen to have a passing interest in linguistics and communications and came across this whole theory of semiotics and the whole separation of things into 'signifier' and 'signified' and the primacy of context in understanding most anything at some point.' This caused me to reconsider my views on swearing. Why are 'damn' and 'hell' considered curses? Because they are, respectively, the worst thing thing we could wish upon a person and the worst place in existence. Do you really wish these things when you use them towards friends? No, their use towards people you are close to typically is sarcasm and exaggeration. As long as everyone is clear on the intent and use, there is no harm. On the other hand, when we are in a passion and sincerely wish these things upon a person, even if we use some proxy word, our intent is radically different. How can 'darn' in the context of a yelling match not be considered a curse when the intent is there?

Just my thoughts, though I still refrain from using most curses. I figure my intent will be very clear when I end up using them in earnest.

1 comment:

Emmett said...

I do swear, on occasion. I wish I could reduce the occasions which require cursing, but there are times when they accurately depict my thoughts.