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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I swear

Since I've been answering a lot of questions recently, I'm going to respond to a query someone didn't exactly pose.

One of the blogger who I've linked to, but I'm not remembering who (I've narrowed it to four) indicated once that he was afraid that his use of "foul language" might offend my sensibilities. The answer is: context is everything.

When I stepped on a nail 5 years ago, boy did I curse! When I play racquetball and I'm bettered on a shot, I might occasionally say, "You SOB," but use the actual words those letters represent. (One of my regular opponents is VERY hard on himself, calling himself "You M*****F***ing C***S***ing A******!") But when he knew kids were around, it was HE who suggested toning down the language.

As a matter of course, I don't use actual curse words on this blog because I just don't feel the need. I'm not in the heat of the moment when I type, generally speaking. (And I have a strong edit mode.)

I think my REAL problem with cursing is that it's done so often that it fails to MEAN anything. I read a few years ago that there was some sociologist who suggested that the culture NEEDS those verbal outlets. But if cursing becomes common everyday language, what the heck do you use when you're REALLY TICKED OFF?

Many years ago, I was at my house with my then-girlfriend and a number of people from my church choir after rehearsal. I wasn't feeling all that well, so I was hanging back. One of the choir members told this joke that I found extremely offensive (it made reference to the size of a black man's penis), but I said nothing, at first. But about an hour later, it was still bugging me, so I told the joke-teller that I was offended by the "humor." She, to her credit, apologized. But another woman in the group said, "Oh, you just don't have a sense of humor." I yelled, "F*** YOU!" And I meant it. I meant the full fury of the curse, however one interprets it. How DARE she demean my feelings like that! So, casual cursing just minimizes the effect of a real good, emotionally-generated invective.
(I'm not suggesting that this was the appropriate response to the situation, or that I would respond similarly now.)

Now, I avoid swearing in front of my daughter, and our next door neighbors, who would embarrass sailors with their verbiage, attempt to tone it down when Lydia is around.

An incident in the bus just this past week: A guy was in the first row on the bus, on a cellphone. I was halfway back. I hear:
"For one thing, there ain't no 'us'.
"You have to work that s*** out with your husband."
I now knew more about this man in two sentences than I really wanted to absorb.
But he kept saying the S word, in every sentence. Yes, it bothered me, because it showed a lack of intelligence, integrity, whatever. However, if my daughter had been on the bus, I'd have asked him to ratchet it down.

So, cursing per se doesn't bother me. But I believe, as in so many other contexts, less is more.
***
And telling this story reminded me of something that W said about his Supreme Court nominee that I found disturbing, if I thought it was true, and just foolish, because I don't think it is true. About Harriet Miers he said, "I'm interested in finding somebody who shares my philosophy today and will have that same philosophy 20 years from now." He may be lockstep stuck in his philosophy of 20 years ago (which would explain a lot about his poor governing style), but even HE has changed from 30 years ago. I think my philosophy of life has changed over the last 20 years, and will certainly evolve over the next 20. If Harriet Miers is incapable of change, then I don't want her on the Supreme Court.
In the church, we read the same scripture every three or four years. It's called a lectionary. Now why read the same text perhaps 20 times in one's lifetime? Because, as one evolves, one reads it with new eyes. Or is supposed to, anyway.

1 comment:

tomthedog said...

I think I am that blogger. I remember saying something similar when Fred Hembeck first left a comment on my site (which he responded to by dropping the F-bomb himself -- shocking!). I try to always watch my language in general public, and am appalled at other people who have no awareness of their surroundings or consideration for others -- do you know how incredibly uncomfortable it is to stand in line for a movie with your mother while some idiot right in front of you spews a never-ending stream of profanity?

That said, I love cursing. I do it frequently and creatively. But in appropriate surroundings, with people sharing the same vocabularly, such as at bars, poker games, my own home.

For a long time I refrained from swearing at my blog, but eventually I relaxed and went with it. If the blog was going to be representative of myself, I decided I might as well use the words I was naturally inclined to use. I hope that doesn't scare people away from the blog, and I don't think it has, but at this point I'm not going to change it if it does. I figure most people are stout enough to read a four letter word and not keel over in a classic Southern belle swoon.

One of my favorite quotes on profanity comes from Kurt Vonnegut, of all people. In Hocus Pocus he writes (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), "Profanity gives someone who disagrees with you an excuse not to listen." Nice lesson in civil discourse, one that George W. "Major league a******" Bush and Dick "Go f*** yourself" Cheney never learned. Nor did I, apparently, but then, I'm a blogger, not a politician.