Curse words aren’t that offensive, their overuse is annoying.
While hardly a role-model for parenting, Hank Moody once told his teenage daughter something to the effect of I encourage the creative use of profanity. And he’s right.
There’s nothing wrong with the creative use of profanity.
Forget for the moment the grand puzzle of exactly why some words are considered profane. Shit, as an example. There is no convincing reason I’ve heard as to why shit is “bad” but poop and crap are considered child-safe.
Never mind that some words that aren’t considered profane likely should be. Hate is an ugly, awful word if you stop to think about it – but it’s used as an exaggeration every day by just about everyone. You probably don’t hate brussel sprouts in the same way that Hitler hated Jews.
There is little that is more effective, humorous, and/or appropriate than a well-placed expletive.
And there is little that is more annoying than the overuse of any word.
Overuse is annoying because it’s creatively bankrupt
Refer to George Carlin’s 7 dirty words: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.
With this common set, I don’t really find any of them offensive in and of themselves. But I sure do find their overuse annoying.
There’s nothing worse than being stuck next to a teenager that spews some conjugation of the word fuck 3 or 4 times in the same sentence. They’re young, uneducated, or creatively-bankrupt in their speech.
Some hip-hop artists choose to use of the n-word multiple times – in even a single verse. I don’t care to argue about the ethics of if that’s right or wrong, but it sure does get annoying quick.
The annoyance of word over-usage doesn’t even necessarily require a curse word. Take the now ubiquitous incorrect use of the word like:
I was all like, you like, use the word ‘like’ wrong.
This one is generously used by many women, though I often hear it used this way by men too. There is never a simile in sight. The point is, I’m not offended by this trend, I’m annoyed.
The ‘Voldemort’ approach to curse words that backfired
The “dirty” words out of their little mouths didn’t offend me… I was annoyed at their frequency.When I became a step-dad, I initially took Hank Moody’s advice with my step-kids. I figured if they could say what ever they wanted, it would result in the “bad” words being demystified and hence not used. I quickly realized that while well-intentioned, the experiment had the opposite result: They started saying fuck every 2 seconds. I suspect the reason was my rule was not a universal – they still knew that “F” was the holy grail of curse words that they couldn’t say at school.
What do I know about parenting anyway?
Yet again, the “dirty” words out of their little mouths didn’t offend me… I was annoyed at their frequency.
The ‘Luke Cage’ approach to curse words that worked
After watching Luke Cage on Netflix, the next experiment was born. We did the whole Prince/Jehovah’s Witness thing and instituted a swear jar in the house. Every time a person in the house (parents and guests included) mutters one of the following words in the house, they owe 25 cents:
- hate (used incorrectly)
The result was a drastic reduction in the use of these overly-used curse words. If one of us utters a bad word creatively? No quarter.
Words that are safe to say? Shit, piss, ass, asshole. Yet if they start saying them enough, they’ll get added to the list.
The kids don’t know some of the “bad” words yet. We’ll likely add a few more to the list when and if they utter them too much.
I haven’t heard them uttered yet, but the racist/homophobic words are off-limits. If there truly are bad words in language, they are the words that infer superiority over another person based on the color of their skin, who they like to rub private parts with, or some other nonsense that shouldn’t matter to anyone. So I suppose if those words come out of their mouths at some point, I’ll explain how stupid the words are, and how they make the person who says them sound like an idiot.
There are many crayons to choose from in the language box. The art gets boring when they’re all drawn with the exact same dull crayon.