Don’t Be So Anti-Semantic04.14.09
Fuck. Shit. Asshole. Dick. Bitch. Suck.
Which of the above words would you consider to be curse words? How would you determine their statuses? If we base it on what’s allowed on network television, “bitch” and “suck” would be eliminated. If we use cable TV as our standard, then that eliminates “shit,” “asshole,” and “dick.” So that leaves just one word that uniformly stands as the guaranteed curse word.
What’s interesting is that the meaning of the word fuck (depending on the numerous possible uses) isn’t as blasphemous as the word itself. People who avoid swearing will still use socially-acceptable euphemisms that mean essentially the same exact thing as saying fuck. A few of the most common replacements would be either “frig,” “freak,” or “frick,” and all of their incarnations. Instead of saying “I’m so fucking tired,” someone looking to avoid cussing could say “I’m so fricking tired.” But, what’s the difference, really?
Why is the word being used more important than the intent or definition of the word, especially when the intent/definition is just as vulgar when you really examine it?
I personally love cursing. When used properly and sparingly, swear words are amazing punctuation marks. They add flavor to speech. How you throw in curse words says something – literally – about your personality, sense of humor, and vocabulary.
That being said, I am not an advocate of unregulated spouting of profanities. I notice that I censor myself when in public, around my parents, around children, or in professional settings and I tend to cringe inside when other people break those invisible boundaries. But my self-regulation doesn’t come from any moral disagreement with the words. It’s merely social in nature. I don’t think that saying the word “fuck” is inherently bad, evil, or wrong. I don’t consider myself or anyone else to be bad people because they swear.
And that’s what it all comes down to in the end. For those who don’t curse due to some moral or religious rationale, I wonder why do the words that aren’t allowed to be spoken seem to directly correlate to those that aren’t allowed socially in the present day? Words fall in and out of favor. Slang terms come and go. Same with what society considers to be curse words. As far as I know, nothing has changed in the religious texts with regards to which words are curses and which are not so that means that it’s totally secular in determination. For those people who substitute “He’s a freakin idiot” for “He’s a fuckin idiot,” the intent and meaning remain the same. I just don’t see how one is taking a morally- or religiously-acceptable high ground while the other is frowned upon.
Society’s definitions of curse words change over time. Since we don’t consider “hussy” and “scalawag” to be blasphemous anymore, there will be times when our own cuss words will seem archaic and new words will rise up to take their places. If you look to different speakers of English, you’ll find completely different rules on the same words. To a Brit, saying “bloody” or “cunt” can have an entirely different acceptability and meaning than it would here in America. The one constant, though, is that they tend to describe the same things. In which case, it seems that the meaning – and implied meaning – of the curse is what is truly inflammatory, not the word itself.
At the end of the day, they are just words. Just as cruelly yelling, “Fuck you!” to someone can cut you to the bone, so can “I hate you.” And saying “Holy shit! Did you that throw!?” is merely a verbal exclamation mark and has no value, good nor bad. Instead of being so concerned with which words we should and shouldn’t say, we should be rethinking just what we are trying to say and realize that even the most benign words can mean the harshest and painful things imaginable.
And to top it all off, some curses don’t really have any meaning at all – bad, good, nor intelligible.