The F-Word Culture: A Good Look at Bad Language

April 14, 2010 | NeW Staff

Cursing in public is a way to cultivate intimacy.  At least that’s what this article says.  
That view of obscene language is an example of the wave of permissiveness that has taken over society’s approach to speech. There was a time when a man could be tried and convicted in a court of law for using profane language in the presence of a woman. Modern society, however, seems to have lifted the status of coarse language to that of frank expression.  To those observers, polite language must suggest social distance. These conclusions are absurd. Vulgarity should not be confused with intimacy. One does not motivate the other.  
Cursing has also become a socially-sanctioned outlet for expressing levels of emotion and awe that hovers around the ineffable. So, we respond to our sense of the sacred by crossing the line into the profane? Surely the English language has better intensifiers than obscenities. The word “ineffable” exists for a reason: if you can’t find the words, you probably don’t need to speak of what is unspeakable. Cursing doesn’t add to the emotive force of words, but detracts from meaningful expression.  
Language should be used reflectively, not reflexively.  Why? The use or nonuse of vulgar language involves more than what is proper and improper. Our choice of words contemplates intentions, effects, and identity because what we say can bind, injure, define, or elevate us and others. The narrative of our lives is told, in part, by what we say to people and what is said to us.          
For women, the language we use is directly linked to our modesty. Before we speak, we should always weigh the value of discretion, tradition, propriety, and sincerity. Does that mean everything we say has to be eloquent? No. It does mean holding ourselves to a certain standard. If you don’t ever use a bad word again, you won’t run out of things to say. There are plenty of good words.    

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