When I was growing up in middle-class America (I’m 54 now), I was taught that a lady never swears. Those were the days when being a lady was an assumed goal for every young woman. My mother was a true lady and I never, ever heard her utter a 4-letter word in all her 88 years. As far as I know, she never felt the need; she was able to express her feelings without cursing. I cannot make the same claim for myself.
My father, on the other hand, had several favorite cuss words and phrases he liked to use when angry or frustrated. By today’s standards, they seem pretty mild; hell and damn, mostly. Being a good Catholic, however, he never took the Lord’s name in vain, and he never swore at people. I.e. he never “cussed anyone out.
I don’t remember when I first uttered a four-letter word, but I did. I suppose it was inevitable, given the demise of the value formerly place on being a lady. I was probably in my teens and it must have felt like a defiant rite of passage. I imagine that it probably felt and sounded strange to hear a cuss word or words coming from my mouth.
I wish someone had warned me that once you start using swear words, there’s no going back. I’ve tried.
A girlfriend and I were musing about this just the other day. I don’t swear much, but I do let the cuss words fly on occasion… usually for emphasis when I am frustrated or angry. I’m happy to say however that, like my father, I never direct my tirades at people, only situations. I never really thought about that distinction until now.
I remember reading somewhere that swearing is a sign of an uneducated person, the theory being that you don’t need to use four-letter words if you have an adequate vocabulary. I believe there is some truth to that. Even so, habit and laziness play their parts as well. The four-letter words slip out much too easily (if not frequently) now, often before I even have a chance to think about it.
Swearing is easier than searching for words that actually describe how I am feeling.
If you are somewhere near my age you probably remember the old television show “Room 222.” It was set in a high school and one of the episodes was about the problem of the boys on the basketball team swearing on the court. The solution they came up with was for the boys to substitute other similar, yet unoffensive words such as “fudge.”
I thought that was pretty ingenious, so I tried it myself… several times. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked for me. Somehow, substitutions don’t feel as satisfying as the forbidden words.
So, for me, swearing is a case of “if I had known then what I know now.” If I could turn back time and choose again, I wouldn’t utter that first “bad” word. Not because it is unladylike, but because, in my opinion, profanity makes a bad situation worse. It gives added power to negativity.
Maybe it is the writer in me that protests profanity. After all, there is not much meaning behind swear words, only emotion. I prefer words that are descriptive and communicative.
What is your feeling about profanity? Are you comfortable with the amount you use? What about society in general?
I’d love to hear your thoughts… but please keep it clean 🙂