ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Effect of Excessive Profanity On Our Culture

Updated on January 17, 2019
lambservant profile image

Lori is concerned about the harmful social and political issues of the day.


The habitual use of profanity is not progressive, just unimaginative.”

— Ron Brackin

Profane Dessert

The quote by Ron Brackin above is spot on. I don't get the inane practice of using expletives every other word. The F-bomb alone is used prolifically in the form of verbs and adjectives, and occasionally nouns. What does it mean that an f-bombing dessert is so f-bombing awesome? Can't one just say that the dessert is awesome? Or how about "The delectable looking dessert was a culinary masterpiece" if you want to get descriptive. Quite frankly, if you throw in the f-bomb twice in that sentence it will spoil my appetite. As Mr. Brackin says, it's unimaginative.

Add to the F-bomb the many other profanities that litter every sentence; they run the gamut of intimate body parts, bodily functions of humans and animals, indecent acts - all things vulgar and crude. It's crazy that the same expletive is used to insult, make something gross, or to convey the message that said person, place or thing is wonderful. Huh?

I will concede that does happen in clean, everyday speech, such as saying that a dessert was decadent or sinfully delicious. "Decadent "is not a vulgar term, however; rather it is the use of irony, a common communication technique in most languages. A decadent dessert will send me to the dessert table or bakery a lot quicker than an expletive dessert.

I make special trips to my favorite eatery in Port Gamble, WA for these decadent eclairs.
I make special trips to my favorite eatery in Port Gamble, WA for these decadent eclairs. | Source

Can We Talk?

The well-known catchphrase of the late comedian Joan Rivers was "Can we talk?" That's my question when I am around a person who cusses their way through every sentence - as in "Can we talk English?" As of January 1, 2016, it is estimated there are 1,035,877.3 words in the English language.1 It is then rather absurd to habitually weave expletives through every sentence. People who speak this way have a miniscule vocabulary. It not only assaults people who find this habit offensive, but also deprives both parties of interesting discussion; or if it is related to a conflict, it kills, or at very least, hinders a positive resolution.

The world of comedy, film, and television offers a constant stream of profanity and disturbingly depraved material in the name of entertainment. Clean comedy is the exception now, not the rule. I love stand up comedy when I hear good, clean, creative jokes. There is more material to be had in the world and everyday life other than in the bathroom or bedroom. Compare Ellen Degeneres or Chonda Pierce to Eddie Murphy, and the worst of all, Doug Stanhope, the Larry Flynt of comedy - except his work is not comedy nor is it entertainment to most decent people. Ellen can slay me more with her routine on going to the movies than Eddie's unrelenting, graphic descriptions of bathroom activities. Chonda kills me more with her torn Spanx story than anything at all that Stanhope says (did I mention he is the vilest). I am a child of the 60s and 70s. The Carol Burnett Show was the most popular comedy show of the day, and hands down had the most brilliant, creative, hilarious comedy in television history. Today, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman's famous Dentist routine would have both of them using nothing but F-bombs and other oaths and curses at every turn. It would be no-class, unimaginative, and ruinous to the whole comedic essence of the routine.

As the pioneering comedy, television, and film writers began to test the waters with crude and tasteless brands of material, the people were titillated and developed an insatiable hunger for all things crude and vulgar in their entertainment choices. It has infiltrated our culture and it's nearly impossible to get away from it.

Action films are nothing but guns, F-bombs, graphic sex, and brutality. I remember the Dirty Harry, Rambo, and The Terminator, Die Hard type of movies coming out, and the box office success they had, not to mention the cult classics like Nightmare On Elm Street (which I never saw in whole). The violence was intense but the profanity was vile. Today we have the Bourne series with Matt Damon, the anti-gun hypocrite, blowing up people and profanity everywhere. Of course, we live in a free country and people certainly have the liberty to watch what they want, but as Hollywood is such a powerful influence on our culture, we have seen a lot of moral decline.

I have an acquaintance who can't say one sentence without a plethora of profanity. She's lived and traveled all over the world, speaks many languages, and is very knowledgeable about foreign political, religious, and societal systems and ideologies, but her intelligence is grossly masked by her limited and vulgar vocabulary. I have been tempted to ask her if she speaks that way in all the other languages she knows. She seems like a nice person but I feel like I need a shower after I hear her.

As a writer and a human being who appreciates words and creativity, I love to explore and expand my vocabulary and listen to others who do. It makes the world more interesting.

Popcorn as Opposed to Bathroom

"Nothing is greater or more fearful sacrilege than to prostitute the great name of God to the petulancy of an idle tongue." ~ Jeremy Taylor

Do you say this when you stub your toe?

Spanx is funnier than smut

The Lord's Name as a Curse Word

Comedian Daren Streblow makes a profound point in a humorous way about people taking the Lord's name in vain when angry. "I don't understand it 'cause I don't do that to anybody else. Ya, like if I'm walking down the street and stub my toe... "Buddha! Buddhaaa!" "Hari H. Krishna! look at that bruise." So true. What is it about the name of the Lord that makes people want to use it as an expletive? Especially on a regular basis.

I don't have an answer. I am sure there are a lot of "experts" that could give you a reason, and a justification to boot. Perhaps you readers might have some insight, if so, please share in the comments. What I do know is that if using the Lord's name as a curse word on a regular basis, without batting an eyelash, the person using it obviously has no reverence for God or Jesus, is desensitized to using the terms, and don't care or even understand that it might offend people who do have reverence for God.

Taking the Lord's name is more than using it as a curse word. It also means using it flippantly or emptily, as in Oh my God (or OMG) and in other ways. I think it has been used to curse for centuries in many different cultures. It's become common and often times people don't even think of it as being an offensive term; only a way to express some negative emotion. I wish people would stop it!!!

Please stop swearing.
Please stop swearing. | Source

Purpose of Profanity

In an NPR interview with David Greene, Melissa Mohr, author of Holy S - - -" A Brief History of Swearing, explained why she believes people swear: "People swear for lots of different reasons, but the main three are for catharsis, to relieve pain and frustration, and also happy emotions."2 I would agree with that.

Dr. Timothy Jay, Professor of Psychology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, asserts that the human's penchant for profanity continues because profane words are taboo, and as such, help convey emotions, such as anger and frustration, far better than words that are not. 3

To break it down further, here are some reasons why people swear:

  • To injure, offend or retaliate during a conflict.
  • To give emphasis to a statement or emotion.
  • It's taboo (as mentioned by Mohr)
  • To vent when physically injured. Oh darn just doesn't do the trick, nor is it even instinctual.
  • Raised in an environment of profanity, thus becoming a lifestyle habit.
  • Paradoxically, to indicate something is good and delights them.
  • To describe the bodily or sexual functions true to the original meaning.

Does the prolific use of profanity bother you?

See results

The Repercussions of Swearing

There are so many repercussions to habitual swearing, not only of individuals but of a culture. Here are just a few:

  • Masks the intelligence of the user.
  • Degrades or injures the person on the receiving end during a conflict.
  • Often times masks the emotion of fear.
  • Dumbs down the English language (and other languages for that matter).
  • Limits the user to unimaginative speech.
  • Influences others to use profanity.
  • Alienates people, who might otherwise be a friend.

I am sure there are many more one could put out there.

The Effect On Our Children

Kids are watching and listening to parents, other family members, teachers, friends, television and movies. Of course, they repeat what they hear, and the bad behavior of the adults around them, more often than good words and behavior. I cringe when I hear adults spew foul language without filtering whatsoever. I see kids watching PG-13 and R-rated movies full of sex, violence, and profanity. It's very common. They grow desensitized to it (as do adults) and emulate those things with no conscience at all. I find it absolutely abhorrent when I see children sitting in the living room with parents watch graphic sex, profanity, and violence. Sometimes children are placed in front of the TV to watch this trash so the parents can have some quiet time in the other room playing on their phones. Really, that's your babysitter? Do you realize what you're doing to your children? Go outside and toss a ball with them, watch a children's movie, play games or read to your children. That will do more for their character that watching filth on television.

A Writer on Using Profanity in Writing

I thought the following author spoke more adequately on the topic of the prolific use of profanity in writing than I could say.

"I've seen beginning writers pepper curse words through sentence after sentence. 'If you don't -blanking- get your -blanking-blank-blank- into this house this -blanking- minute, I'm going to -blank- your -blank- and nail it to the -blanking- door.'

Two things happen when I read this junk: I get bored and I get angry. I didn't pick up your book to read garbage. If this is as clever as you can be, I don't want to read your prose."

~ David Morrell, The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons About Writing and Publishing


Quotes For and Against Profanity

To close, I thought I would offer you some quotes from people on the topic of profanity. It was difficult to find quotes without profanity in them. I do not agree with all of the following quotes, but they all give an idea of where people stand on the matter, a fair hearing on both sides of the aisle, so to speak.

“Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.” ~ Spencer W. Kimball

“Paulie smiled slightly at this, as profanity had always felt to him like a seal of understanding, a shortcut to extreme feeling that people used when they needed it most.” ~ Kathleen Elcott

“Obscenity and profanity had no meaning as such among those people. They were emotional expressions of inarticulate people with small vocabularies.” ~ Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

"Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."
~ Mark Twain, a Biography

"The tongue is the most dangerous, destructive, and deadly weapon available to man...We never gain anything or improve our own character by trying to tear down another." ~ N. Eldon Tanner

"The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it. " ~ Geroge Washington

"Vulgarity is the garlic in the salad of taste.."
~ Cyril Connolly

"The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong. He can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way."
~ Mark Twain, Private and Public Morals speech, 1906

"It's only with great vulgarity that you can achieve real refinement, only out of bawdy that you can get tenderness. " ~ Lawrence Durrell

"Do I curse? Oh believe me I do. I'm very human. Mary Poppins doesn't swear; Julie does if the occasion arises." ~ Julie Andrews


1 Global Language Monitor, Number of Words in the English Language.

2 NPR Author Interview. Why You Should Give A $*%! About Words That Offend. David Greene interviews Melissa Mohr.

3 Sage Journals. The Utility and Ubiquity of Taboo Words. Timothy Jay

© 2016 Lori Colbo


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thanks for stopping by North wind. We see it the same.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      3 years ago from The World (for now)

      I think that profanity has become more common place because some people genuinely have a problem expressing themselves while others lack self control. I don't like to be around people who curse regularly and if I am having a conversation with someone who is cursing I ask them to leave out the curse words and they usually do. I know some who do it on purpose because they know that I can't stand cursing but still feel I need to 'get with the program' and try to force me into accepting it as the norm. All that happens with that is I distance myself for quite some time.

      I agree with you - there are so many words available to use and you can express yourself and your feelings in so many ways.

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I know you'll do well. I love your sensitivity to the subject. Good luck.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I was being a little cheeky with it as I tend to think the same way you do. As writers we have the opportunity to be 'lights' in this world and be people who can change things, but it takes some creativity and there are times when it's exactly what one would say, but it can be just one word and not a string of them!

      Sometimes people are stuck for words! But we can show it with 'toning down'


    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Lawrence, you are funny. I love cream anything.

      As to your predicament, I can understand it. That's how some people talk and it if you want to be true to the story, it's a challenge. What I do think is that you have enough talent and writing experience to find a way. I think if you craft the story creatively enough, the rest of the story will balance out what you feel you have to write about your grandfather. If it's every other word, that will really be hard. I don't have any experience in that area. In my recent writings with fiction and satire, I've been tempted use a few bad words because it does seem like something someone would say in the moment in the story. Somehow, I have figured out a way. But honestly, your challenge is far greater. I hope it works out. Do what your heart tells you. Quite frankly, there's not too many people you can shock these days. Offend, yes, but shock, no. Best wishes Lawrence.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      This hub enjoyed, but it leaves me with a predicament!

      I agree with you about the prolific use of profanity and violence, but at the moment I'm considering writing a historical novel about two of my ancestors (Grandmother and Grandfather) and if I'm to get things historically accurate my Grandfather served in ww1 in a regiment that was legendary for their bad language! (even among other soldiers!!)

      As a writer I want to keep things real and accurate but how far can I 'tone it doesn't and still stay true to events?

      I know I will, but it will mean some!

      By the way I wouldn't bother with a dessert that was described using expletives, but my excuse would be I don't like cream!



    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thanks for stopping by Faith. I agree with everything you say.

      Kiss and Tales I love your last comment. Spot on.

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      4 years ago

      I so agree and what adds to the disgust is people who claim to be Christians

      Jesus said do not let a Eph 4:29 rotten saying not come out of your mouth.

      So its not the christain who claims the title but the one who lives up to the title.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      Bravo, Lori!

      Using curse words adds nothing to humor in my mind but makes me cringe. Some of the funniest comedians around never use one curse word. I think it is a sign of a lazy person and shows one's low IQ.

      It seems to be an accepted thing to curse and movies are just riddled with foul language. I do understand that certain characters in a movie would lend themselves to curse, but using the F word every other word coming out of one's mouth is distasteful and makes that person appear uneducated in my mind.

      Good point about using God's name in vain! Truly makes no sense.

      This is the best hub ever on the use of profanity ...inane indeed!

    • profile image

      Lisa Carter 

      4 years ago


    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Hi again, Bill. Elcairs are a foretaste of the Lord's banqueting table, thus it is the favorite photo of myself. I'd rather look at the eclair than my aging mug.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I think you said it all in this one. I also think this may be the first hub I've read that dealt with the issue of profanity. Well said, but I must admit it's the picture of you with your dessert that pulls it all together - and I loved the Tim Conway video!

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Billybuc, yes, I do feel strongly about prolific swearing.

      Eric, always love to hear your take. I will stay way from my neighbor today so I don't have to hear any profanity either. Pity, yes.

      Tamarajo, yes, the translating part, oy vay. Distracting, boring, and offensive. Thanks for your comments.

      Dora you are so right. No sense. And yes, we can do better. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Always exploring, I love your moniker, and I hope you are always exploring new ways to communicate and be a blessing, as you already are. God bless.

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Cheap trick, I love your comments. Words do indeed have a lifespan and/or they change meanings. It sounds like your last comment means profanity is subjective. Maybe to a point. Thanks for stopping by.

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Jodah, thanks for stopping by. The "don't swear in front of the ladies" hasn't been followed by most people for a long time, you can throw children in with the mix as well. Very sad.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I agree completely. A man or a woman can turn me off quickly when they use profanity. I think people who curse to make a statement, thinking it adds to the subject, would be surprised to know how much they disagree, and often times will take a different look at whatever the topic. Interesting hub....

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Lori, what a pleasant and very useful read! The use of the F word doesn't even make sense most times; the users just don't have words. For all the reasons given that people curse, there are better ways to achieve the same results. Thanks for underscoring this folly, especially when it comes to God's name. We can do better!

    • Tamarajo profile image


      4 years ago

      I couldn't agree with you more! It seriously is distracting to try to thoughtfully listen to a conversation laced with expletives that really add nothing meaningful to the persons expression. If the purpose is to emphasize, it actually has the opposite effect, in that, I generally find myself trying to translate between the cuss words in order to hear what they are really saying.

      Your points are spot on.

      God bless!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good for you. You obviously feel strongly about this subject and you got your opinion out there. Well done!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A wonderful hub. I learned a bit ago that profanity often came from a persons frustration with their inability to find correct words to express themselves. I disdain the foul words but now have pity for the person using them. I cannot even imagine being a brain that has somehow been so ill trained. It must be very aggravating. I hope I go this day without hearing any at all.

    • cheaptrick profile image


      4 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      Language...words are the brush...the listeners mind is the canvas.How is it possible that I can make certain sounds in a certain order and somehow those sounds transfer my thoughts into your head?

      Ever notice how words have a life span?A new word is coined and has great power until it becomes common place and mundane and is either modified or replaced entirely...though the meaning remains eternal.

      When I was a child using the 'eff' word would get you a nice beating,soap in your mouth,and most likely a visit to the local priest for some counseling(which usually included a smack in the head) because profanity was not exceptable under any circumstance....these days the 'eff' word is nothing more than a punctuation as it fades from the lexicon and is replace by a 'New' offensive word with renewed power.

      The evolution of language ensures the elimination or at least modification of offensive language over time(thank God)...Also,we should keep in mind that profanity to one person is not necessarily profanity to it...

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A wonderful expose on the dumbing down of the English language by the overuse of profanity. I admit that for awhile when I worked in an all male workplace it became commonplace to use profanity, but that was only for a year or two and I never carried it over to my private life. I actually find movies and stand-up comedy on tv quite distasteful and difficult to sit through when littered with expletives.

      I was brought up that a man should never swear in front of a woman and that has carried through my entire life. Occasionally, a writer may need to use a swear word or the f-bomb in dialogue to make a character appear realistic but the overuse ofyen ruins a good story.

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Ronald, I need you in the quotes segment. You nailed it, sir. A person who writes with stream after stream of profanity is not a writer at all. It really bugs me when it infiltrates any of the arts. Not that all art is to be positive; there can be beauty in the expression of pain and other negative emotions situations, but if done creatively, it doesn't need to be vulgar or profane.

      Years ago I was in a creative writing class and one of the young boys who had just turned 19 considered himself the new Hemingway. Everything he shared was full of graphic language and depictions. When it came time for the class to critique his work he was puffed as a peacock expecting a pulitzer grade from everyone. Not one person found anything good to say. Finally the teacher said, "Not only did you ruin your story with the graphic content and profanity, but I couldn't find one redeeming quality in any of the characters." He learned a hard lesson.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      4 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Hooray! Just seeing your title made me want to stand up and cheer. I have long believed that use of profanity reveals a mind that must go for a cheap shock effect because it lacks confidence in its ability to make a point in language that actually engages people intellectually and emotionally.

      IMO that's especially true of writers. I long ago reached the conclusion that a writer who can't adequately express himself or herself without profanity is either so intellectually shallow that they cannot do so, or is so contemptuous of others that they just don't care about offending readers who don't wish to be consumers of verbal pollution. The quickest way to get me to stop reading something is to pepper it with profanity.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)