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What The &^%!!: The Art And Skill Of Social Word-Fu (Why Not To Swear, Curse, Or Cuss In Everyday Language)

Updated on July 8, 2014
A No-cursing sign
A No-cursing sign | Source

The Culture Of Swearing

Admit it, you have used a swear word at least once in your life. It is very probable that you have used swear words multiple times. Not only have you said them, you have heard them; on television, the radio, in public, and from time to time, from friends or family. It is safe to say that everyone has had experiences with these words.

How do you use these words in your life? It is an important question to think about. Swear words and strong language can have a large impact on how others view you. It can change who you can associate with, what types of jobs you can have, and how your children behave. When do you use them? How do you use them? What do you think the purpose is of these words in your life?

You Had WHAT Kind Of Day?

I had a F-ing unbelievable day. It was F-ing amazing. What the F--? How the F-- did he do that?


I felt like a princess today. It was like a scene out of a dream sequence in a television show. What on earth happened to my new shoes? They look like a mutant slimy space alien drooled on them. I am utterly astounded that Bob was able to type up that report with that much speed! He just started two hours ago.

Which words are more interesting to read? If you read a book and replaced all the descriptive words that were in it with swear words, how interesting would it be? The same words over and over are boring. There are so many words that can be used as alternates to swear words. The thesaurus is filled with them. Take this example: F-ing unbelievable. A good synonym for this phrase is astounding. lists even more alternatives for this expletive phrase: amazing, astounding, bewildering, breathtaking, extraordinary, impressive, marvelous, miraculous, spectacular, staggering, startling, striking, stunning, stupefying, stupendous, wonderful, wondrous, alarming, astounding, awful, bad, daunting, dire, disheartening, dismaying, dreadful, fearful, formidable, frightening, frightful, ghastly, grim, grody, gross, harrowing, hideous, horrible, horrid, horrific, intimidating, petrifying, scaring, shocking, terrible, terrifying, or unnerving. Wow! What a plethora of polite and erudite alternatives. Notice I did not say, "D--n! What a S--t load of words." Which language style is more interesting to read? I have to say that I prefer the variety of the clean language. Despite the fact that swear words are often describes as colorful language, they are anything but. They are drab, trite, and terribly over used.

"Me and an unnamed obscene gesture"
"Me and an unnamed obscene gesture" | Source

People Are Judged By The Words That They Wear

As long as language has existed, it has helped to distinguish and identify groups of people. Language use can tell us a lot about an individual. The accent may tell us the region that the speaker hails from, their economic status, or what his or her original language was. The vocabulary and grammar that a speaker uses lets us know if he or she is an expert in a given field, how much education the person has had, if he or she has respect for the person or topic that is being discussed, or the speaker's economic status. Simply listening to someone speak allows us to learn a lot about that individual. Is the speaker inside or outside my cultural peers? I will have a good idea as to the answer of that question after language exchange begins.

The use of profanity often marks the speaker in a number of ways. It makes the speaker appear to be uneducated. Using the F-word rather than other, more creative vocabulary implies that the speaker is not aware of other words that can be used. This shows that the speaker was never taught vocabulary and as such is likely unable to use the English language well. This will close the speaker out of many jobs that involve speaking or writing. Unfortunately, speaking and writing English are crucial to almost every job. Another problem with swearing is that there are certain groups that are perceived as using cuss words. Manual laborers may be perceived as using harsher language. Hearing a person swear, may make someone think that they are destined to fill that type of job position. Another example is that many gang members swear. This is associate with antisocial violence. Also, many people associate swearing with substance abuse. If you swear, people will often label you in one of these ways. Swearing is often paired with a poor upbringing, under education, and a tough, violent demeanor. It marks an individual. This closes one out of jobs and social groups.

Self Control And The Art Of Social Word-Fu

Swear words are very offensive to some people. Respecting people means recognizing that swear words are swear words because they are inappropriate. Social skills require that the speaker understand and demonstrate a respect for culture. One cannot work in a customer service job and swear. One could not expect to give a public speech and swear. Newscasters and television stars cannot swear on television. Customer service jobs, teaching, and networking all require that one does not swear. If you are using cuss words on a regular basis it demonstrates that you do not care that many people do not wish to hear those words in public or that you lack the social skills and self control required to use appropriate language. This is likely not the perception that you are going for. It closes the swearing speaker out of jobs and social functions. People will restrict your activities to prevent you from swearing inappropriately. Speakers who swear are judged harshly and loose many opportunities.

D---! I Smashed My Finger And I Have No Strong Words To Say!

In July 2009, Scientific American published an intriguing article on swearing. The article argues that some swearing is good for you and actually helps humans handle pain. Note that the article is not talking about swearing routinely throughout everyday discourse, in fact, psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University in England, cautions, "the more we swear, the less emotionally potent the words become." Swear words allow us to vent or express extreme emotions such as surprise, anger, hysteria, sadness, fear, or even happiness but only when used explicitly for this purpose. Yelling, "d---!" when you smash your thumb with a hammer will make you feel better, but only if you save your d-word usage for this type of incident. Dropping F-bombs and using expletives daily takes the power out of the word and you loose a wonderful way to express extreme emotions. I don't know about you, but I want to have some words left to use when I am really upset. Just as I want people to take notice when I yell, "fire!" I want both myself and others to know that whatever emotion that I am expressing is very strong and very important.

And In Conclusion...

Language helps us to form an identity. It must be used carefully and with intention so that listeners do not form unwanted and/or unwarranted impressions of the speaker. Language is also a tool for extreme self expression, but it can only be used this way in moderation. When a famous rock star picks up a microphone to announce, "welcome to f-ing Columbus. D---! This is a F-ing beautiful F-ing city," we find ourselves left without any shock or awe. Instead, we think to ourselves that all rockstars are miscreant punks who likely dropped out of school at an early age. We are quietly grateful that we don't have to associate with this disrespectful drunk on a daily basis as the discourse is likely to be base and vapid. Then we think how rebellious the lout is on stage and how it is maybe kind of fun to hear this language within the confines of the amphitheater. It makes us feel a bit rebellious ourselves knowing that it offends outsiders who are not at the concert. Then we go home, grateful that the language of our friends and family is more respectful, interesting, and socially adept.

And The Moral Of The Story Is...

If you are swearing in daily language you may be embarrassing friends and family. They may be sheltering you from social events in which certain topics and language are taboo, afraid that you may drop a big one and humiliate your host. You may be making yourself look unintelligent, thuggish, and like you had a poor upbringing. People may think that you are angry all of the time and not want to associate with you. Lastly, what will you say the next time that you smash your finger? If you cuss all of the time, you might have to end up yelling, "please and thank you!!!" as maybe those words are used so rarely as to adequately express your pain.


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    • Lwelch profile image

      Lena Welch 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you! I gave this speech to a preteen that volunteered where I worked years ago and dawned on me that it would make a great hub.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I most certainly agree. You've hit the nail right on the head. You've pegged it well. :)