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Manners and Profanity

Updated on February 14, 2020

Profanity and Freudian Slips

A profanity consists of pro and fanus. The two words together literally mean ‘out of the temple’. The term referred to when you showed irreverence toward sacred objects. An example of this would be taking the name of God in vain.

The definition expanded over time to include abusing holy things, polluting holy things, having contempt for holy things or swearing in an unholy manner. Eventually the term was used most often for the polluting of people through curses or references to unclean objects.

When Sigmund Freud addressed the topic of Freudian slips as it relates to profanities, many people were shocked. His writings opened many eyes to what those ‘slips’ were really about. Those ‘slips of the tongue’ and ‘occasional profanities’ exposed what's really going on in their minds.

His writing on the slips was a surprise to those who had grown accustomed to the profanities of their time. Many in society were surprised that what they said actually revealed what was going on inside of them.

Profanity and Culture

You may want to dismiss or pass off as the profanities as a ‘cultural’ thing. Some regions and areas are so filled with profanity, that they no longer elicit any reaction from their use.

When profanity infects the whole culture, it desensitizes people to profanities. Initially there is a shock value to profanity, yet that diminishes with continued use.

In past history, persons who showed excessive profanities were referred to as ‘profligate’. The term ‘profligate’ describes situations when there has been a loss of decency and virtue.

The term profligate is rarely used these days in identifying those who have lost decency. Instead the term indecent is used for such situations.

You may even say that the profanity you said isn't ‘really you’. No matter how much you dismiss it, you said it. Not only did that come out of your mouth, It reveals what was in your heart.

Speaking from your heart

Freud brought to the public’s mind the truths of Scripture from Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

The truth that what you speak reveals what is in your heart is an old truth. What you said is ‘really’ what you meant. Even with the little slips reveal what your true feelings are.

Freud merely shined a new light on the spiritual truths contained in the Bible. What is on the inside of you will always find a way out. When your language is always filled with profanity, it tells those around you what is in your heart.

Knowing these truths, as a counselor, one of the intriguing aspects of profanity are the choices of profanities. The favorite profanities reveal a great deal about what you are struggling with.

When profanities are used in order to fit in, I am reminded of initiation rituals. Instead of having to engage in profane acts, now all you have to do is speak those acts. By talking about those profane acts, you are accepted as a member of the ‘club’.

Motorcycle gang initiates often had to shower themselves with the cast offs from the membership. In a similar manner, some people shower themselves with profanities to show the world that they are covered in societies cast offs.

Profanity and Manners

Over the years, I've learned what each of the profanities is communicating. In some cases, you may not have the vocabulary that expresses what you are struggling with. Somehow resorting to profanity allows you to convey in a powerful way what you are wanting to say.

Since occasional profanity does have a shock value, such words do add some power to your message. Using them with frequency diminishes whatever power they once had. Like dresses and ties that are worn too often, they loose their potency.

When others become familiar with your profanity, there is no longer any shock value to it. As the power of the shock value diminishes, you may consider increasing the frequency of the profanity. By repeating the profanity, there is some shock, yet even that approach has diminishing impact.

Knowing and practicing good manners are an important social skill. Good manners consist in knowing how to speak to others in a respectful manner. Although some people do not want the respect associated with the titles of Mr., Mrs., or Miss, you can still interact with them in a mannerly fashion.

Although some in society have mocked and derided the use of “yes mam” and “yes sir”, such practices are important in maintaining civility. Learning manners also gives you practice in respecting yourself. Rather than inundating yourself with profanities as a method of self-expression, which often leaves you feeling dirty, manners give you a sense of value.

Manners do not prevent the use of profanities. There are still times and places where using profanity may be the best option. Manners provide the structure to know when such situations arise. Knowing when to use respectful language along with who to use it with is a part of manners. Knowing the proper times and place where vulgar or profane talk is also a part of manners as well.

There are also times when you may find yourself dealing with a segment of people that only respond to profanity. They only take you serious when you let loose some profanity. With this population, they view mannerly behaviors as being weak, and often ignore any kind of civilized interaction. When you're dealing with what I term 'uncivilized' persons, profanity may be the only way to get their attention. I use the term uncivilized since they don't respond to civil discourse.

They don't appreciate civility and often operate on a 'might makes right' approach to life, taking advantage of those they presume are weaker than they are. I would use the term 'bully' but some bullies are civilized and respond to mannerly responses. The 'uncivilized' form of bully only responds to power, force and strength. In their world, only profane words have any meaning or force behind them.


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