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Manners and Profanity

Updated on August 9, 2012
The early definition of 'profanity' consisted of treating sacred objects with disregard or in a polluting manner.
The early definition of 'profanity' consisted of treating sacred objects with disregard or in a polluting manner.


Manners, including those pertaining to profanity are an important part of life. The quality of manners you use are often a barometer of your own character and morals. How you talk to people and the words you use in expressing yourself say a great deal about you. What is in your really in your heart is what gets expressed.


When you have manners, you talk and interact with others respectfully. You know how to talk with people in the most appropriate manner. You know the proper way to address people, how to ask for things, how to ask questions in a non-offensive manner and how to express yourself in polite terms. When respect is mutual, you and the person you are talking to respect each other and validate their value. When you introduce profanity to the interaction, everything changes. Either you or the person you are talking to feels violated and sullied. Rather than feeling respected and validated, you feel dirtier than when you started.Profanity has a way of making you feel trashed.


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, 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 is really going on. 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.

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 the profanity infects the whole culture, they show that they are desensitized to profanities. The old term for such desensitization was ‘profligate’. The term ‘profligate’ describes situations when there has been a loss of decency and virtue.

You may even say that the profanity you said is not ‘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. All Freud did was bring 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.


Over the years, I have 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 often 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 are dealing with what I term 'uncivilized' persons, profanity may be the only way to get their attention. I use the term uncivilized since they do not respond to civil discourse. They do not 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. These kind of persons often try your patience.

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    • Admiral Murrah profile image
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      Admiral Murrah 5 years ago from Texas

      Sophia,

      I can understand how that age group can be exasperating. During a time when they should be gentlemen, they are instead uncivilized thugs. It would be one thing if they were limited to one part of the globe or one city, yet they are not. Like roaches, they are found in too many areas.

      Its sad that you have become a hermit, yet dealing with those types can be such a taxing challenge that it is often not worth it. We need more people like you who want people to have an understanding of morals, integrity, ethics and refinement. Even when the Roman civilization went down the tube, there remained pockets of civility and culture. You may be one of those islands of culture and refinement.

      Thank you again for commenting.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

      Starmom, yes, they are all deeply personal questions. When one tries to avoid the questions, they go on and on. I think I have completely forgotten the refinement with which I grew up and the way I was in most of my early life. I'm a very different person, essentially because the unmannerly outnumber the mannerly.

      Admiral Murah, yes, that's exactly right. The only way one can respond to people like this is sink to their own level. Between the ages of 19 and 45, I was consistently the victim of these people. I was torn between being gracious and spending time with people that made me cringe, and being rude and just walking away. This worm finally turned 15 years ago and I don't like what I have become. I don't trust anyone as far as I see them. There are just too many people who have no understanding of morals, integrity, ethics, refinement, etc. And I think mine has gone with the wind because it's the only way I can protect myself from these kind of people. Unhappily, I have become a hermit.

    • Admiral Murrah profile image
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      Admiral Murrah 5 years ago from Texas

      Sophia,

      Thank you for commenting. From the example you gave, you were trying to handle things in a mannerly way. The man obviously did not show mannerly behavior toward you. You then responded to him in the only way he could understand. Although I wish it was not so, there are some people that do not hear you speak unless you use profanity. They are often so insensitive that the only way to get their attention is to 'fight fire with fire'. Your comment exposes a blind spot that I will correct in a future edit. Dealing with people like that is certainly exasperating.

    • profile image

      Starmom41 5 years ago

      oh I really hope not :)

      like you said, I don't like the way I've become as a result of this- but it's nearly impossible to not be defensive and angry after tolerating this kind of behavior for so long. The worst of it is the male population believes any "unattached female" is up-for-grabs-- I've been propositioned by guys younger than my own son, and almost as old as my father. But I also don't like "how much money do you make?" "how much rent do you pay?" etc. These individuals simply have no upbringing. (and I appreciate the chance to say so here :) ).

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

      Starmom41. Give it twenty years... :)

    • profile image

      Starmom41 5 years ago

      @Sophia: I can relate to much of what you've said. Since I relocated to this specific area, I never cease to be stunned by the questions & behaviors individuals here come out with. As I grew up with manners, it's very difficult for me to blast out at somebody about their intrusiveness being out of line.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

      Well, obviously, I have no m0rals or ethics according to this line of logic.

      Last night I swore at someone. I was in Starbucks. This guy sitting next to me started complimenting me on the blouse I was wearing. I said thank you without looking at him and continued what I was doing. One would think he would get the hint that I was not interested in talking to strangers, especially a guy who was looking to pick up a girl.

      In any event, I think he mouthed another comment. I turned to him and said, "I am not interested in men. I have no desire to speak to men. Please don't speak to me." Again, that was cutting enough.

      He turned to say that all men were not the same and that I was not his type (I would hope so - he was 20 or 30 something. I'm 60.) At which point, I lost it and swore and told him that all bloody men were the same.

      Why? Because for more than 45 years, I have been faced with men asking me personal questions and been put in a very awkward spot. I felt that by refusing to answer I was being rude, and by answering, I was being intellectually and spiritually raped. I have absolutely no desire to share my private information with anybody. Yet people constantly ask. And it gets worse by the year.

      In England, it is the height of rudeness to ask someone one doesn't know how they are as it presumes a familiarity. I finally found a way around it in America by saying, "Thank you," and not answering the question.

      Another question I am constantly asked by complete strangers is , "Where are you from?" This is because I have an accent. Actually, it's a personal question and it has absolutely nothing to do with them. Anything that asks a person about something that is unique to them is a personal question.

      I swear because I have reached a pitch of frustration that I can no longer control. I feel violated, raped, out of control because I cannot get men to stop asking me personal questions.

      On my first few dates in this country, I was aghast to have men ask me what position I liked and whether it happened on the first date or 3rd date. I have never dated an American since and I never will. The speed with which the topic turns to sex is profoundly disturbing these days. The word for this kind of man is profligate. These men have had sex with so many women on 1st and 3rd dates, and they all discuss sex, a deeply personal topic, with such ease, that they think it's normal. They have grown completely insensitive to any sort of refinement.

      That's why I use profanity. It is the only thing that I can use these days. The anger at the way people invade one's privacy five minutes after meeting one is something I cannot live with. I hate it. And it is very, very bad manners.

      At this point in time, I don't like what I have become. I have decided to cut men from every aspect of my existence, and the next time someone asks me where I am from, I will just stop the conversation right there and walk away. Manners are about a lot of things: the main thing is not to make other people uncomfortable

    • Admiral Murrah profile image
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      Admiral Murrah 5 years ago from Texas

      Starmom41,

      Thank you for your support. It just took me a while to put my thoughts together and set them in writing.

    • Admiral Murrah profile image
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      Admiral Murrah 5 years ago from Texas

      gmwillias,

      Thank you for your support. There is a BIG need for more manners and less profanity, among both men and women.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Succinctly statement. Totally concur a multillion percent!

    • profile image

      Starmom41 5 years ago

      I agree with you 100%!