It’s really simple, yet complicated. For some it’s natural, yet for me it’s unnatural. For others it’s subconscious, but for me it’s conscious. I’m talking about those few one syllable, four letter words that are quick to speak, but can leave a lasting impression. It’s those simple, small words that I actually have a big problem with. It’s curse words. As I write this I almost hear imaginary gasps and giggles from my imaginary audience in my head. For many, curse words are spoken as natural as breathing, and I suppose that’s part my problem. As a matter of fact, an article in Time Magazine entitled, Nine Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Swear Words, states that approximately 0.7% of the words a person uses in the course of a day are swear words and that kids often learn curse words before they learn the alphabet. I don’t feel as if I’m above anyone, but I’ve always believed I could just do better than to curse.
Since elementary school, profanity has been a part of my everyday life, but not by choice. I remember the “big kids” cursing on the playground to sound “grown,” but to me they sounded foolish. By the time I was in high school, almost all of my schoolmates cursed, and in college, everyone cursed- even my professors did while teaching class. Cursing is one of those habits we excuse with “everybody does it,” but I just can’t get myself to become comfortable with adding those four-letter words into my vocabulary. I don’t even care to repeat or read aloud sentences that contain a curse word. Although often meant to insult or exude strong emotion, in my opinion, cursing radiates basicness. If one has to insert an expletive in between every other word just to tell me about their day, I’m not impressed. In fact, I likely have no idea what the point of the conversation was because all I remember are all times I heard a curse word that seemed pointless to me.
Interestingly, Steven Pinker, a Harvard professor wrote a book called The Stuff of Thought: Language is a Window Into Human Nature. He points out that although cursing (for some) can be cathartic, “when foul words are overused, it shifts from being taboo to normal and doesn’t seem to have the same effect.” Like I said, basic. He also agrees that for people who curse over 60 times a day do not get those supposedly cathartic benefits because the emotional response of cursing has weakened in the brain. I’ll admit, a “crap” or a “darn it” doesn’t always pack the emotional punch I’d like it to, but I would just rather find another way to express myself. In my opinion, cursing does not represent distinction, individuality, display standards. I feel as if people curse mostly to be more socially accepted. If that weren’t the case, perhaps people would be more prone to curse when it was really impactful. For example, when you only bring out the fine china for those special occasions when you really want to leave a lasting impression; in my opinion, if one must curse, do it so it leaves a lasting impression. Which leads me to my next thought. Words do leave an impression and are certainly impactful. The idea that curse words are meant to insult, my conscience just won’t let me ignore how others may internalize the words I speak to them. If I were to shout at a woman and call her a b****, even though I may have every reason to be upset, I’m equating her existence to that of a dog, an animal; not even human. So why do we incorporate such vulgarity in our everyday language? Now, it is as if music or movies aren’t even popular if they aren’t laced with curse words. Are we that mediocre?
As I alluded before, there are moments when I have to keep myself from allowing a four-letter word to slip from my mouth. Curse words for me are like a mosquito bite- I want to scratch it, but I know once I start to scratch it I won’t be able to stop. Although I have told myself that its unlikely people will think any less of me if I start cursing on a regular basis, the truth is that I will think less of myself. I would feel as if I’m putting aside my strong convictions simply for social gratification.
I believe that words have power. If they didn’t there would be no point in studying journalism and writing. Words are the vehicle to communication, which is the key to cultivating relationships. Words can speak life or they kill. We celebrate the milestone when babies speak their first words, at weddings our hearts melt when we hear “I do.” The words, “you’re hired” or “you’re fired” can change our worlds in an instant. God initiated the creation of the earth with just three words. Words do have power, and I just choose to speak mine wisely, and kindly, and clean.
View Sources ∨
Corcoran, Monica Harvel. “What the &%$@?”. 23 January 2013: Elle Magazine
Steinmetz, Katy. “Nine Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Swear Words.” 16 April 2013: Time Magazine