The Sacred and the Profane
Swearing. Cursing. Vulgarities. Profanity. It matters not what we call it. What matters is where and when and how we encounter these deliciously dangerous words. We males are statistically dominant when it comes to implementing not-so-delicate linguistic hot sauce. The term profane evolved from the Latin phrase meaning before the temple. That is, something not condoned by whatever religion you’re into – always an effective way to make your displeasure known.
It’s obvious that vulgar language is a ubiquitous constituent of one’s mother tongue. It’s worth noting that the definition of vulgar is common. Language experts often identify commonly used versions of words as the vulgar usage. Swearing is different. It’s a premeditated verbal assault. And therein lies the motive for its prevalence.
There was a time when using epithets had the power to foment a strong reaction amongst those within earshot. George Carlin made a name for himself when, in those oh-so-innocent ’70s of the last century, his stand up comedy routine’s topic was: The seven words you can’t say on television. For those too young to remember let’s iterate those seven verboten words: Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker and Tits.
Holy shit – even today this writer holds that six of those still retain undeniable potency – except for tits which seems to have eroded into that it’s-not-so-bad, I’ve-heard-worse linguistic limbo. It’s doubtable whether loudly dispensing any of the others in the workplace wouldn’t get a reaction – and not a favorable one. Alluding that someone engages in sexual intercourse with his mother or is an enthusiastic practitioner of fellatio on his fellow man still make potent insults even in today’s “enlightened” culture.
If one ponders his repertoire of swear words its obvious how utterly common they are, that is, unless your cultural background skews off-center in a delightfully confusing banquet of expressions that don’t register to innocent ears unaware of their insulting potential. Most Americans, male and female, draw upon a rather prosaic and too-predictable reservoir of swear words. They include Carlin’s Magnificent Seven plus, if you’re like the rest of us, a smattering of other verbal spice: damn, ass, asshole, god dammit, holy shit (with its endearing religious undercurrent), let’s revisit cunt (a potent misogynistic term so insulting to the opposite sex one must use it with care when in their company, if at all, asshole), and colorful iterations of fuck; fucking hell, goddamnfuckinghell, motherfuckingoddamnshit, well, you fuck’n’ get the idea.
Our advice when implementing vulgar-speak is, as ever – measure the moment, consider your audience, and act accordingly. If you’re laying down the keynote speech in the company of senior management it’s probably not appropriate to sprinkle your closing remarks with, “So let’s get out there and kick the shit out this fucking merger.” When you’re alone on your back in the garage and that five-eighths nut at the end of the socket extension just won’t budge we encourage a softly hissed, “you fucking god damned son of a bitch”. It might actually teach that motherfucker a lesson and it’ll loosen just like it’s your little bitch. When you and your lady are in one of those moods you have our blessing to let loose with those wickedly wrong cunnilinguistics known in popular circles as talking dirty. It works like a charm when used properly in voluntarily impolite company. But, even then, confirm your audience is into it before loosing the filthy language.
And remember that your fellow men – and women – never like being a captive audience. When in public consider those around you. There are many out there who still feel profanity is just that – outside the boundaries of good taste and responsible behavior. So act accordingly. Temper your dialogue. A gentleman should always know how to say what he means. Just make sure you mean what you say. Don’t impose your standards on others. It’s just fucking not cool.