Swearing — it isn't big and it isn't clever. Not unless you do it properly (then it's fantastic). There's a joy to swearing that is undeliable. The words feel good. And they can feel bad. It's all in the delivery. And it's also in the predisposition of the recipient. Some people have issues with the words in whatever context they may appear, and that's understandable. But in order to look at their use (and abuse) I will be using them freely, in widescreen and technicolor, so fair warning.
There is no better way to express certain sentiments than a well placed swear. Not just a 'shit' or a 'piss-flaps' but a full on "Oh, for fuck's sake." And there is little to compare to the pleasure of being able to look at a horrible, annoying group of people and turn to a friend and say, "What a bunch of cunts."
I think it is perfectly acceptable not to use or want to read offensive language. What is not acceptable is trying to prevent others from using it. Even though it does affect society as a whole and increases the exposure of those words to people and children not expecting it, that’s how language develops, both good and bad, and trying to stifle it by controlling anyone other than yourself will never succeed, in fact often it will have the opposite effect.
I think most people would say they don’t seek to prevent others from using those words as long as they make it clear that’s what they’re doing so those who aren’t interested can avoid them if they so choose. I think that's fair enough. But they also make a case for why those words are objectionable, none of which stand up, in my opinion.
Vulgar language is a sign of a limited vocabulary — In order for this idea to be true I would have to speak like this: Hey, fuck-face, pass me that bastard thing over there. No, not that piece of shit, the other fucker, the one with the motherfucking pointy things sticking out. Yes, the fucking fuck with the fuckers.
I have a pretty extensive vocabulary. I use a lot of swearing, both in my written work and my speech. I don’t use it in front of certain people or certain places. I can control it. In effect, I use all the words most well educated people use, plus I use swear words, so I have a larger vocabulary, not a smaller one.
It is seen as a lower form of communication because it used to be. That idea that the vernacular is indicative of labourers and certain 'types' is now an anachronism. Yes, dockers swear. And gangsters. But so do comedians. And politicians. And people in every other strata of society.
If you know what you’re doing, swear words, like any part of language, can be used to add to meaning or rhythm or tone.
“Can you pass the salt, please?”
“You know, if you need to talk to someone about it. I’m here to help.”
“Thanks. Pass the fucking salt.”
If you repeat a word too much it becomes meaningless — this is certainly true, but it’s true of any word. Overuse of a word sticks out on the page and starts attracting the eye, distracting from the story. If you use the word ‘monkey’ six times in two paragraphs, even if the story is about two zoo keepers working in the monkey enclosure, it will read clumsily.
Using powerful words robs them of their impact — the only power swear words have is from their restricted use. For those people who use them a lot they have no power to shock or surprise or whatever, so only using them selectively makes no difference. In fact, the only people this is true for are the people who never use them, so in effect this is an instruction to really piss off those people who are sensitive to these wiords as much as possible. Which seems a tad vindictive.
Try saying the word ‘fuck’ ten times in a row. It ends up becoming meaningless, nonsensical. Try it with ‘cunt’. You may not like the sound of the word, it may even make you feel uncomfortable, but the more you say it the sillier it gets.
Now try saying the word ‘rape’ ten times in a row. It’s horrifying. The more you say, the worse it gets. The difference is the word ‘rape’ has a very powerful and unsettling meaning. The reaction people have to swear words is all about the actual word. ‘Rape’ is about what the word represents, which is the job of words, to represent something else. Rape is a powerful word, and it doesn’t matter how often you use it, it never loses that power, because it never loses that meaning.
Swear words only have the power ascribed to them, and a good writer can manipulate that to be more or less as they please.
A bride on her wedding night says to her husband, “Let's fuck.”
Is that dark and menacing?
A newly convicted prisoner is in his cell and just as the lights go out he hears the guy in the bunk above him say, “You better find something to bite down on, pretty boy, ‘cos I’m about to split you wide open.”
No swear words there, devoid of threat?
The point is, the power of words is dependent on what they mean and the context they’re in. Arbitrarily giving a blanket response to all uses of a word is more about you than it is about the word. A knife can kill, and it can slice bread. And you can use a scimitar to butter toast if you want. It all depends on the specific circumstance.
I just don’t like it — this is a perfectly reasonable stance to take, but taste is a strange thing. It develops over time, is affected by our past experiences and can be stunted by a refusal to try new things or by clinging to old ways. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, I’m just saying society changes gradually over long periods of time and generally in the one direction. Once a line is crossed you can slow things down but you rarely get to reverse them (although people certainly do try).
I'm not saying all bets are off and anything goes. There is objectionable language that is offensive and unacceptable, but it may or may not contain swearing. The only way to make the judgement is after you understand the intent and the context, not before. You may not wish to expose yourself to that, which is fine, but you can't then assume you know what was intended. Because the range is vast, from vicious to playful. Perception is key, bitch.