Profanity is often used in society in order to express discontent. From mild, momentary displeasure to extreme fury, humans make use of a seemingly defined set of off-limit words to express their emotions. Often these words reference things which would generally be considered better left unspoken of.
What is profanity really? Apparently there are 5 types of swearing (according to Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature which I found a reference to in the Wikipedia article on profanity):
- Dysphemistic – Opposite of euphemism. Force listener to think about negative thing
- Abusive – Abuse, intimidate, or insult others
- Idiomatic – Refer to (but do not explicitly mention) something in order to arouse interest, be macho/cool, or express to peers that the setting is informal.
- Emphatic – Emphasize what is being said (pretty self-explanatory)
- Cathartic – Rid oneself of negative feelings by outwardly expressing it
I can see how all of these are accurate descriptions for how profanity is used. It’s very interesting to study profanity and how it comes about. How it is sociological in a sense because profanity in our language is different from profanity in other languages (even taking into account translation). That’s not the issue.
The issue is that profanity comes out of your mouth much more than you’d like to admit. I feel your pain, it comes out of mine more than I’d like to admit, too.
In fact, I’ve told people before that I do not cuss. And I’m absolutely correct in a strict sense of the term. I don’t use those words that society has impressed upon me as being profane. In fact, I don’t feel like I need to use profanity in order to express myself. I do feel the same emotions that my cursing brothers feel. (Okay I don’t actually have blood brothers, but I mean it in the mankind term.) And yet I don’t see that it’s too necessary. Am I aghast when I hear it? Not extremely so. Well I’m not with those from whom I expect nothing better. Some people are held to a higher standard, but I digress.
So I don’t cuss. But the thing is that I’ll cuss in spirit. I’ll use nice versions like “darn”, “crap”, and “shoot” instead of the usual fare. But does that make it any better? No, I’m beginning to think that it does not matter much at all. Even though the words are different and less offensive to the ear according to society, the usage shows that my mouth is still overflowing with what is in my heart. And I can see that all is not right in that region of my chest. I’m not as loving or as good as I profess.
Ah if only the distance between my head and my heart weren’t so far.