Curse at the wind!

While listening to Cee Lo’s “Fuck You” today in my car, I thought about how a song that features the f-word in its title and chorus would not have been on mainstream radio 15 years ago. Cursing, or allusions to it, are now commonplace in music, movies, and cable TV.

As someone who curses quite a bit, I say “Viva la revolucion!” and I don’t see this as our country spiraling deeper and deeper into an immoral inferno. On the flipside, I don’t think I’d be too happy to hear little kids cursing, but perhaps that is the inevitable result of a society that’s just stopped caring about “bad” words.

When I was a teacher, I never disciplined kids for cursing. Of course, they were cursing in Spanish anyway, but the principle is the same and it didn’t bother me. As long as someone wasn’t cursing at me, who gives a shit?

Does this mean we are headed towards a cuss-free society? What a paradoxical solution to eliminating foul language.

While swear words may have lost some sting, it still hurts a lot more when someone says “You’re such a fucking bitch” instead of “You’re such a bitch.” And it still hurts more when someone says “You’re such a bitch” instead of “You’re not very nice.” And in that regard, their power is still real. But as long as a curse word isn’t used in a verbal attack, go ahead and drop 100 tons of f-bomb on that shat.

There will always be derogatory words for groups of people. I don’t think there’s any getting around that. And it’s always possible that the fuck, shit, bitch, and asshole of today will simply be replaced by a new generation of blasphemies.

There is one curse word that I absolutely do not tolerate, and that is cunt.* But seeing as I can’t really come up with a good argument for why asshole is inherently less harmful, I suppose I might have to warm up to cunt if it starts becoming commonplace. (That doesn’t mean I would say it myself, only that it might serve as an acceptable alternative to bitch).

PS: This post was a lot of fun to write.

*I know that in the UK, “cunt” is no big deal, but it certainly is here. Just like “bollocks” and “bloody” are merely comical Britishisms in American eyes.



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5 responses to “Curse at the wind!

  1. Pingback: Curse at the wind! | Throwing in the Towel | Pondrr

  2. Sean

    2 things!

    First, allow me to present an argument in favour of ‘cunt’ from our student paper, back when I edited it 2 years ago. It’s on page 8 – sorry about the lack of a more readable format!

    Second: Swearing is swearing, and works like verbal exclamation marks, but the specific curse words used reflect social attitudes, by invoking unpleasant or taboo things. When those attitudes change, the relative strength of different curse words change.

    In the past, religious swearing was very potent – “damn you” and “hell” were quite strong. Then religion started to wane, so sex and bodily functions became more important (bodily functions a stornger taboo now, I suspect, because thanks to modern sanitation you no longer constantly smell shit everywhere) as curse words. “Fuck you” was a direct replacement of the impotent “damn” with something now stronger and more taboo.

    Note, too, how racist slurs are basiclaly beyond the pale, now? That’s because racism is becoming a stronger taboo, so powerful racist curses have an unparalleled ability to shock.

    • throwinginthetowel

      2 things! 🙂
      Cool read, and good points.
      I must say, though, that I disagree with your evaluation of “pussy,” as many guys have spoken this word to me in a non-ironic sexual context.
      I guess your thoughts lead me to ask…is racism the only thing that will be taboo in the future? Or do you predict another taboo emerging?

      FYI, I had to look up the meaning of “beyond the pale;” we don’t say that here.

  3. Sean

    It’s an interesting question, thinking more about it, I think there’s another variable at play: increased tolerance and acceptance of invoking taboos by our society. Sex is certainly still taboo, because it’s personal and fraught terrain, so the associated words retain power.

    But conversely, we’re more open about sex despite how personal it is, hence the assoicated curse words are more acceptable than they once were.

    (and you’re probably right about ‘pussy’, I’m just going off my own conversations with female friends, and experience with girls I’ve been with.)

  4. Sarah

    While I agree that cursing is not looked at in the same sense anymore, you can bet there are certain things that I still find unacceptable. A friend of mine is a teacher’s aide at a local elementary school. A student comes into class (kindergartners, mind you), and drops his coat on the floor rather than hang it up.

    “Daniel, pick up your coat, please.”
    “Fuck off.”

    The kid was 5. There are just some things that are bad. Now of course my friend says to herself, “He heard it from somewhere else…”, but fact is that while cursing may be more common to throw in, the meaning behind it is everything and at such young ages, it seems fairly rare that kids understand the difference.

    In my very brief time rebelling as a young teenager, I stopped caring about the meaning behind a lot of cuss words. “Fuck” was my favorite word in my vocabulary, and I used it as often as possible. Dad hated it but rather than try and punish me, he simply said not to use it around him and especially not at the dinner table. I’ve read old things that I had written around those ages and have found myself utterly astounded! I guess I grew out of it.

    It remember when we were scolded in school for saying something “sucks.”

    “It’s raining! This sucks!” would send kids to the principal’s office when I was in kindergarten, or at the very least, a note home to the parents.

    My how times have changed.

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