Today is Friday, the day I talk about the issues and completely ignore that I didn’t post anything on Monday. Today’s issue is: Using Bad Words. A lot of people do it, but I find that hardly anyone does it correctly. There is a certain art-form that effective swearing requires that seems to be lost on most of the populace, and I aim to correct that. I want to live in a world where people swear and cuss and curse to their fullest potential! No one teaches people how to swear, and that’s a shame. It’s a great part of the human experience that all people are left to find out themselves. So if you have children, make sure you pull up this article for them to read (and don’t let them click on any of the links).
DISCLAIMER: It’s not often I’ll have to do this, but today’s post is SFW (Safe For Work). I don’t swear in my posts or use overly graphic language. Usually the links are safe to go visit, but today that will not be the case. These kinds of clips are used in film school all the time (its where I got most of these clips), but usually when the professor is trying to talk about censorship and profanity. I’m not taking any responsibility for any offense you take because of the links I’ve provided. You’re a grown up, clicking those links is your decision. You’ve been fairly warned.
Now don’t feel bad if you don’t swear well. I didn’t realize it about myself for the longest time. It took meeting a good friend of mine named Zed for me to realize this fault about myself. Zed swears amazingly well. Out of all the people in the world, Zed swears the best. Swearing is Zed’s super power that he used to stop Loki from taking over New York. Being friends with Zed was like being at the Buddhist temple for foul language enlightenment. I thought I was swearing well, but Zed showed me what it was like to be one with the swearing.
Lesson 1: We need to analyze swear words. My mother, who is probably horrified that I’d be talking about such a foul subject, draws the line of swear words very low. It’s been hard to pinpoint because the bar goes lower every day, but I think the bar is currently set 8 words below the word “Silly”. The FCC, a government agency mind you, thinks there are only 7 words in the English language that shouldn’t be said on the nation’s airwaves. The range for folks does fluctuate a lot. I’m going to use the word “Fart” for every swear word in this post, because it’s mostly neutral, is low on everyone’s list of possible swear words, but still has the shock value of legitimate swear words. That’s the first lesson: you can’t really tell what your audience will consider to be a swear word.
Lesson 2: Swear words are completely unnecessary. They are. They distract from what one is trying to say. Swear words can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. (He is a _____. He is going to _____. That guy is a ____ clown. That guy is ______ dishonorable. [I noticed that some of you filled in those blanks while reading this, and not all of you used the word ‘fart’. The sentences do become funny when you fill in the word ‘fart’ in each blank, but I’m sure you see how it distracts from the original intent.]) Still, swear words are completely unnecessary. With a decent thesaurus, you can see that swear words are lazy words. Swear words are generally words that one with a poor vocabulary has to use in order to add emphasis to whatever it is one is saying. When one lacks a verbose lexicon to impact communication in a fetching way, one can lazily concede to using foul language for its shock value as opposed to a better word’s gravitas.
Lesson 2, Example:
My best friend betrayed me by embarrassing me in front of all of the popular kids to become popular himself. He is a _____.
He is a fart. VS He is a quisling.
Lesson 3: There are generally two reasons to swear:
•to communicate a feeling of anger/disappointment
A lot of people just throw bunches of swear words around ineffectively. The reason is that swear words are generally used to communicate two ideas, and overusing them dulls their edge. By overusing swear words to communicate an intense idea, you’re basically making everything you intend to be intense boring. (You know that guy that describes everything as “epic”? Yeah, don’t be that guy.) By overusing swear words for humor, you’re basically repeating the punchline in hopes that other people will find it funny a second time around.
The greatest offenders of this are middle school boys to college boys. While jogging at the YMCA, I often hear the high schoolers below me swearing in every single sentence they utter. Sometimes it is the only word in the sentence. It is to the point that their swearing is just extra white noise, just there to be there. It becomes boring, trite, sophomoric, useless, and dumb. I think of their language the same way I think of high school boys.
Swearing is a lot like makeup. Less is more. One can use makeup to add emphasis to something one wants people to see (eyelashes, lips, ect). If one uses too much makeup, they look like a clown. Same goes for swearing. The trick to swearing effectively is that it needs to be a rare event. Swearing all the time makes one look like a clown.
Swearing has a certain power to it. If every time you use a profanity, your language loses some of its power. A speaker that abuses vocabulary loses all of their power. People that overuse profanities are seen as vulgar, stupid, and crass. Seems accurate. These folks don’t realize that they are being overly offensive for no reason (vulgar), they don’t have the vocabulary to express themselves meaningfully (stupid), and they lack the social skills necessary to talk with intelligent and refined people (crass).
So how often should you be swearing? The answer is always the same: Less.
Reserved swearing will actually increase your swearing effectiveness. If my mother were to suddenly drop a profanity into one of her sentences after 60 years of not swearing, I’d know that she was EXTREMELY angry at a situation. Her profanity would catch my attention, I’d know the severity of the situation, and I’d legitmently be shocked by it. It’d be such a landmark occurrence that I’d call my sister to let her know that it’s happened. Meanwhile, if Snoop Dog were to swear in a sentence, we’d all know that his heart is still beating.
Lesson 4: Rarely use a swear word as an adverb. It’s the equivalent of using the words “very” or “really”. Both of these words are similar to swear words in that they are lazy ways of adding emphasis. I’m really sure some very well planned abuse of these words will really show you how very little they really add to any sentence. ‘The man is very stupid’ is not a better sentence than ‘the man is stupid’. The idea is to add emphasis to the insult ‘stupid’. This is how I hear most people insert their swear words because it is easy. An adverb can go almost anywhere in a sentence, and yet, folks tend to place their swear word right before the word they are trying to emphasize, which completely negates what they are trying to do. Also, most swear words, when converted into adverbs, will get an ‘-ing’ ending. This makes swear words look like verbs, and can change the entire meaning of your sentence.
Lesson 4, Example:
The man is stupid.
The man is farting stupid.
The swear word in this case was meant to emphasize how stupid the man is. Instead, the audience is wondering how one farts stupidly. The swear word had so much emphasis that it took over the entire sentence, graduating from an adverb to a verb. All meaning was lost. Even if we did away with the ‘-ing’ ending, the sentence becomes ‘The man is fart stupid’. Now it’s just an awkward sentence. The word ‘stupid’ is now describing the word ‘fart’. The sentence has been ruined by adding swear words into it.
Lesson 5: Rarely use swear words as adjectives, for the same reasons as rarely using them as adverbs. They become boring. They change the meaning of the sentences. They aren’t effective. It’s easy to insert a swear word before the noun you are trying to describe, but don’t. Any swear word used as an adjective can be replaced by the word ‘big’.
LESSON 5, Example:
The man is an idiot.
The man is a farting idiot.
The man is a big idiot.
Nothing was added with the expletive except confusion. The man is farting in addition to being an idiot?
Lesson 6: The F-Word has become trite. It really has. The moment that “WTF” became something normally said on prime time television during a news cycle, the F-Word was done. It’s over. The reign of the F-Word has collapsed. Now it is only offensive for the sake of being offensive. It’s why I’m not spelling the word out despite it being a vapid profanity. It’s overused. True, it is a versatile word with fitting usage as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. It’s just not effective anymore. The F-Word is so 1990’s. There are better words now, and 99% of those are not profanities. The F-Word has become so pathetic that most readers here think that writing “F-Word” is a good enough censorship of it. So the F-Word shouldn’t be used unless it’s being added to be offensive just for the sake of being offensive. Don’t use it.
Lesson 7: Never ever use a slur against someone! This one is always a no-no. In the digital age where everything is recorded, you don’t ever want to be caught using a slur. This is a career ending move, and rightly so. Wielding a swear word to hurt people will say a lot more about you than it will ever say about them, and it’ll speak volumes about you that you don’t want spoken.. The N-Word is nuclear. If you feel the compulsion to use the N-Word, you might want to do some deep soul searching and find what you hate so much about a disenfranchised minority class in the United States. This is one of those personal flaws that one should work out on their own time in private, not air for everyone to hear. It’s not just racial slurs you should stay away from. Stay away from gay/lesbian slurs, religious slurs, slurs against women, slurs against men, slurs against the disabled (physically and mentally), and whatever other bad term that can be applied to a group of people. Even if someone uses a slur against you, don’t ever use a slur back against them (we’ll get to that in lesson 8).
You don’t want to get labeled as a bigot, and that’s exactly where using slurs will land you, because those are the kinds of words that bigots say. Even if you are a bigot, which is a terrible thing to be, you don’t want to be exposed as one. You keep those locked up tight, because there is a difference between offending someone with a profanity and inspiring righteous furry in someone by exposing your prejudiced hatred for a group they belong to.
Lesson 8: Don’t swear in a fight or an argument. In order for an argument to be constructive on your end, you have got to retain control of yourself. Arguing is a complicated thing that requires a bunch of social manuvers and “one-up-manship”. You’ve got to continually present you and your case better than the other person presents their case. If you start swearing all over the place, you’ve started to present yourself poorly. One swear will get their attention and show that you care deeply and passionately about the topic being argued over. Persistent swearing will make you look like an out of control, vulgar, stupid, crass, and out of touch. If you present yourself poorly, your position in the argument gets reviewed poorly, even if it is the right position. At maximum, you get 1 swear word per argument, and even that seems high.
Lesson 9: Despite all of my insistence to not swear in all of the previous lessons, it can still be done effectively. Swearing is a lot like a semicolon; a person can use it to create beauty and new meaning for the sake of clarity, humor, and expressing one’s self. Used incorrectly; and the semicolon quickly shows how bad one is at using semicolons and everyone questions their intelligence. You have to know what you are doing in order to swear effectively. There are times when it can be done to humorous effect. There are times it can be done to really show upset someone is. It’s an artform, and part of the art form is the rarity. When done correctly it is brilliant. When done incorrectly it makes the speaker look bad.
The Ultimate Lesson: If you want to swear effectively, don’t. Don’t swear at all. Keep those profanities locked up behind your tongue. Don’t dare utter them. Let them sit. Let them wait. Let them ferment. A person who doesn’t swear is the best at it, because the one day that you need a swear word’s power, it’ll be there for you. Everyone will fall at your feet, because you waited, and your saved up profanities will pay exponential interest. It’s the build up of a conservative tongue that makes a constructive swear word.
That’s the secret I learned from Zed. Zed swears once every three years, and every time he does, the full weight of what he’s done registers to his audience. His profanities are a thing of intense beauty because they are so farting rare.
We can only hope that my mom never decides to swear, for we would all perish in the flames of the magnificence.