The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Monday, November 24, 2008

*&^%)$#! (A Screed on Profanity)

Lately, I have been finding it difficult to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. At one time, when this would happen, it would be because of noise from outside, or from someone snoring, or someone else being awake and making some noise, but that's less the case now than internal noise. My brain gets noisy. An idea pops into my head, starts sparring with my consciousness and won't back away. So, here I am at 4:30 in the morning pecking away at my laptop trying to defend myself.

The idea was "profanity" and its uses and misuses. It came to me because someone, in a blog, referenced a flash animation called "Dance, Monkey, Dance". It was made from a "slam poem" by Ernie Cline. It is clever, a slightly angry but humorous description of humanity. The flash animation is more effective than the poem itself.

Dance, Monkey, Dance Animation
Dance, Monkey, Dance Poem

It wasn't the poem which invaded my brain and kept me awake, it was a word used repeatedly in the poem, in the flash animation, that was the culprit. It is a four letter word for the act of sexual intercourse. It was once rarely heard, or seen written, in polite society, Certainly not in mixed company. Now, it seems to roll easily off the lips of young teenage girls. It bothers me.

I am not a stranger to this word, I cannot say I don't use it myself. I certainly have and do. But I am consciously trying not to. You see, once that word was very useful for its shock value alone. But it is an addictive word and soon is popping out on a regular basis. The shock value is lessened by overuse. I know, I spent 4 years in the Navy. That word was in constant use. It was in almost every sentence spoken. It was a noun, a verb, and an adjective... often in the same sentence. It's definitely versatile. And it still, even after that, has shock value.

I blame Lenny Bruce. Back in the early 60s, Lenny shocked America with his use of profanity as schtick. It made him wildly popular, both with the public and with the police. He is widely recognized now as a comic genius and he was a great comedian. But he set in motion the idea that profanity wasn't really bad, that it was just words and words that could amuse.

The amusement gave way to utility which led to common use which led to overuse. I am no longer shocked by profanity, I am turned off by it. I see it as the lazy way to make or press a point. It's just too blanking easy to rattle off a profanity than to think of a clever and unique way to get a point across.

I challenge you all to be creative, to think, to use your wit, and avoid profanity.

17 comments:

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Dance, Monkey, Dance...

Has tones of David Bowie.

AV
http://netherregionoftheearthii.blogspot.com/
http://tomusarcanum.blogspot.com/

verification -0 partmoc

MilesPerHour said...

Douglas, thanks for the challenge but I like certain words too much. Now I avoid using God's name in vain so that's no problem. But when my dog did poopie on the floor I just mopped, I had to exclaim, "Oh fiddlesticks'. I couldn't help myself.

(You know that ain't what came outa me mouth!)

Embee said...

I agree with you, although I have never personally used that word. It did inspire an idea for a play, that my husband wrote, but has yet to be produced because it is so liberally laced with that word. The point of the play is to emphasize both the utility and overuse of the word.

Although I have never used that particular word, there are a couple of others I use when appropriate. For instance, when driving in the dark and a deer suddenly and inexplicably appears in the headlights, a certain curse word has escaped my lips as I swerved to avoid it. When I tripped down the stairs and sliced open my finger on the handrail hardware, another choice phrase slipped out. My kids know that mom and dad don't swear except for when it is extremely necessary. There are definitely appropriate times for those words. Which I think is exactly the point you're trying to make. Those words are so much more effective when used sparingly!

Barry said...

Agree, agree, agree.

Overuse misses the point of profanity.

It may make teenage girls seem older and tougher than they actually are, as they navigate the terrifying world of modern adolescence, but it robs them, and us, of a very useful tool.

And that's a shame.

The Logisitician said...

I used to teach my English students (seeking their GEDs) at a local community college that most profanity, and "uhs," "ahs," and "you know," serve as conversation fillers due to a lack of an adequate reservoir of words available for use.

One way to deal with that, apart from expanding one's vocabulary: speak slower.

One student once told me, "You speak too proper." I responded that I could speak any way that I desired, in any setting, and with any group of people. We have limited vocabularies these days. One of the most frequent criticisms/ recommendations received from readers of my blog has centered around my choice of words. It has been suggested that I not use them, so that I might reach more people.

The point is well taken, and yet I hope that my readers are curious enough and motivated enough to look them up, as I do when I encounter a new word.

ON THE OTHER HAND, some words describe an emotion or concept in one word, that otherwise takes 7 or 9 or more words to explain. Frequently certain words are efficient as well as effective. The key is the ability to use them judiciously so as to avoid having people think that you have limited vocabulary resources available to you.

Douglas said...

MPH, you'd be surprised at the interesting reactions you'd get if you trained yourself to substitute "fiddlesticks" for that word.

Embee, you reminded me of the deals I would make with my son when I would slip and utter a forbidden (to him) word. They seemed to work. At least he learned to restrain himself around me.

Logistician, you have hit on a key technique for correcting speech problems (including profanity). Speak slowly. It does work. It is one method I am using and, combined with what I call "silly word" substitution, is helping me. I also try to remind myself how, as a teen, I would cuss like a sailor with my peers but utter not one "bad" word in front of my parents. That was/is proof of our ability to restrain ourselves.
Your other issue is valid, we need to avoid appearing to be talking down to someone.

Madame DeFarge said...

I find that part of the problem is that, if I use 'non-standard' words in conversation, there are people who imagine that I imagine that I are innately superior. Presumably this is more acceptable than accepting that their vocabulary is more limited. I am criticised for using 'big' words when expletives would do. Baffling.

Douglas said...

Madame, there's a fine line between talking with and talking down to. It is difficult to gauge the vocabulary of strangers so one needs to tread lightly and cautiously. It is often best to listen for some time in order to get a feel for the way they are speaking, what words are used, the level of intellect or learning, perhaps. If you hear a lot of "you know" and "like, she went..", it might be best to move on.

Michael said...

As a teenager, I often find that the profane words are most effective when they are used by my friends who don't swear an awful lot. I admire the way in which they can avoid profanities when they're easy to use, so as to utter a four-letter word full of impact when they truly mean serious business.

I swear too much. I'll cut it out before I head off to university.

Michael.

P.S. The word verification is 'antivec'. That's one letter away from 'antivuc'.

Douglas said...

We need a word for "word verification", maybe 'worver'? I thought about 'wordify' for the process.

Michael said...

Why do we need a word? Isn't 'word verification' enough? Seems a bit obsessively inventive to want too many new words... I mean, first it's 'YABTF' (which has disappeared Monday), then 'spong'...

P.S. Video

'allica'

Douglas said...

It's a matter of OCD, you wouldn't understand. Monday is not even over yet, sheesh!

IB said...

I agree with Lenny Bruce. Any word is just that, a word.

When communicating we need to chose words that are best suited to convey the underlying message we are trying to deliver. Sometimes it's the "F" word and sometimes it's "fiddlesticks". Neither is better than the other. To my ear, neither is more shocking than the other. Both used inappropriately would strike me as odd and would diminish my interest in the message and in the speaker/writer.

We must choose wisely.

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

Douglas said...

IB, you have a valid point (as did Lenny) and one with which I strongly agreed when I was in my 20s. Over time, I have altered that position somewhat. I agree with the premise but I think too many have misunderstood it for license to be rude.

IB said...

I agree with Lenny Bruce. Any word is just that, a word.

When communicating we need to chose words that are best suited to convey the underlying message we are trying to deliver. Sometimes it's the "F" word and sometimes it's "fiddlesticks". Neither is better than the other. To my ear, neither is more shocking than the other. Both used inappropriately would strike me as odd and would diminish my interest in the message and in the speaker/writer.

We must choose wisely.

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

Douglas said...

IB, you have a valid point (as did Lenny) and one with which I strongly agreed when I was in my 20s. Over time, I have altered that position somewhat. I agree with the premise but I think too many have misunderstood it for license to be rude.

Douglas said...

Madame, there's a fine line between talking with and talking down to. It is difficult to gauge the vocabulary of strangers so one needs to tread lightly and cautiously. It is often best to listen for some time in order to get a feel for the way they are speaking, what words are used, the level of intellect or learning, perhaps. If you hear a lot of "you know" and "like, she went..", it might be best to move on.