Profanities: Do we F@#$%&* Need Them?


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I was working on another happy blog but that will come later for this is the need of the hour! While researching for that one, I had to subject myself to sooooo many cuss words that my tympanic membrane was under threat of an explosion! Why has the use of profanities/expletives/lewd language-call it what you will-become such an integral part of expression?

I was having a discussion (via texting) the other day with a friend who had sent me a video clip of a movie which was loaded with the same. She rightly told me that it was social conditioning that made me feel so forthrightly against it whereas others don’t see it as blasphemous, so they use it freely. Possible. And yet, there are a large number of people I know who have come with the same kind of upbringing and still use it freely- my brother for one (blame it on all the boarding schools and hostels he has been to) and my son for another (he has been to neither)!! Yes, my son! That innocent little dumpling is now a volcano of expletives waiting to erupt, under that calm, studious appearance of his! How do I know?

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Well, about four years ago, the young man decided to step into the social media madness. So, I told him to add me as a friend- the unwritten rule being, we don’t like or comment on each other’s posts; I was there just to monitor that nothing shady was happening (how naΓ―ve can mothers be?) One day I find a handsome picture of my heartbeat on my wall and I forgot the rules and I decided to comment but there were so many comments on my Oh so good looking son’s wall, I decided to read them first. I froze!!!! He was in the 9th grade- a baby in my eyes despite the bumfluff! My eyes nearly popped out at the kind of foul language used! What can I say, I maintain the unwritten rule!!! I did call him, however, and asked him to stop replying to such garbage with even more filth. Did he not have girls on his group? I wanted him to become a gentleman and they never use cuss words in front of ladies. And then I named a friend who used maximum horrifying language and I told him to consider deleting that friend or deleting the girls from his group because that fellow was something else. And guess what? That fellow wasn’t a fellow; she was a young girl in the 9th grade, same as him. I dismissed my son knowing that I was the odd one out and I sat glum while my husband shook with laughter (he always laughs when I am upset) and said he was just growing up! 

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Let me be honest with you! I knew all the expletives in English courtesy my brother who used them lavishly but I didn’t know any in Hindi. When I joined the IAF as a trainee, I learnt most of those- others in due course. Believe me, my course mates and I were thrilled at this newly gained knowledge and used to use them at each other and end up laughing gleefully. We even had mnemonics for them. That was within close doors and it was more the need of doing something forbidden, like smoking or drinking. In normal activities it never came up for it wasn’t natural. 


So why are we so hooked on using these words? They don’t add extra meaning to the sentence nor emotion that another word couldn’t!! “That is good cake” doesn’t have to be “That is a f@#$%&*good cake”. It would rather be a   “That is cake par excellence” or “a delicious cake” or something extraordinary!!!
This got me thinking…when did these words come about? Wikipedia to the rescue as always! The origins of these words are Germanic and not Latin. Latin gives you words like “defecate” or “fornicate” while Germanic gives you “shit” and “f#$%”. Alright, we are now clear about origins of some profanities in the English language at least. The rest (remaining English and other languages) came about when and where they did. But why? Can you believe, there has been a study on this too so I am not the only one who sits and thinks about topics such as these!!

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According to Steven Pinker, a Canadian psychologist and linguist there are five reasons for swearing namely:
Abusive-when spoken with the intention of insulting and causing emotional or psychological harm
Cathartic- in response to pain or adversity
Dysphemistic-when one feels negatively about something and wants the listener to feel negative too
Emphatic-to emphasize or garner attention to a particular subject
Idiomatic-just for the fun of it and to show comfort levels with one another

Did you know swearing in public is a punishable offence in a lot many countries including India? That’s a laugh! Words like ‘bloody’ and ‘damn’ are also offensive language even though they appear to be innocent little babies in front of the heavy weights!

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There was a time when my kids were in grades four and one respectively, when we went for a movie. Neat movie mostly- we had to shut their eyes only twice (my daughter in all wonder had even asked me how I knew when to shut their eyes) but then in the final scene, out of the blue, and completely unnecessary, the hero uses the filthiest word and we couldn’t know when to shut ears! When we got out, I was sure my daughter didn’t register it so I casually told my son, some words, even when we hear them, aren’t meant to be used without understanding them. We were still walking down the stairs with the gentry when he says the word aloud and asks me “this one?” I cupped his mouth and told him never to use it but he said a friend of his used the word everyday on the bus!! And He was in grade 3!!!!

 
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My take is that when you have such lovely languages which have numerous ways of expression, do we really need cuss words. Sometimes they are even mistaken for prepositions; that is how often they figure in a sentence. I really think we can do without it. Use it idiomatically with people who are comfortable with it but not as regular language please! And yet, to be fair, some of the nicest people I know (brother and son included) and with the softest and largest hearts are the ones who have a shocking tongue!!! 


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Comments

  1. An absolutely Delightful AF πŸ˜† read, Echi!!!! You are The Shit!!!! Lol.... Sorry but I had to say that one πŸ˜‹ Imagine my utter shock when one of my students actually told me that I was - The Shit!!!! So if you are uninitiated... If you are referred to as THE SHIT means.. you are uber cool! Without the 'THE' the meaning is exactly what the Germanic origin refers to!!!! RIP - English language πŸ˜…

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    1. :D :D I do not have more emojis on my desktop!! Yes, I have been initiated to 'The Shit' about a month ago!! So, Thank you!! ;)

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    2. You should check out 'I didn't know Shit' by Ismo.

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    3. I have and that's where I got it all sorted!! :D

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  2. While I am one of the most vocal advocates of using the right word at the right place in expressing myself, I think a few cuss words may not be out of place occasionally.
    I would compare it to ajinomoto in cooking. Bad for health but some dishes are just missing that elusive something without it.
    Of the reasons quoted for using profanity, the ones I identify with most are emphasis and catharsis. A swear word is like a fist banged on a table when you make your point and by jove, do they make you feel good!! They allow you to vent in a way no polished word can.
    That said, I do agree on the point that to get the best pinch out of the pouch, moderation is key. Too much and in the wrong place are not acceptable in my book either.
    ��

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    1. Ha Ha! You couldn't have put it in better words- Ajinomoto indeed! :)

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  3. A wonderful read on a pertinent topic...less is more in this case I guess... cannot stop using cuss words, but can be kept to the minimum...

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    1. RT sir... I have never actually heard you use cuss words when I actually think of it!!! I think it's more in your head.. which manifests itself as a very angelic smile ☺️ Am sure ANT agrees 😊😊

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  4. Am keeping mouth zipped and eyes-ears shut!!!

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  5. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ It was a revelation to me once when I read that such words are seen by some as erotic! The more you know, the less you belong to this world. Save our sonsπŸ˜‚. Thanks Radhe for the wonderful read!

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    1. "The more you know the less you belong to this world" is so true and well put! Save our sons and daughters indeed!! Thank you Poorni :)

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