RT Cunningham


Profanity - Is it Really Necessary in Everyday Speech?

swearing - profanity I’ll be clear before I begin. I’m talking about profanity used with American English here.

Why do people feel it’s necessary to lace our language with profanity? Whether you call it “bad words”, “foul language”, obscenities or expletives doesn’t really matter. It’s words and phrases that shouldn’t be used in everyday speech. Everyday speech, in this regard, includes the written word. Using profanity is vulgar and it’s something that all of us should avoid unless we’re trying to make a point or emphasize something out of the ordinary.

There’s a time and a place for profanity. Unfortunately, many people can’t seem to comprehend when that time occurs and where that place is supposed to be.

Profanity and Me

I’m no saint. I’ve used profanity in the past and I’m sure I’ll use it in the future. Unlike many people I know, however, I strive to limit my profanity to those instances where it’s the right thing to use.

Before I joined the military in 1978, I rarely used profanity, even when I probably should have. I always had at least one parent around at home and at least one or two siblings around when I was at school, older than me. I’m sure I would’ve been punished in one way or another if I used too much of it.

My first few years in the military is a completely different story. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “curse like a sailor”, you know what I mean. I was in the Marine Corps and it’s a military branch that falls under the auspices of the Navy. I blame my usage of profanity up until when I got married on the fact that I was constantly exposed to it.

After I got married in 1985, I vowed to limit my use of profanity. It took an incredible amount of effort, but I succeeded in reducing my use of it to those times when I felt it was necessary. That was usually when I hurt myself in some way.

I don’t watch myself as much now since both of my children no longer live at home. My older son sometimes chastises me for saying words he and his wife think are inappropriate for use around my older grandson. The words he gets me on aren’t even expletives. They’re just words he doesn’t want his son to hear. Whatever floats his boat, I guess.

Profanity is Annoying

It wasn’t until I no longer used it myself that I found profanity annoying. There really isn’t any reason to drop the “f” bomb in every other sentence. You know what I mean, the slang word for sexual intercourse. That other word, the slang word for feces, is another unnecessary word.

What I find amusing is that many younger people (younger than I) find it offensive when I use the correct words and terms to describe the profanity they’re so used to hearing. I prefer to use the correct names instead of the pet names for genitalia, among other things. I really can’t understand how anyone can find vulgarity in non-profane words and terminology. Nevertheless, I’ve found that using the proper words and phrases can be far more effective than any amount of vulgarity in getting my point across.

There is one aspect to living in the Philippines I truly enjoy: I don’t have to listen to other people abusing the English language very often. Those who speak English around me tend to do their best to make it understandable. Of course, some of the better English speakers have found effective ways to abuse some of the same words Americans do. Some of my relatives have discovered the “f” bomb and abuse it enough to irritate me and I’m pretty sure they do it on purpose.

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By RT Cunningham
May 9, 2014