Monday, August 23, 2010

In Defense of Curse Words

If I had a native tongue other than English, it could be sailor.  In my unfiltered state, I've been known to use a lot of words of the four-letter variety. 

Why?  Because I like the feeling of stress relief as they roll off my tongue.  And because I enjoy being reminded, if only briefly, of the very natural bodily functions they evoke.  So it satisfies both my inner Hulk and my inner three-year-old (whose enjoyment of these bodily functions is eclipsed only my real-life three-year-old's).

Speaking of Hulks, my role model Feminist Hulk recently* said
 I couldn't agree more.

At the lowest level, words are collections of sounds that we speakers of a language mutually agree have meaning.  "Bjurmp" is not a word, for example, at least in English.  "Shit" is, however, and it is a word, one to which we have assigned a particularly derogatory meaning.

There are some people who banish words like shit, and asshole, and fuck from their vocabularies.  I don't have a problem with that; everyone should be free to use words that they feel comfortable with.  At the other extreme, there are people who pepper their speech with these types of words to the exclusion of other, better descriptors, which earns my pity rather than my ire -- it is a sad thing that some folks' verbal expressiveness is limited by their vocabularies.

Ultimately, I do not see the offense in describing excrement, or the sphincter whence excrement exits the body, particularly because there are synonyms to these words that are not considered offensive.  It's not the meaning behind the words that is taboo.  It's these particular collections of sounds that have been labeled offensive, something I find ridiculous.  Feminist Hulk has it right: the only bad words are those that are used to make people feel less than others.

So, while many consider "shit" to be a bad word, I much prefer it to hysterical, mouthy, or ball-busting, terms that are applied exclusively to women** to make them feel small for asserting their wants, needs, and rights as human beings.

* Okay, July 5, which is recent for large values of the word recent.

** or sometimes to children, but only to men as a double insult -- they are as bad as women.

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