Sunday, July 4, 2010

What the cuss?

I've been thinking a lot lately about profanity. As far as I can tell, the only scriptural reference to profanity in language comes in the commandment not to take the name of the Lord in vain. I can understand that. It is most certainly wrong to use God's name flippantly. I'm just confused about all the other "bad words." The leaders of the church have frequently warned us not to swear, to use good clean language. In the BYU community, letting a bad word slip can get you instantly judged as an apostate, a Jack-Mormon, or at least "kinda sketchy."
I've often said that of all the vices in the world, I think swearing is one of the least serious. Gossip, lust, idleness, ingratitude, selfishness...in my opinion, all these are worse than throwing out the occasional "hell" or "damn".
So why is profanity considered wrong at all? What's so bad about letting out my inner sailor every once in a while?
I found a blog today that shared the following, and thought it applicable: "Profanity can be used in two ways: it can draw attention to me, shocking my listeners and making them remember me; or it can draw attention to the things that offend God." Basically, though the profane words we use may not be inherently wrong, the situations in which we use them almost always either express an emotion (generally anger) not fit for a disciple of Christ, draw attention to un-Christlike behaviors, usually by degrading the sacred power of procreation, or (and this is the part I hadn't thought of) they are used for selfish shock value, to draw attention to ourselves.
And this is why I think it's so ironic that "Mormon swears" are seen as so acceptable. They perform the exact same function as the more "naughty" swear words: drawing attention to oneself and expressing un-Christlike emotions. In other words, if you're sticking in substitute words, in most cases you're not actually any better than those using the real thing. Sorry if that disappoints.
I set off on this train of thought trying to justify swearing. Why? I'm not sure. I don't swear, or at least not audibly (inside my head, I could give some sailors a run for their money). But after pondering, I've realized that not only should I not take up swearing after all, my current vocabulary needs some spring cleaning. This is going to be difficult, as I am a freaking champion at substitute words.
Crap.
I mean...uh...what a glorious challenge awaits me?
This is going to take more work than I thought.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's interesting how even the types of words considered as swears differs from language to language. If you translate a perfectly acceptable sentance in English literally to Japanese or German or Norwegian, all of a sudden you've open a whole new can of connotation worms that had no place in the original language. Most Scandinavian swears have to do the the devil... but saying "You devil!" to someone in America isn't even blinked at. On the other hand, "skitt" (pronounced exactly the same as our favorite four-letter s-word swear) is used commonly by everyone and means "filtth." No worries.

    Even in English, different words are seen as swears in different regions. Just try swapping swears with an Englishman.

    If it's not the meaning of the words, but the attitude, then there's something more to the council not to swear than simply avoiding a proscribed list of socially "edgy" phrases.

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