PROFANITY IN EVERYDAY CONVERSATIONS

“She’s my bitch!” 

“Yo wassup dawg?!”

If you’ve been around in the world (of course you have) you’ve heard the above statements that have become a sort of fashion statement these days. ‘Hip’ girls and boys referring to their friends or their boyfriends/girlfriends thus and without any qualms too. Note that the intent in the above two statements is not to ridicule or slander, but to express affection for a friend instead. I don’t know when and how this started but weren’t those two words supposed to mean an insult? At least I would be very offended if someone called me a bitch. I don’t suppose this shift in how we perceive these cuss words came about because our generation was suddenly swayed by a sense of brotherhood for our canine friends. Nope! But used affectionately or in a derogatory way, the context doesn’t make their usage any less offensive. They’re both representatives of how profanity has permeated into our everyday parlance.

Profanity today has seeped into our everyday vocabulary to the extent that some things are best described only by the use of derogatory terms. For example –

Shit happens.

Life’s a bitch.

What an ass!

What the fuck is that?

Profanity has shifted, or should I say has been promoted, from being something used only to cause offence to something that sometimes conveys an idea best. But perhaps this shift in how we perceive the use of profanity now is the reason why we hear so much of it in everyday conversation.

Remember the time when you would get a stern look from elders for using terms as mild as ‘stupid’ and ‘shut up’, while today ‘shut up’ has become an equivalent for ‘seriously’ or ‘really’? When language starts to accommodate ‘foul’ in the ‘fair’ category it naturally leads to a downfall in the quality of language and the smudging of lines on what is acceptable and what is not. There is a reason why language from old books and period films sounds classy and sweet. Its because such allowances in language were not allowed then; a bitch meant only either a female dog or an insult to a woman; no other meaning to that expletive was allowed and entertained and the usage of the latter was frowned upon. What’s more, people considered it a part of good manners to keep their tempers and tongues in check.

When language is courteous, foul language automatically is kept under control because its use is considered taboo. But when language starts to get discourteous, starts passing off cuss words as normal usage, ‘wassup bitches’ is what you get and since today we are being trained to see these cuss words not as an insult, therefore even a derogatory ‘son of a gun’  sounds like a phrase used for appreciation.

But why do we use profanity? What makes its use so compelling? We’re all humans, we’re prone to getting angry and letting our mouths run loose along with our imaginations and getting creative with expletives. In some cases, it is even considered cool to use foul words, but what I don’t understand is why we use them at all? Forget about all the morally right reasons for not using bad language and just for a minute concentrate on the practical uses of foul language. What do you get?

Beyond the perverse joy of watching someone’s face fall and getting a kick out of it, or letting off steam, foul language really doesn’t serve any purpose because – 

A.  It doesn’t get the point across. The one being abused closes his mind to any attempt at conciliation or a fair argument thereafter.

B.  It makes the user sound uncouth and vile.

C.  It’s a waste of time and energy because it resolves nothing.

Oh, but it feels so gooooooood, did you say?!

I know that! I’ve been there, done that too. But apart from being branded a ‘bitch’, I didn’t accomplish anything else out of using profanity. I lost plenty though – friends, goodwill and face. I was the proverbial smart mouth who everyone liked to steer clear of and it was the reason why I drove myself into a lonely place. Coming out of that place was tough, and I’m still trying to mend the bridges I tore down.

As someone who’s been both at the giving and receiving ends of profanity, what I’ve come to learn is that using foul language is like using sarcasm – it’s perceived as something cool and witty, but is actually an infantile preoccupation of an egotist who does not have control over his emotions. Sure in some circumstances, both foul language and sarcasm are deserved, but I would say in most cases, a greater revenge would be to laugh in the face of your abuser and never give them the satisfaction of letting them get under your skin.

Coming back to the original theme of this article, the allowance of profanity in everyday conversations has led to a degeneration of language because we have taught ourselves that it is okay to use foul words even for expressing our appreciation or love. It sets a wrong precedent for not only our generation but even the ones coming after us who would only learn that there is no ceiling to how foul-mouthed you can be because by then the lines between courteous and uncouth words would have blurred to the extent that terms like ‘bitch’ would be regarded as both an appreciation and an insult. When we ourselves make such allowances in language we do not have the right to point to the younger generations and cry foul. Can you really blame a teenager who calls her friends ‘bitches’ or ‘dawgs’ when he/she has seen others do the same? Its unfair to them.

We should either clean up our own act or shut our eyes and ears to the degeneration of language and consequently the degeneration of our morality. Restraint on language also translates to restraint over temper because the use of foul language is a kind of vent for a frustrated soul, so that if you keep it in check, chances are your temper too will subside quickly, but if you over-indulge it, soon your hurt ego will not be sated by the mere use of foul language. It will deviate to worse alternatives. Not to generalize things but an example is that of an abusive parent and one who controls his tongue.  Who do you think is more likely to beat down his own children?

We need today to teach ourselves and our future generations that while expressing our love or anger is alright, the use of profanity to do so is absolutely unacceptable. The languages of the world are rich and flexible enough to provide enough room for creative expression without resorting to the use of bad words. If your tongue is sweet it will only invite more sweetness from others. Nobody likes a barbed wire.

Featured Image: 1820796 at Pixabay

FOUL WORDS: VENOM FROM THE HUMAN MOUTH

At times when I think of the power of speech that we human beings are blessed with, I simply marvel in awe. Over the centuries, numerous words have been added to dictionaries. And what is interesting is, how some words that spell the same mean different (homographs); some other words that both spell and sound the same (homonyms) while certain words with different spelling and different meanings sound the same (homophones).

(Think of some homographs, homonyms and homophones without searching over the internet or consulting your dictionary. It’ll be interesting! You could mention them in the Comment box.)

Then there are portmanteaus (combining two words to form a new word), like infotainment, shopaholic, etc.

Playing with words is an art. And, in my opinion none can beat the Shakespearean pun! It is par excellence. Rich literature and knowledge of language is present in almost all cultures of the world, with the exception of certain primitive tribal cultures.

With such a rich repository of words available for constructive dispensation of feelings, emotions and information, there has been ample space for obnoxious words to creep into the vocabulary. So much so, that many an awful word is uttered without the sayer knowing its meaning.

There are foul words in every language. And, readers would agree that foul intentions are best expressed in one’s own parent language. There seems to be a fixed set of such words that continue to be used over the ages. As I have mentioned above, new words continue to be added to the dictionary on a regular basis. However from years of observation, I have found out that the list of foul words in a particular language remains more or less fixed and it is relatively lesser in number than the constructive words.

In spite of this being the reality, how frequently do we hear people using profane, coarse, cuss, and blasphemous words? Are these the only words to spew the venom on people around us? If you, dear reader, are one among the many who can’t help, but use foul language, it’s time for a self-check.

Why use foul words?

A person who is hurt will not mind hurting others. Built-in frustration leads to the first few foul words, before it becomes so much a habit that the speaker fails to distinguish the foulness in those words. They become a part of the person’s regular vocabulary.

Remember, what you do is being observed and maybe even imitated by a few people. A five-year old was once brought to me for counselling because he had said outrageously foul stuff to a fellow classmate. While speaking to him, I found out that he had heard his father speak those statements. Now, what is the little one’s fault? He simply imitated what he heard his father – one of the most reliable persons in his life, say!

The Bible says –

“For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

If the heart is full of good, noble, pure and praiseworthy thoughts, that is what the mouth will express. If the heart is filled with discontent, vengeance, hurt, malice and bigotry, those are what the mouth would spew forth.

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…”

Is there a turn-around?

Yes, there is.

But, the problem is that when we get so much used to something, we don’t like to leave it, even when we are apprised of the harmful consequences of it. For most people, it’s cool to use foul words. For men, it’s a trait of masculinity to use such words. For some, it’s fun to spew out a volley of abusive words.

However, …in repentance and rest is your salvation…

The sooner we deal with the problem of the inner heart and seek God’s control over our words, the better it is for us. A deep peace would set in and joy will fill the heart.

‘Oh Lord! Set a guard over my mouth and keep a watch over the door of my lips’may this be your prayer and mine.