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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cursing

The trouble with language is the same as the trouble with just about everything else: stupidity. A living language is a fluid thing that changes with usage. The English of today looks and sounds very different from the English in Shakespeare, which in turn is different from the English in Chaucer. While change is not entirely bad, the trend I have witnessed during my own lifetime is change based most frequently on stupidity. It starts with a rule of grammar or precise definition and then people, in this case ignorant people, misuse the rule or word frequently enough so that the definition or rule changes ‘through usage’. As a result, adjectives are now adverbs and once precise definitions are “officially” muddied to mean almost anything the person using them wants them to mean.............all of it making clear communication more and more difficult.

Another complication is the misunderstanding, willfully or not, of a concept. One of the most frustrating things to witness is the person staunchly adhering to a religious precept or even scientific principle that they have completely gotten wrong. (The best example of this one, is the claim that “evolution is only a theory” by a person stubbornly unaware that the caveats and conditions for a scientific ‘theory’ are much more rigid and precise than those governing one’s theory on who took the last Oreo out of the cookie jar.)

But since this is an “adult blog”, I would like to explore an “adult” form of language: profanity.

Now ‘profanity’ itself has some interesting definitions ranging from the religiously blasphemous to the socially offensive. And under the umbrella of ‘profanity’ you have : cursing, swearing, vulgarity, and within religion, taking one’s god’s name ‘in vain’. All once very different things, now thanks to usage, all jumbled together as if there were no differences between them.

Cursing used to mean expressing a wish or even petitioning some supernatural entity to inflict harm on someone we didn’t like. By religious standards, this was condemned as a bad thing to do. And even secularly, it certainly reveals less than kind intentions towards our fellow man. Cursing also encompasses varying levels of malevolence from hoping someone falls on their ass to invoking a god or demon to strike someone down along with their entire family for generations to come. Now, however, saying ‘shit’ is considered ‘cursing’.

Swearing used to mean inviting retribution on oneself or one’s family in the event of breaking some pledge or oath being “sworn to”. It could also be merely inviting a god in as our witness to some personal declaration. (“I swear to god, I’m going to stick my foot up your ass!”) It is my understanding that the invocation of a negative action by a god, or even just including him in, for our own secular purposes is insulting and offensive to the god thus invoked. 

Vulgarity is simply using a coarser form of speech than polite society would care for. What I love (hate) about this aspect is the totally nonsensical way in which certain words become more reviled than others. I also enjoy the arbitrary ranking of things for unflattering comparisons. (Everyone wants to be a wise old owl, but how many want to be the male offspring of a female dog? ) Body parts certainly get their share of targeted use too. I think most people like penises ……..either on themselves or others……. and yet no one wants to be a dick.  (Personally, given my affinity for anuses, I’d much rather be an ‘asshole’ than a pancreas.)

But rather than go into every word ever used offensively, let’s look at three expressions: ass, fuck, and damn it. All are vulgar to some degree but over time ‘ass’ has worked its way into very common usage. (Who besides a nurse or Forrest Gump refers to a backside as ‘buttocks’?) And do people even mean ‘buttocks’ every time they say ‘ass’? If you call someone an ‘ass’, don’t you mean ‘jackass’? (See, we're back to those unflattering animals again.) And if you call someone a ‘jackass’, is that not just as bad as saying ‘ass’ without the ‘jack’? And if you say, “hmm, you have a sexy ass”, is that not a compliment.......... albeit a vulgar or possibly unwelcome one? Still, pretty far from wishing a person some horrific death, wouldn’t you say? But even society has softened on ‘ass’. Maybe because everyone has one and even acts likes one often enough, we just don't mind it as much. It certainly does not raise the number of eyebrows ‘fuck’ does.


And why is that? What is it about ‘fuck’ that bothers so many people that they feel compelled to refer to it as the “f-word” as if uttering it is akin to saying “Voldemort” rather than “he who must not be named”? It used to be a vulgar word for copulation and who hates copulation? It almost makes no sense as a true curse because you are sort of wishing something on someone that the person would probably welcome. Granted over time it has come to also mean being grossly taken advantage of…..and no one likes that. (I’d rather be fucked than fucked over.) And it also means being completely botched….as in ‘fucked up’. It can be used to express love and hate. (“Oh baby, I’m so crazy about you I’d love to fuck you all night long……What? You don’t love me? Ah, then fuck you!”) 


And maybe that’s what scares people so much about ‘fuck’…………it can mean anything and everything. So much power and potential in 4 letters might just be too much for some people.

But why resort to ‘fuck’ when there’s “damn it” or “goddamn”? Sounds harmless, it almost has a playful cadence. It’s most often just sort of a sigh of frustration everyone can relate to, though it certainly can be directed at a person. But here’s where I am confused. If a very large percentage of the objection to various profanity originates in religion, then isn’t “damn it” the worst curse of all? Personally, I’d rather go and ‘fuck myself’ at someone’s behest rather than be consigned to everlasting flames in a pit of despair. Because that’s what you’re really saying with that silly little phrase. And who exactly are you asking to execute that sentence of eternal damnation but the same entity who so stringently insisted that you not invoke him in such a manner?

One of my favorite observations on the whole “damnation-cycle” of cursing is the myriad of seemingly acceptable ways religious people find to get around it. Leave out the ‘god’ in ‘damn you’ or ‘damn it’ and well………technically…..you didn’t say his name. (As if someone else is capable of damning things.....though beavers are pretty adept at damming things)  And the whole 'wishing a horrific fate' aspect is fine I suppose because….well, you didn’t say ‘fuck’, right? 

And the best has to be “G. D.”! I know a fairly religious person who uses “G.D.” as if they were now protected by some divine legal clause. ( Um, if you believe in an all-powerful and omnipotent deity, don’t you think he knows he’s the “G.” in your “G.D.”? If I was that god, I’d be doubly offended…….first for having been invoked against my express wishes and secondly for being assumed an idiot.)

At the end of the day, it’s all just silly semantics. More people are offended by ‘fuck’ than ‘shit’, so a sex act suddenly is worse than excrement.  If through ‘common usage’ any of these words suddenly switch places on the arbitrary hierarchy of offensiveness who knows what the top curse words of the future will be? ( “trump you, you hillary!” )

It’s all just fucking ridiculous.

17 comments:

  1. Fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck.

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    1. I could not have said that better myself.

      Hmmmm. Good looks and eloquence too.

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  2. Ever watch the tv series, "Dexter"? I've got a complete ... I think it's complete ... list of all the different ways that Debra Morgan swears. incorporating 'fuck'.

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    1. I've had that show recommended to me before, but alas...'no'. I have never watched it. But you bring up another good point. There is an assumption of ignorance in people who use profanity that is simply incorrect. I had a person once try to scold me, "KD, you have such an extensive vocabulary..........why resort to using those words?"

      My reply was, "I have a decent vocabulary because I believe in choosing just the right word for each situation..........and sometimes those types of words are simply more suited to the occasion than any other."

      There is nothing unimaginative about creative cursing.

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    2. Shilo has a point: "Dexter" is definitely worth watching, if only to hear his sister's creative use of the word 'fuck.'

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    3. I agree that sometimes nothing works quite as well as one of "those" words. One of my favorite lines from the movie Sex, Lies & Videotape:

      -Besides, even if I decide
      to fuck his brains out,
      what business is that of yours?

      - Why do you have to say that?
      - Say what?
      - You know what. You say it just to irritate me.
      - I say it because it's descriptive.

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  3. Now, as you know, I have a female-led poly Household. There are rules but one of the rules has to do with the word "Dammit" (Damnit?) anyway, you can day that all day, and it won't bother me, but put "God" before the "dammit" and I have problems. I DETEST the usage of that 'naughty word' However, ot's not for the reason most commonly (and mistakenly) used by most Christians. THAT would require a whole 'nother subject

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    1. Hmmmmm. OK, I get your meaning..........buuuut, like I said in my post: even without saying "god".....a damnation-capable entity is inexorably implied. (perhaps if you want your home to be a truly "deity-free zone" you may logically have to ban the plain "damn it"s as well? Besides, I can't imagine someone like you passing up an added opportunity to do some butt-whomping. LOL)

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    2. It isn't that I want my home to be a "deity-free zone" it's that I feel it's offensive.

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    3. Sorry, but I'm officially confused.

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    4. Okay. I will do my best to explain. Without turning this into a religious discussion, I will say that I feel the usage of the word "God" before the "dammit" to be highly offensive. It's the absolute WORST thing a person can say in my opinion. However, unlike many Christians, I don't view it as "taking the Lord's name in vain." Do you understand now?

      If you DO want a religious discussion, I'll happily explain what I do think "taking the Lord's name in vain" is.

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    5. OK, I think I get it now. And while we may not agree on the existence of a deity, it seems we both feel the literal meaning of damning someone is pretty harsh.

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  4. And you get an idea of how we lower-case household members feel. Although I would substitute "constantly" for "officially" in kd's statement.

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    1. I'm not even going to say what I'm thinking. (too dangerous)

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  5. Hi KD,

    I just discovered your blog, thanks to Red.

    Can you imagine Gordon Ramsey without the ever-present F-word?

    Hugs,
    Hermione

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    1. Welcome Hermione! I like your blog....which is like a classic among 'spanking-type' blogs...........(and you were great in the Harry Potter movies too!) Please feel free to look around and comment, both here and at the main website.

      As for your question about Ramsey and 'fuck'? No, I couldn't imagine him being separated from his favorite word,but I could happily imagine a world without Gordon Ramsey himself. I only saw him once when my ailing mother would want to watch "cooking shows". I watched him for a few minutes and remember asking, "who IS this arrogant asshole?" I remember watching a lot of cooking shows years ago and while cursing never bothered me, I don't like unnecessary nastiness. Folks like Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Jeff Smith, Justin Wilson, et al. had great shows without ever resorting to the obnoxious meanness I saw spewing out of that self-important boor. But times have changed I suppose.

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