“Watch your damn mouth”
There was a multi-viewpoint editorial in the New York Times about swearing. Not just swearing in general, but by “educated people.” The premise of the editorial was that it is incumbent upon “educated people” to know better than to foul their speech with such low-down, inappropriate filth. Not a new argument. I know that somewhere along the way I’ve run across someone reciting that quote about profanity being the failure of vocabulary. As an educated person (two degrees, thanks for asking), and someone who falls on the “in favor of” side of the argument (perhaps you’ve read my previous posts?), I have to ask- “what’s the big freak’in deal bitch?”
Having posed that question, I must admit, I can sympathize with the clean-speaking advocates sensibilities. The internet (the thing you’re reading this off of) is singled out as a major factor in perceived attitudes towards cursing (blue streak or otherwise) by folks that should know better. Mea culpa. As for the rest of it, I’ll buy anyone a steak dinner if they’ve ever witnessed or been involved in a “discussion” on the internet that didn’t involve the word “fucking” at some point during that frank exchange of ideas. Cursing is so commonplace in internet discourse that style and verve in your profane putdowns can win you an argument (Devin Faraci of CHUD.com calling Leonard Maltin a “twat muffin” comes to mind), which is precisely why “educated people” curse.
Tony McEnery, in the New York Times piece, cites a perfect example of this. Apparently James I of England once responded that he didn’t give a “turd” for someone’s argument in an open forum. A well-chosen curse word delivered in just the right spot, either after a long diatribe or as a quick one sentence response, can hammer home your argument with its plain-spokeness that speaks both exasperation and simple truth. “Educated people” understand that profanity is one of the most useful tools in your arsenal- it’s memorable. I remember reading a book on writing that recommended either not swearing or going all out, because people will remember it “even if there’s only one ‘fuck’ in the entire book.” So, as for the people making the argument against “educated people” swearing, “fuck’em.”
Although, there’s always room for improvement: