Despite my rather strong affinity for starting sentences with “and” or “but”, I really am a strong language advocate. Say what you mean, mean what you say; but try to be grammatically correct, would you? Oh, see if you cannot also keep a civil tongue.
In the workplace, that last request can be a bit hard to impose. On the one hand, I want my coworkers to tell me how they feel and get all their gripes out while we are in the back room. What happens in the back stays in the back, and all that. Still, I inwardly bristle at a string of profanities.
Yes, I get anger. Yes, I get frustration. I can see being tempted to do this under pressure. That does not mean it is the best way to go.
First off allow me to offer the Christian/ Biblical stance against profanity. Part one is regarding certain curse words and phrases. “Jesus Christ”, “Jeez”, “Jeezus”, “Christ”; there are plenty of variations. The Bible states that this action as a bad thing.
“You must not use the name of the Lord your God thoughtlessly. The Lord will punish anyone who is guilty and misuses his name.” -Exodus 20:7
Now, God does not need me to defend God or any of God’s names. God is omnipotent, not I. I do not need to be the Bible-police for anyone except myself. With that in mind, I do internally register a little offense whenever such words are thoughtlessly exclaimed. If they are not talking to God, why invoke his name without purpose? Say what you mean. There are millions of other words; pick one of those.
I have developed a response to those comments. After several years, they slip out of my mouth without a thought most days. They say, “Jesus”? I reply, “Loves you”. “Oh Christ” gets followed by, “Loves you.” One can call it chastising. They can call it me being cute. If one never takes God’s name for granted, then I will not toss out my two-word response.
Part two of my God-based critique focuses on power. There is only so much creative capability that humans possess. We can plant a seed in the ground, but we cannot make growth happen. We can have sex, but there is no guarantee that the action will result in a pregnancy. Keep feeding your dog, but sooner or later that canine is going of die of old age. Humans cannot create life by themselves.
Now, depending on your stance, you can call the process nature or God or science. The title is irrelevant to the result. People did not bring the world into existence. Why do we feel the urge to curse something out of being? Cursing can be construed as wishing something out of existence. If we do not have the power to create out of nothing, how are we so bold as to reverse the process?
Every time I hear an “F- this” or “F- you”, I take it to mean that a person no longer wants that thing to exist. It does not work that way. I have been sworn at many a time. I remain, for the time being, a fixture. We would do well to accept that the world does not revolve around what humans want. The things that displease us are still going to be there after we calm down.
As for the grammar argument; swearing strikes me as rather lazy. People take the same four letter words and repeat those over and over. Do not misunderstand me; I think it is remarkable that the F-word has so many roles to play. It is a curse, a sexual act, an adverb, an action, an exclamation of joy or anger or frustration. It really is quite versatile.
However the overuse is a bit much. If you utter a sentence with three versions of the F-word, I am going to believe that there is a lack of creativity on your part. If you wish to express vexation, embrace the thesaurus. Call me the dredged up remains of a rat’s corpse’s feces. Tell me that it being a moron is a full-time job, but that I should stop logging so much overtime. Swearing is boring when other options are presented. (What would Calvin & Hobbes do?)
After calling out others, I need to point the critique back to myself. I too swear, but I use softer words. “Dagnabbit” flies out of my mouth rather often. If I am frustrated with work, the word I most often use to describe unpleasant matters is “Crap”. The intent is still the same, even though I soften the language.
The only time I use the “real” swear words is when I am quoting someone. Still, I am venting frustration in terse phrases instead of communicating like a civilized person.
Curiously, my correct use of words has actually gotten me in trouble. I wrote an e-mail to a supervisor claiming that a department felt left out. Other programs were getting their full due, but it seemed to me that this sector was being overlooked. The text I sent to a vice-president stated that the department was being made out to be the bastard son of the organization. A few days later, I found myself in her office. My concern was addressed, yes. But she seemed most upset that I had used the word, “bastard”.
“Bastard: 2.a. a vicious, despicable, or thoroughly disliked person. 3. Something irregular, inferior, spurious, or unusual.” -Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary
Admittedly I could have called the other department a “black sheep” or “pariah”. Regardless, I used the word properly; certainly within the context that was intended for almost eight hundred years. Yet, since “bastard” is also used in a cursing sense, I was lectured. Oh language, you fickle minx.
I realize that sometimes there is not enough time to gather one’s thoughts, compose oneself, and offer up an intelligent rebuttal. I do think we could certainly try to do so more often. That includes me as well.
The Bible, proper grammar; there are plenty of reasons to strive for an elevation in conversation. Let us have more intentional phrasing, less David Mamet. Embrace well-crafted phrases, not Martin Scorsese tributes.
We all get mad. We all need to vent. We do not need to do it with four-letter words and slurs. Should you find my reasoning to be horribly awry, you can always respond with a witty, pithy and oh-so inspired, “F- that”.