Whenver I hear someone get worked up about something arbitrarily 'bad' like swear words, it reminds me of how glad I am to no longer be Mormon.

Aren't swears weird? It isn't the sound that is offensive. If so, every culture would have the same curse words. And people aren't offended by words that sound very similar to curse words such as frak, shiz or freak.
It isn't even the MEANING of the word that is offensive. There are many many words that mean the same things as swear words. Crap, screw, copulate etc. etc. These are synonyms of certain swear words. There are even some words that mean the same AND sound the same, such as they way many Americans who are young or religious or in a business setting use the word 'Freak' as a stand in for 'Fuck'. Yet one word is highly offensive the other is not even though they both mean(in the context it is being used) and sound the same. So what why is one offensive and the other isn't? One has been labeled offensive, the other hasn't

That is what religion can do, it can take things with no actual 'badness' or offensiveness to them and make them bad. (I realize this isn't entirely a product of religion, but culture in general, but I know very few, if any, non-religious people who get upset about swear words.

In situations where swear words are being used and some people are offended and some aren't, who is more free? This is something that has long bothered me. When being offended at something is seen as good! In some cultures, such as mormon culture, the more easily offended a person is, the more moral they are seen. They are seen as more sensitive to spiritual things. But shouldn't why be offended one doesn't have to be? Wouldn't a more spiritual pathway be to find beauty and wonder in everything even the seemingly vulgar? Wouldn't the person who is able to not be offended be the one who is more free?

I think some religious ethical restrictions are positive. They may seem like they are constraints but can in reality make a person more free, such as avoiding certain things so as to avoid addiction, but when the restrictions are totally arbitrary such as with swear words, a person is allowing themselves to be hurt by something they have no reason to be hurt by.

Imagine how you would feel if you learned of a tribe somewhere that was deeply offended by depictions of Soft Baked Cookies.And that they lived in an area where people were very often depicting soft baked Cookies and so they were very often being offended. Imagine how odd it would seem. You would also feel that these people were less free than you, they being arbitrarily limited in what they could appreciate. Imagine they would try and stop people from depicting soft baked cookies. You would think the solution to their problem could be much more easily solved: Stop being offended by arbitrarily offensive things.

Although, i should add that while I am strong advocate of swear words not being offensive, I am not really much of a swearer. I see it as slang. I am also not a big slang user. When people use the word 'freak' or 'freaking' frequently it turns me off. Equally so with 'fuck' or 'fucking'. But not because I find it offensive in anyway, rather, because I like language to be accurate and sincere and rarely do slang words reflect the speakers intent as accurately and sincerely as other words might. Don't get me wrong, it has its place, and can sometimes be very effective, but it should be used sparingly and with good reason.


libby said...

I remember at church when I was a teenager, being encouraged to speak up in social situations when someone was swearing. Like asking them to stop because it was MY belief not to swear. Even at the time I was like "whoa, why is it my business how someone else speaks?" I think they wanted us to do that because bad words make us uncomfortable if you don't hear them all the time, but how uncomfortable would you make someone by telling them their speech offended them and they should change how they talk?

At BYU I hear "flippin" "fetching" "shiz" "eff" "ess" "ace" (instead of ass) ALL THE TIME. It's a little bit hilarious to imagine any of those people actually saying the actual word. One of my siblings doesn't let their kids say "oh my gosh" because it sounds similar to "oh my god"

Vincent said...

You appear to associate being offended by swearing with religion. I suggest that it is more of a generation thing, which religions tend to reflect because they are conservative (backward-looking) by their very nature.

Your previous post about your artistic project showed photographs with a kind of motto which to my mind used the word "fuck" completely inappropriately.

I'm now of an older generation. I reached 68 the other day. I have many attitudes appropriate to educated members of my generation and some of these relate to proper use of language. I don't impose those attitudes on others, to say that they are wrong to express themselves in any particular way, but I wince, and I judge the perpetrators as either ignorant or lacking in respect.

Any curse word used in the wrong place is necessarily offensive.

As for goodness and badness, I see both these terms as Americanisms. Over here we don't normally talk about good people and bad people. It sounds childish and---well, American. (Sorry if that is offensive.)

Chris Almond said...

Hi vincent. I wonder if there may be a cultural difference here.
The only people I know in the US who don't use swear words in a casual context are the religious. This includes my 80+ yr old grandma who spent most of her life in the upper crust of society (her ex-husband, my grandfather, is a multi-millionaire, co-founder of Enron).
I see swear words in respected news publications here. There are even clips of George Bush and Obama using the F-word. People only use these words in a certain context, but it seems to have lost almost all of its 'sweariness' (to coin a phrase) except among the religious, regardless of a persons age.
I'm thinking things may be different over across the ocean?

Chris Almond said...

I also should mention that I know a significant number of people my age and younger who are deeply offended by swearing and all of these people are mormon. but again, this may be unique to this culture.

Chris Almond said...

Hi libby. Thanks for your comment. I had forgot I wanted to mention the byu phenomenon of fetch and flip and shiz, but I forgot, so thanks for bringing it up. 'Ess' is a new one to me though. i haven't heard it. very funny!

Vincent said...

There is a great deal of swearing here, in contexts which I consider improper. I'm not offended, I would prefer to say turned off. Take the word "fuck". I have no objection to the word in itself, only what jars on me when it is used in the wrong context. How do I know when it's the wrong context? When it jars. In the film Four Weddings and a Funeral the first 11 words spoken are "Fuck" said again and again, to express the Hugh Grant character's fury at himself for having woken up too late to attend a wedding. Nothing wrong with that.

In general I am strongly against using words in such a way that they drift away from legitimate meanings they used to have, and general ignorance about words. Call me a pedant but I find it offensive when a person otherwise apparently educated doesn't know that criteria is plural of criterion, and media is plural of medium.

To me, "fuck" has firstly a straightforward sexual meaning and secondly is correctly used (when in the company of one's intimates) as an expletive syllable as an expression of pain or exasperation.

And when I say "to me" I include all family members and most friends. But we probably think along similar lines because I agree with the last paragraph of your post.