sff_corgi_lj: (EMPIRE (animated))
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I've seen some similar thoughts come up in my Flist before - not often, mind you, but at least once - and I thought you might find it interesting.

Swearing up a Blue streak
Curses flow like sewers, assault the ear and numb the soul. Has everyone forgotten to hold their tongue?
Posted: May 21, 2006

Don't feel dissed if Larita Lawson calls you a mean little word that rhymes with witch.

More often than not, she means no harm when she tosses a word once reserved as a high insult into daily conversation.

"I use it to reference a lot of people, not just women, and not always as something bad," said Lawson, 20. "I might say, Now, (word that rhymes with witch), that's hot,' as a compliment."

The word is one on a wicked list Lawson said she uses frequently, along with choice terms synonymous with bodily waste, blasphemous oaths and having sex.

"There are other options" for words to use, added Lawson, a Milwaukee resident. "But I do it so often, it's second nature."

What the, uh, fudge is up with that?

Foul language is no longer limited to moments of anger or frustration in our relaxed culture, linguists and other observers of language say. Now we curse and swear just for the heck of it. And that, some of those experts say, is making some people so oblivious to cussing that they don't realize they may be offending those around them.

"I cuss in general," said Percy Walker, a Milwaukee barber.

Walker, 29, said he uses the word that starts with "bull" the most.

"Being in a barber shop, somebody is always telling a story about something unbelievable, so that's something you say when you know something's not the truth," he said.

Making a point

Like a forbidden mistress, profanity used to live in the shadows of private conversation and came out only for emphasis or emotional outbursts. People were either cursing someone in anger or using profanity to make a point.

People still swear primarily for these reasons, said Timothy Jay, author of "Why We Curse: A Neuro-Psycho-Social Theory of Speech."

"Two-thirds (of swearing) is about frustration and anger," said Jay, who records the number of times he hears people cursing in various settings as part of his research.

Expressing emotion is still the larger purpose for swearing, others agreed.

"Whenever I want to make a point in conversation, or make sure all eyes are glued on me, I'll swear," said Aaron Hahner, 31, of Milwaukee. "People think that if you swear, you must be serious or impassioned and, therefore, worth listening to."

But now people might also curse in general conversation, linguists said.

Young people, for example, are more likely to use the "f-bomb" "in friendly context as opposed to cursing someone out or using it to be mean," said Donna Jo Napoli, a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

"I think of my son, who is 20, when he's with a group of friends,and every other word is a curse word with them and there is no rancor," Napoli said. "There's a recognition that, We don't judge each other, we're just going with it, and it's a very comforting thing.' "

Such flippant swearing may make it seem as if more people are cursing.

Of the 1,001 people questioned in a recent Associated Press- Ipsos poll, 42% said they frequently hear people cursing or swearing in public. And 67% said they think people curse and swear more often than they did 20 years ago.

More than a third, 36%, of those questioned in the poll also said they were bothered a lot when people use profanity. Another 31% said swear words bother them some of the time.

The survey, done March 20 through 22, has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The results of the poll are a reflection of both reality and perception, observers of language said. Sure, people may be cursing more, but we're also more exposed to it and hearing it from many voices.

Consider this: "Crash," the roughly 100-minute movie that took home the Oscar for best picture this year, contained 172 swear words,including 99 uses of the f-word, according to FamilyMediaGuide.com.

A range of TV shows, from the premium cable drama "The Sopranos" to the network sitcom "Will & Grace," include profanity in their scripts. Swearing is almost expected in pop music, especially rap.

Public officials are even getting in on the act.

Last year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry apologized after saying, "Adios, (expletive)," a shorter version of one of the more obscene terms, to a TV news reporter. Though Perry acknowledged that the word was inappropriate, he also was reported as saying it was "friendly banter" with a deputy press secretary and not intended to offend anyone.

And when Vice President Dick Cheney blurted out the f-word at Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on the Senate floor two years ago, his use of the word became a bigger headline than the debate itself.

"It's not that these words weren't being said before. It's just that media has made them accessible," said James Hala, an English language and literature professor at Drew University.

Lazy lips

The exposure comes from a shift in language that can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s, a time that included various movements toward increased individual freedom and gender equality, language experts said.

"Descriptive language happened as part of the cultural revolution,and we changed our language as we started to question what was taboo ... and said, No one tells us what to say or do. We decide what's taboo,' " Napoli said.

But as we freed our minds and our tongues, we may have diluted our language in general.

James V. O'Connor, who wrote "Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing," recalls hearing a young woman in a store tell her mother that a sweater she was trying on "fit like" the s- word.

"What does that mean?" O'Connor said. "Was the sweater too tight?Too big? Uncomfortable? Why swear when she could have used another word that really said what she meant?"

This kind of casual use of swearing makes language lazy, O'Connor said.

"There are many good words in our language that are disappearing because we use the swear words instead," he said.

Syndicated columnist and author Harriette Cole agreed with O'Connor and called increased casual use of profanity a sign of society's collapsing boundaries. We've become casual about a number of things,from the way we dress to the way we speak to authority figures, Cole said.

"I was in a meeting yesterday, and it was the executives who were cursing," said Cole, whose column offers advice on a range of issues, including etiquette.

And though there are times when profanity is not offensive, cursing in a professional setting is never appropriate, Cole added.

Casual swearing, which Cole said some people do because they think it makes them seem young and cool, runs the risk of offending someonewho could be valuable. Once a person picks up cursing as an untailored habit, they forget to determine whether others around them are OK with such language.

"People have to ... learn when to turn it off," Cole said. "We can't afford to be oblivious of others in our space."

Despite all the willy-nilly cursing going on, people still use an intuitive moral compass when it comes to swearing, according to professor Hala.

"It's a sense that we develop as soon as we grow up that says there are some times and some places that you use the language and (other times when you) don't use it," Hala said.

Walker said he tries not to swear in front of women, children and clergymen who come into the barber shop. Lawson watches her mouth around senior citizens and tries not to curse in places that are too public.

Latasha Medley, 25, said she is constantly trying to remove swearing from her language, especially in front of her 3-year-old son, Shalamar.

"It's a very hard habit to break," said Medley, of Milwaukee. "I'm constantly saying I'm not going to curse, and then I can't even go a whole day."

From the May 22, 2006 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Have an opinion on this story? Write a letter to the editor or start an online forum.

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Some questions:
As the quoted individuals say, if emphasis words become commonplace, what do you use for emphasis? The words reserved for cursewords nowdays usually refer to bodily functions that used to be thought somewhat private. Does anybody really need to be reminded what goes in a toilet, for instance, or have [impersonal] you divorced all meaning from the sound? Why is Latasha trying to not curse in front of her son now when other people would be happy to do it for her, including ones on TV and the soi-disant Vice President of the United States? Why is appropriate to use one selection of vocabulary with one group, and not with others; why not be consistent?

There ya go. Have at. I'm curious to see what you think.

Date: 2006-06-18 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyellian.livejournal.com
There's a serious format error somewhere in there, Corgi. :)

Date: 2006-06-18 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
[stabinates Semagic for being too easygoing] Errr... click on the link while I debug?

Date: 2006-06-18 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
(turns out it was obfuscating quote-marks in the code copied from the newspaper!)

Date: 2006-06-18 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-fastertha931.livejournal.com
Ah, language. Interesting article.

I have lots of thoughts on this, and they're all a-swirl at the moment. I have a theory about your last question, though - People use certain kinds of language with some people, and not with others, because the language you use with people is indicative of the bond you have with them. Language you'd use with your friends might not be appropriate with your boss because you have a different relationship with the boss. Cuss in front of the boss, and what you're saying is "I don't respect you professionally enough to use the accepted office language." Cuss with your friends, and you're more likely to be saying, "I'm comfortable enough that I can be my real self with you."

Of course, language doesn't communicate anyway. Not when the phrase, "I'm leaving to pursue better opportunities" usually really means, "This place is a hellhole and I'm leaving before my soul drowns in evil." Still, that's my gut reaction.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
I keep coming back to Latasha, though. If she's embarrassed at the way she talks in front of her son, why is she doing it at all? Why is her cursing so much more comfortable for her elsewhere? Where IS her 'real self'?

Date: 2006-06-21 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-fastertha931.livejournal.com
Good questions, especially that last. Wonder if Latasha's ever pondered it? Maybe that explains the behavioral split.

Date: 2006-06-18 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angiealight.livejournal.com
*blush* Oh dear, that entry of mine may haunt me... Actually, the reason I didn't delete (or edit) my own particular recent entry of way over-used extremely naughty jargon was that since I'm sharing bits and pieces of my life, I felt it was more honest of me to allow my less appealing, rough-edged, crass, extremely sleepless, and extremely irate side to be seen alongside my normally well-spoken, polite, and thoughtful aspects. At the time, I meant every single letter and intonation in my sleepless, frustrated, furious tirade. Now, I'm a bit ashamed of myself but as I said prior, for the sake of the whole picture, I'll let it remain.

My current view on extreme cursing is that it's one of those primal, base aspects of humanity - that even the most advanced and intelligent can revert to raving beasts at times of high duress. I don't cuss much in real life (heh, not even internet-wise, actually), and usually when I do swear, it's not aloud.

I certainly don't care for casual cursing - F-bombs dropped every other word, nor of common vulgarity. I feel that if you're going to say those things, you'd better have emotion behind it and not just saying the word for the sake of saying it, nor for shock value. As a society, it does seem that we are increasingly shameless in both language and demeanor.

Great question, Corgi. I'm not sure If I answered it at all, but good question. ;)


Date: 2006-06-19 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
Now, thing is, you've thought about it. You're doing it consciously. What about all these great masses who're doing it just because... I guess because somebody else is doing it?

Are we having bigger problems than, say, the Romans had, or is 'everything old new again'?

Date: 2006-06-18 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rozberk.livejournal.com
I believe you have two classes of curse words. There is the taboo one where it is the subject matter that is the profanity. Then there is the interjection one where it is the prase and the force of emotion that is the profanity.

As these taboos and interjection phrases change, so do what words we find acceptable. I know the "C" word had a history where it wasn't such a taboo as it is now. And the slang of scatology is almost taught in grade school. (Actually, that's where I learned all my curse words now that I think of it.)

I also blame a lot of it on the ever expanding horizon of information and connectivity we have. You cannot keep out new ideas and cultures as easily as you once could. This is forcing us to become desensatized to things that we would have normally not accepted as a society.

Here are two links: One is the wikipedia entry - good, short reading, and the other to a book on the history of swearing.


Date: 2006-06-18 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
So... how desensitised DO we get? When does it all flatline? Will it get to either yelling or not-yelling?

Date: 2006-06-18 11:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rozberk.livejournal.com
I don't think it ever will 'flatline' because there are always new frontiers when it comes to that which we find unacceptable. However, that frontier has diminished greatly because we are constantly assaulted with unpleasantness - either unintentional as our web of connectivity increases or intentional via muckrakers and reporters. But even well worn paths can become new; back in the vietnam era, publicly supporting the troops would have needed much tact and guile, where nowadays you could be drawn and quartered in the streets if you don't have a yellow ribbon. It seems that half the nation is proud to be a 'hawk'.

I might have misunderstood originally; what you are referring to is manners I believe. Extending to society an added air of social lubrication and offering a DMZ to the often jostling interactions of our daily lives.

If that is so, then it will have to hit a point where we, as a living culture, cannot take it anymore. Sadly, I think this is already happening with our litigious nation where those that do not like their point of view being overridden have the power to force it into law. But that is just my opinion.

If you wish to talk more about it, I'm much better over the phone at this stuff. I lose a lot when I write it down.

Date: 2006-06-18 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nakedkali.livejournal.com
The reason I'm on LJ is because a board I and friends were on started using language nannyware. That is to say, they felt the need to use the words, and I felt the desire for their company so I pop in here.

I find it's a good exercise for your mind to come up with the precise vocabulary for what you are feeling at the moment you are feeling. It unites the animal and human parts of your brain and helps you say and get what you want in the future. Epithets are by their nature visceral, and whether or not they are exactly what you are feeling, people in general (and not teens pretending to be blase, or foolish newspaper reporters pretending to be 'unbiased') are going to interpret them this way. You are missing out on an additional channel of information if you only use them when your emotions are in ferment.

I personally find that because I have lifelong practice in the the above, that people *really* pay attention when I curse (instead of, say, just pointing their heads in the direction of the curse and editing it out or laughing mindlessly).

Now, we've been told repeatedly that most people don't listen to the words other people say and that 90% of what is happening is body language. If humans are still all that primitive in their evolution of their innate language instinct, epithets are going to remain necessary. But unlike chimpanzees, we don't have to merely let the world evolve us, we can evolve us, too.

Date: 2006-06-18 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] annechen-melo.livejournal.com
Okay, first this bit from last year.
And the comment that I do not swear all the time, just when I'm angry or upset. Counting work and commute that adds up to 10.5 hours per weekday, and only about 2 hours over the entire weekend.

Date: 2006-06-18 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
*snicker* I like 'baka gaijin otaku', though. You could farble people good with that one.

Date: 2006-06-18 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allah-sulu.livejournal.com
I wore a shirt with "baka" on it to EPCOT earlier this year. A Japanese woman laughed, and asked if I knew what it meant (I replied, "Hai, boku no baka.")

Date: 2006-06-19 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
Heh - I looked it up to make sure, but I've rarely seen a phrase clearer in context. :D

And that's one of the best iPodded icons ever.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allah-sulu.livejournal.com
Heh - I looked it up to make sure, but I've rarely seen a phrase clearer in context. :D

My wife, who only knew what "baka" meant because I told her, replied to the Japanese woman, "it's true." She just laughed again and said, "Ah, you do know what it mean!"

The shirt was a gift from my sister, who did not know what it meant, but thought a shirt with Japanese characters on it would be a suitably geeky gift for me. She also laughed when I told her what it meant.

And to think that some people actually get Japanese characters tattooed on their bodies without being sure of what they mean...

Date: 2006-06-19 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
What's worse is when the person wanting some nifty kanji gets lied to by the artist....

(oh, now I wanna use [livejournal.com profile] 2woolongdatadog's 'Inu' icon.)

Date: 2006-06-19 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allah-sulu.livejournal.com
And that's one of the best iPodded icons ever.

Thanks! :)

Date: 2006-06-19 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] annechen-melo.livejournal.com
Made the mistake about muttering that while one of my co-workers could hear. His wife is a natualized citizen, originally from Okinawa. His response was a chortle and something rattled off so fast I couldn't catch it. When he found out I was just scratching the surface of Japanese, he refused to transleate it, saying my sensei would not like for me to learn those phrases just yet. Now, since Sensei has moved away, he still won't tell me, because it would just get me in trouble.

Like I need any help in that department.

Date: 2006-06-18 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allah-sulu.livejournal.com
I approve of your icon, and wish to encourage it.

Date: 2006-06-19 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] proudofthefish.livejournal.com
Personally I have become desensitized to the words themselves and am not offended, but I also try not to curse because I don't like the intent behind it. I don't really think the word used matters; I think the intent does.

One other thing, when my younger brothers begin picking up curse words, I reprimand them not because they are curse words exactly, but they don't understand what they are saying (or implying) most of the time.

And sorry if this is not coherent I am very tired.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
It makes perfect sense, and for myself, I agree with your mindset.

[eg] Believe me, I can be perfectly horrid without any gutter language; I don't find it an augmentation.

Date: 2006-06-19 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wormtorturer.livejournal.com
I decided it might not be such a good idea to pick up Chinese curse words from Firefly when I found a Chinese roommate. On the other hand, I'll probably mispronounce them so badly he'll ROTFL if he figures out what I'm trying to say.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
Ha! Well, most of the stuff on the Pinyinary is at worst scatalogical, rather than Rilly Ebil Cursing.

But hey, you could always get him to coach the rest of us....

Date: 2006-06-19 07:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heidi8.livejournal.com
Thanks for fixing the posting of this; I'm glad I came back to see it.

On Al Franken last week he and a guest were talking about Mary Cheney's use of the f-word in her book in connection with her reaction to John Edwards in the vp debate - that's definitely a case of someone thinking from family interaction that it's an appropriate word to use.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
*mildly embarrassed* Semagic lied to me, it looked fine in the preview display!

Drat, I missed that Al Franken bit, but even if I was in a radio mood, his show's never on when I'm in the car. :/ I'm a victim of bad timing.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allah-sulu.livejournal.com
Semagic lied to me

Sometimes LJ changes the HTML that you post. Some types of HTML aren't allowed. I've had no end of fun with things like that while working on my own Massive Tool.

Date: 2006-06-19 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sff-corgi.livejournal.com
It was the way the 'span style' code spazzed in LJ - the newspaper's CSS had a font name in double-speech-marks (") which LJ interpreted as close-code for the style statement, leaving a whole string of fonts outside the style. Once I left it just marked around by commas only (font: trebuchet ms, trebuchet, helvetica....), it started behaving. Took a few tries to figure it out, though.

Semagic is obviously more forgiving of one's intent.

Date: 2006-06-19 05:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allah-sulu.livejournal.com
I've had to tweak the Tool a few times to compensate for LJ's quirks.

Since Semagic is specifically designed as an LJ editor, you'd think they'd be doing the same.


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