|TOURETTE ' D!|
With the DVD release of the film The Aristocrats, the recent events at DVD Verdict and dealing with Nothingland in general, my mind of late has turned to the nature and use of profanity and what it means to me. In my youth, I wondered what the big deal was. I still ask that question, but now I have a bit better understanding. Let's see if I can elaborate.
See, I've always been a "live and let live" type of person (in my mind that translates to "hey, I don't bug you when you do your thing, leave me alone about my thing, m'kay?"). Add to that the fact that I grew up around profanity most of my life (my machinist dad would cuss a blue streak at home but it was verboten for the kids - do as I say, not as I do of course).
Yes, I went through the "cussing-for-cussing's-sake" phase (some never get out of it) and I still have a fondness for the double-entendre but, through the combination of moving to the Midwest, the Magic of Age, having a two-year-old grandson running around the house, the bombardment of talk-shows at work and the fact that I feel the Internet has actually raised my intelligence level, I don't use much profanity. While I haven't swore off the cuss words completely (see below), my speech has been scrubbed with a mental steel-wool pad.
As anyone who knows me will attest to, while I'm not exactly a Rebel, I'm far from a Goody Two-Shoes either (usually, their description of me is something akin to a crackpot). The reason I'll never give up the Seven Words (and their relatives) is many-fold. Here are some of the reasons I have been able to come up with:
- In some situations, profanity is a good release valve - You folks who work on autos know what I'm talkin' about. A high-school friend's mother gave that description and it went a long way towards explaining my dad's potty-mouth.
- Profanity, used judicially, is a good comedy tool - it's something that some folks (and some comedians) don't seem to get. Rather than sounding like some stricken with Tourette's, the right cuss word at the right time can take your audience aback enough that it'll make your joke more effective. The trick is knowing which one and when.
- Profanity, used judicially, will make your heated point more effective - Face it; sometimes the only way you can make that idiot understand you're serious is with a well-placed vulgar word. Now your point is packin' heat. As it said (I believe) in the EN World FAQ, Profanity is a spice, not the main course.
This has had a curious effect on me in places such as my normal hang-out, Nothingland. For those who don't know, Nothingland (or NTL as the regulars call it), is kind of an intellectual and verbal free-for-all where the four-letter word insult has at times risen to an art and the folks there can cut a n00b a new one faster than it takes for me to save this entry. While I don't ordinarilly participate in the fights that erupt there (I stay out of the Religion and Politics forum as I can't really stand arguing over those things - besides, I have more fun making wisecracks in the General Discussion forum), I have had been on occasion "called out" for one thing or another, usually with the saltiest words possible. I'm not afraid of a fight, but my first move is to make a joke out of it or try to turn it around on the protagonist. If that doesn't work, I come back with insults, the kind Dickens liked to use: "Listen, you cretin. If you entertain the notion of engaging in verbal fisticuffs with me, this will just expose you as the lowest multi-celled organism to ever slide across the face of this earth. Your friends, nay, the entire virtual community will see you exposed as the basest, most vulgar creature who ever decided to climb out of the primordial soup. You will have no support, no allies, just a bitter longing to walk among intelligent creatures in cyberspace. I pity you, for you will be alone in your bile-filled mind. You are nothing and I plan to make it so if you persist in following this line of insult." This usually has one of two effects. Either they give up and go away or ask me what the hell I just said.
If it goes past this, that's when I just walk away rather than stoop to that level (now if he persists in PM's that's when I get the Admin involved). So the net result is either he backs off or I get his keister warned or banned. Oh yeah, and I retain my dignity.
So, while I find profanity useful, I refuse to let it take over my vocabulary. In Chris Scott's book The Moose That Roared (about the Jay Ward Studio), he wrote that Jay Ward, if he didn't like someone, would describe someone as a "bum" or "dirty bird." Jay felt that the use of profanity betrayed a lack of intelligence. There's a lot of truth in that.