An arse by any other name
Karen Stollznow - B@D LANGUAGE


#$%@! Swearing is bad?



I grew up in a peculiar household.


Mother is a lady of delicate sensibilities, who dare not utter a vulgar word, nary even a sugar! nor a damn! Father is the extreme antithesis. Expletives form the bulk of his working vocabulary. It’s quite a spectacular display, to hear him swear, cuss and curse in a foul-mouthed rage. People often comment that he “swears too much”.


I’ve often heard people reproach themselves for swearing. Like over-indulging in alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate, swearing is categorised as a ‘bad habit’… “Ooh, I swear too much! I want to cut down a little bit!” Perhaps, when they have been ‘good’ and abstained for some time, they may allow themselves the occasional fuck.


Think about it, and answer me this…what is ‘bad’ about swearing? Is it immoral? Unethical? Unladylike? Ungentlemanlike? Unseemly? Uncouth? Unrefined? Smutty?  Crude? Coarse?


The only reason for this linguistic tarring and feathering is that expletives can be offensive. But why are they offensive? Do they invoke tawdry, lustful and scatological images? Are they literal?


Let’s dispel some myths about swearing…


MYTH: Swear words are bad words.


Is love a good word and prick a bad word? No…these are arbitrary labels for concepts. Rape, torture, abuse, murder and genocide are incidental words that label bad, ‘ugly’ behaviour, they are not bad in and of themselves. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Or by my lurid corruption, “An arse by any other name…”  


Words don’t have an intrinsic, magical meaning.


We infuse meaning into language. If society agreed to it, lemon curd tart could become a deeply offensive expletive.


MYTH: People resort to swearing when they are losing an argument.


Bullshit! ;)


What if both parties are swearing?


Swearing during an argument might indicate frustration (fuck you!), emphasis (It’s fucking true!) or contempt (you fuckwit!)…but in itself doesn’t indicate power or control.


People resort to swearing in an argument because they’re sick of trying logic and rationale with the person who uses this myth as an argument.


MYTH: Swearing shows a poor ability to express oneself.


In contrast, swearing is very expressive. On the surface, the directive fuck off! denotes the same as go away! but the connotations of the former as far more telling and descriptive.


Does this accuser expect poetry and Wildean wit every time you open your fucking mouth? Nah…people who use this criticism are just pissed off because you swore at them and want to seek a higher moral ground. These are people who are pompous and prejudiced about language, and admire things like good ‘penmanship’.


In fact, mastering the use of expletives in a non-native language indicates proficiency. Phrases like what the fuck? or who gives a fuck? aren’t literal, and certainly aren’t part of the English for Business syllabus.


To swear or not to swear is not an indicator of intelligence, creativity, morals, ethics or beliefs. It’s the way you choose to speak, or how not to speak.


The opinion that ‘swearing is bad’ is a moral commentary. Swearing is often taboo, and this is a social convention. I don’t advocate that you offend those you actually give a shit about. However, what is considered to be offensive changes over time and space, so don’t castigate or censor yourself for indulging in a good shit every now and then.


One thing’s for sure…my Mum will never read this……



Copyright © 2006-2007


and Welcome to Bad Language

I'm Karen Stollznow (Cunning) Linguist,
Author, Skeptic and Investigator of the
paranormal and


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