Thoughts about swearing

This is one of those stream-of-consciousness posts where logic is not the focus, but simply getting thoughts on paper even if they contradict and don’t tell the whole story. Here we go:

My head doesn’t see anything particularly wrong with swearing but my gut reacts negatively to it. When I hear or read swear words, I instinctively recoil.

This is my attempt at getting my head to understand my gut response.

First of all, I don’t see anything particularly wrong with swearing because words change meaning and different words are labelled swear words depending on context. They are dependent on what society says are swear words or not. So there is no objective standard as to what a swear word is and isn’t. ‘Stuff it,’ ‘shut up’ and ‘shivers’ are words I don’t see as swear words but I know some people find them offensive.

So it’s not the word itself I have an issue with but the way it can hurt, offend or distress people when they hear it. In this sense, I think it’s our responsibility to not use the words around certain people if we know they will have this effect on them. This is respect and courtesy. We can do this because it doesn’t hurt us if we don’t swear. It doesn’t change our identity but it can show our character to be considerate of those around us. If I knew my words made someone uncomfortable, I would restrain them unless it was necessary to share them.

But this still doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong the words themselves.

What about the fact that it isn’t socially acceptable to swear around children? This tells me there’s something that isn’t completely innocent about swear words. If swear words were okay, why do even people who swear not want their kids to know swear words until they’re older?

Maybe it’s an outward pressure where they fear it reflects badly on them if people hear their kids swearing. Or they maybe they just don’t think it’s right for their kids to swear. Either way, this tells me there’s something not right with swearing. It might just be a social thing and not an objective thing, but still, there is an issue with swearing.

What is my issue with it?
Generally, I associate swearing with anger, frustration, and strong emotion. I’m not against people experiencing these things but I would prefer people to feel more pleasant emotions. Negative emotion tends to make me feel stressed and like things aren’t right. But I want people to be open and honest no matter how they’re feeling. I just think there’s a better way to express feelings than with swearing. Swearing is unnecessary for communication because we can understand how a person is feeling through other words, body language and tone.

Granted, I can see how swear words can be seen as adding something of value to language. Perhaps I could find better words than ‘stuff it,’ ‘shut up’ and ‘shivers.’ But they are stock phrases that give me something quick and easy to express myself and communicate to others.

And granted, I admit that I actually find the use of a swear word funny sometimes. I use ‘shut up’ as a humourous way to let people know they don’t need to tell me something. I expect a laugh from them, but often I get a ‘whoa!’ because to them it’s too strong and comes off as rude.

I also admit that I’m not too fazed when I hear the occasional swear word. But when swearing is frequent, I feel uncomfortable. I find it distracting and it stops me from being able to engage with what a person is saying because all I can see is the strong emotion behind the swearing. I become wary that the person might not be the most rational they could be.

When a person swears it makes me think they’ve got something against someone or something, and I’d rather them deal with the issue without resorting to a barrage of swear words.

So, my conclusion about swearing?
Generally, I’m not into swearing. Swear words sound harsh to my ears. I’d prefer swear words didn’t exist or weren’t used. But define ‘swear word.’ Any word can be a swear word.

I won’t swear because I’m not okay with swearing. That’s a sentence I find hard to make public because I fear offending those who are fans of swearing. But it’s the way I see it, and I won’t hold my standard to someone who thinks swearing is okay. Especially not when I don’t mind reading the odd swear word in a book or blog post.

I would say, though, just as I won’t hold your swearing against you, don’t hold my dislike of swearing against me. And maybe ask if it’s okay to swear around children and if children should swear. I’d be interested to know what people think about this since: why do we protect children from swearing?

What do you think about swearing?

Side note: Maybe this could be a separate post, but this is interesting because as soon as I wrote that last question, I realised I could expect some people to leave a lot of swear words in the comments. I can see the humour in that but at the same time I would feel uncomfortable. And I think these people would know that. They might even intentionally reply with swear words just to make me feel uncomfortable.

And this brings me to a topic I feel strongly about. Basically I just don’t understand why anyone would want to make someone feel uncomfortable. I find that hurtful, inconsiderate and maybe even cruel. It wouldn’t make me think they’re a bad person; it’s just that my personality doesn’t understand that part of person.

And maybe that is my real issue with swearing. To me I feel like it shows a level of inconsideration for the people around you where there is a good chance they will feel uncomfortable. And maybe this is a value thing. I’m all for being yourself and expressing yourself, but I also value taking responsibility for how we affect others. I’m not sure what the balance is and I’m guessing there is no blanket rule, and it varies from person to person with what our own values are.

I’m sure most people don’t swear to intentionally make people feel uncomfortable. But when people do, it completely baffles me. The last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt someone or make them feel uncomfortable. So I guess I also want to know: what makes a person want to make someone else feel uncomfortable?

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6 thoughts on “Thoughts about swearing

  1. I don’t use profanity and I don’t use it in writing. This makes it hard to sell writing for adults. But I’m holding to my morals on this one. To me using profanity is a lazy form of writing, but I realize some people use it and find nothing wrong with it.

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    1. Ditto. I remember trying swear words out as a kid to be cool but every time one came out of my mouth it felt foreign and wrong. So after that little two-day episode, no more for me – hehe.

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  2. I definitely relate swear words to be mean and hurtful. Have I ever uttered a swear word? Yes. Was it to hurt someone? Maybe. It was more of a defense mechanism, and that is sometimes complicated and messed up. Do I feel good uttering swear words? No. Until a few years ago, I would go :O if someone uttered a swear word. Unfortunately I used to (and still am, to an extent) like a sponge and very quickly absorb qualities, habits and behaviors of other people (and not really the good ones). Result – I picked up the habit of uttering them when I was particularly angry or frustrated or hurt. Now I try to deal with those feelings in other healthy ways and getting rid of this habit I picked up. Bad habits stick really fast and good habits take really long to form!

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    1. Oh cool, glad I’m not the only one. Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s helpful and insightful. I’m trying to break the habit of swearing in my head in those moments when I get angry with myself. Definitely love looking for healthier ways to deal with the feelings. What healthy ways have you found?

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      1. I usually mutter them under my breath instead of saying it out loud to myself or anyone else. I try to calm myself down, listen to music… I’ve almost completely stopped abusing myself, and that helps with other people too… If it’s me, I constantly tell myself “it’s ok. it’s ok” and it works 😀 for others, I’ll try to calm myself down and put myself in their shoes and remind myself that it’s not their problem if I’m annoyed or frustrated or angry. It’s my stuff and I have to deal with it. That it’s not their “fault” at all. Acknowledging that already works wonders.

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        1. Music is the best. Definitely helps. As a teenager it was like a lifeline. And love the method of putting yourself in other people’s shoes. I always try to do that one. Thanks heaps for sharing!

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