That F***ing Blog Post on F***ing Vulgarity

Vulgarity

“By vulgarity I mean
that vice of civilization which
makes 
man ashamed of himself
and his next of kin,
and pretend to be somebody else.”

-Solomon Schechter

[WARNING: There will be much vulgar language used in this post. The need for this warning will be discussed in this post.] There are many interesting things about language. One of those things includes the idea of vulgar language. As discussed before, language is a powerful thing. Words hold a lot of power. At the same time, language is, in a way, rather arbitrary; language has as much power as a person gives to it. For example, the word ‘love’ has changed meanings throughout the centuries. While the Christian understanding of ‘love’ is the willing of the good of another, love has become a feeling; it has become about one having feelings for another. Words have as much power as we let them have. Words can lose meaning, They can gain meaning. People can allow words to have power over them, or they can demonstrate power over the words.

There has seemed to be this idea of vulgar language for centuries upon centuries. There are words that are considered ‘bad words’ that are seen as less-than-tasteful, as immature, and, yet, as adult language. Certain words have become considered equally foul and vulgar in some places while, in others, those same words remain normal and okay. However, most words are considered similarly severe in different countries. For example, the word ‘fuck’ has become immensely offensive in most English-speaking countries; in another languages, it’s translation also tends to be seen as profane. Why is that? Why are the words fuck, shit, damn, ass, piss, hell, and other words seen as their varying degrees of profanity? It just seems extremely arbitrary, and this arbitrary extent of vulgarity shouldn’t be enough of a reason to refrain from using these in public situations.

While America is not supposed to censor the content of speech or broadcasting, there are certain laws that require certain ‘profane’ words to be censored or not used on television or on the radio. And while certain adults use profanities, they don’t want their children to use it. Why is it that there is this understanding to not use certain words in certain environments? Why do some people not seem to care about their use of profanities, using ‘bad words’ indiscriminately? However, at the same time, those people tend to curb that usage when around certain people. Why?

I mean, why is it that these specific words are considered vulgar? When someone says ‘darn it,’ they mean the same thing as ‘dammit.’ ‘Fuck you’ usually has a similar intention as ‘I hate you.’ ‘Shit’ can usually mean the same as ‘crap.’ So why does one in each of these pairs come off as vulgar and the other come across as not? All of these seem very difficult to answer. If people give words their meaning and their power, how is it that different words with the same meaning can have different meaning at the same time? Why is it wrong for me to say ‘I don’t give a fuck’ instead of ‘I don’t care,’ if I mean it in the same exact way?

This all seems to lead me to a dead end. There does not seem to be a firm answer to any of these questions. There’s nothing really setting profanities off as worse. Yet, these profanities are viewed as…well, profane. Because language gets its power from the people who use it, one must be able to conclude that the cultural and social norms are what dictate the profane and vulgar. Vulgarity is that which is seen as indecent, crude, or coarse. So that makes sense: crudity is determined by what is socially appropriate. Now, WHY the specific words are considered vulgar is still beyond me. But it must still be accepted as the way it is.

There are a couple situational uses of vulgarities that need to be discussed. Wonka Foul LanguageOne of these uses is during an argument/discussion. During a debate/discussion/what-you-will, certain people have a tendency to try to use as many vulgarities as possible in their argument. When I read those crude remarks, I read that they don’t respect me or my argument, and they lack confidence in their argument so they feel the need for this vulgar language. In all discussions, there should be a mutual respect for each other and each other’s argument. Whether or not you agree shouldn’t matter; that respect should still be there. When something feels the need for that vulgarity, they lose me. They make me want to not listen to them or their argument. They give me no reason to listen to them. If they don’t respect me, there is nothing that brings me to give their argument a chance. Vulgarity has no place in arguments or discussions if a person actually wants the other to give their argument a chance.

While many people use profanities when they get riled up during an argument/debate/discussion, many people like to use these vulgarities in everyday conversation. Why? I earnestly want to know why they do that. Like I’ve said, I have no idea why they are set off as vulgar, but they ARE crude. That’s the way it is. When something sounds crude and crass, it’s difficult to say why it is; it just is. Anyone who has ever lived for a few years would understand that. When a person uses such vulgarities, they are speaking uncouthly, not giving those around whom they are the respect they deserve. Whether or not we like someone, they deserve our respect. We should work to give someone all of the respect that they deserve, including speaking in ways that display that respect. Like in the video above, we should not be trying to figure out how much we can say without it being too strong. We should try to always speak in charity. Charity should dictate all that we do. Therefore, charity should be seen through our words as well.

However, I know many people who, whenever they hear profanities, shudder and shut their ears at the very utterance of such words. It’s one thing for ‘virgin ears’ to dislike hearing vulgarities. It’s important for people to always avoid ruining that innocence of those who still have those virgin ears. However, as people go through high school and to college and beyond, they have a lot of exposure to these profanities. It’s one thing to dislike profanities and the like. I do not care for them, as apparent from the above post. However, people use them. They come up in songs and in movies. We will hear them. That is sadly just a fact of life. While we don’t have to encourage those who use them, we cannot just shut ourselves off from those who use vulgarities. The idea of ‘living in the world, but not of the world’ can be seen with this idea. Living in the world will involve putting up with such crudity and vulgarity. We just can’t get into the sad habit of such profanities. I have many friends who use them. I listen to music that has them. Some of my favorite movies are full of them. However, I don’t let those deter me from enjoying my friends’ presence or finding truth in music and movies. The fact of life is that we MUST live in this world filled with vulgarities, but we don’t have to succumb to their crudity.

“Will minus intellect

constitutes vulgarity.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer

<><

Duc In Altum

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claritas Pastor
    Dec 15, 2013 @ 22:05:47

    I also really liked Calah’s thoughts on the matter in her blog post here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/barefootandpregnant/2013/01/those-damn-four-letter-words.html.

    Catholic opinions on swearing/cursing/vulgarity has always been a fascinating topic for me. I tend to align myself to Calah’s opinion, but hearing others is great as well! 🙂

    Reply

  2. Amy
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 06:47:45

    I agree with this, for the most part. Too much of it, not enough respect. However, I do think that on rare occasions or when particular forms of emphasis are needed, profanity serves a very distinct purpose aside from just being vulgar. Our brains respond more positively to saying ‘Shit!’ instead of ‘Crap!’ when we get in a car accident, stub our toe, or the like. Does that mean we should use these words anytime something unfortunate happens? No, but i do think that in moderation, they can serve a justifiable purpose.

    Reply

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