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

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The Power of Words

“Words which do no give the light of Christ
increase the darkness.”

-Mother Theresa

Recently, I wrote a post about how language is insufficient. Anyone who studies English, has read a powerful piece of writing, or just has some sort of existence in this world would have read that post with utter disagreement. Anyone who has ever experienced life would know that words are not meaningless; words make an impact on people’s lives. Words effect you. I did receive some responses that pointed out that I could be wrong, that I had misrepresented the idea of language. Dictionary.com defines ‘language’ as “communication by voice in the distinctively human manner, using arbitrary sounds in conventional ways with conventional meanings; speech.” Words are defined as the “principal carriers of meaning.” Words are not useless – far from it!

Language is surely an insufficient means for me to communicate myself as a subject to others as objects. I can never completely fulfill that. No great work of literature has ever completely communicated everything that the subject is thinking. No great speech has been able to spell out every thought of that subject. But one cannot say that literature and speeches are pointless, or useless. Works of literature and speeches both often succeed in moving a person to action or to emotion. Despite the lack of the ability to fully communicate oneself to others, words give us the power to bring others to the realm of our thoughts. Individually, while some words can bring about thoughts or emotions, most words are just words. [Obviously THE Word, Jesus Christ Himself, is different, but I’m not referring to Him.] When an author or a speaker craft together certain words in a certain order with certain emotions, they can stir up those similar emotions and those similar thoughts within us.

Anyone who has ever seen The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would understand the true power contained in words used with great tact and eloquence. The armies of men (plus some hobbits, dwarves, and elves) were vastly outnumbered by the armies of Sauron. Sauron’s armies had much greater strength as well. The armies of men had every right and reason to tremble in fear and desire to flee. Enter Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur and rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. He comes up with words to speak to this rag-tag army that has arrived at the Black Gate with the hopes to defeat the Dark Lord of Mordor, the evil that has been taking over Middle-Earth. He managed to craft together a speech that stirred up the courage of those men to bring them to the battle. For those who have seen it, you know how it ends. For those who have not seen it, 1) how DARE you! GO SEE IT! 2) I will not spoil it for you.

Word_memeWords are not lifeless and meaningless. They have power. Most people have heard the cliché “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Words unite, and words divide; words create, and words destroy; words bring joy, and words bring tears. No one can rightly deny the power that lies within a word. Language is a terrible way to communicate oneself completely to another. But words allow a person to come to understand just a little bit of what one is trying to communicate. Words create thoughts in a person’s mind, bringing about some sort of change, such as the ones just listed above. Words are living, breathing symbols. Now, I’m obviously being metaphorical there, but you know what I mean. Words are not dead. If they were dead, Aragorn would have failed to bring courage to those men; my blog, while it may be read, would lack the intended thought-provoking element; and all that Jesus said would have been for nothing. Words can make nations fall and armies rise.

However, words are moot if the recipient of the communication of these words allows them to go in one ear and out the other. The change is up to the beholder. If I were amongst the army of Aragorn at the Black Gate, and all that I did was dwell on what I saw and not care about what Aragorn had to say, there would have been nothing keeping me from turning around and running the other way. I would have to internalize his speech, his words in order for there to be true change, allowing for his words to accomplish their task. One cannot just absorb the most eloquent of speeches and not do anything about it. Words are meant to move a person to action in some way, whether that be mental or physical action. The only way that that can happen is if the person allows for that to happen. All authors, speakers, or human beings in general have a job when it comes to their use of words: use the words that will bring about the action they want. That’s it. From there, the recipient of those words must be left to choose to act in one way or another. While that may sound very utilitarian, that can include just building up relationships. One can use words to build up relationships or to try to communicate some point. Whatever the intention may be, the recipient is responsible for taking in those words and acting.

“A word is dead when it’s been said, some say.
I say it just begins to live that day.”

-Emily Dickinson

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Our True Language

Have you ever experienced that? You just want to say something, but you can’t. You know WHAT you want to say, but you haven’t the faintest idea of HOW to say it. That’s because words are inadequate. Words are just terrible. Even as I’m writing this, I know that whatever I may right will just be inadequate. Keeping that in mind, whatever I write will end up being my best attempt to communicate my point. I will fall short, as you will learn. But I will do my best to use words to form sentences with which you can understand my point.

What is the point of using words and language? The point of language is to communicate to another person our thoughts, or our feelings. We want to help the person with whom we are speaking to understand a thought/feeling that is in my head. Sometimes we need them to explain something to us. Other times, we are trying to explain something, like Peter Parker above trying to ask out Gwen Stacy. Ask anyone, and they will either tell you that they are not the perfect orator, or they will lie and tell you that they are. Words are used to communicate ourselves to others.

Whenever someone communicates with someone else, they are communicating as a subject to an object. When someone is known as a subject, that means that they can see and understand the world from your perspective. Someone is an object to us because that is all we can see them as. You are a reader of this blog; I’m hugging a friend; I’m talking with a friend. I can never know what they are truly thinking or feeling as a subject. I can only see them from my own perspective as an object of an action. Words our man’s attempt to communicate his subjectivity to an object. No one can ever know someone else as a subject, only as an object. The reason why we develop relationships and communicate, using words, is to try to learn about and understand someone else as a subject. While we know that will never happen, we still try our best. That is how we know we care about someone else or someone else cares about us: if they continue to communicate with us, trying to understand us as a subject.

Words are not enough. When translating between different languages, while one language may have a word for something, another language doesn’t. In Greek, there is the word storge, agape, philia, and eros. The English translates all four of those into one word: Love. They mean vastly different things, and yet the English Language considers them all to mean the same thing. “Love” is also used in English for other instances. If I say that I love bacon, that does not mean the same thing as when I say that I love my Mom. Or when I say that I love my household brother, it’s not the same as when I love God. When I say something, the words that I use can never actually convey the entire message that I’m trying to communicate. Words can’t do justice to the ideas of myself as a subject, trying to communicate and deliver them to the other as an object.

IntrovertSo if the point of communicating is to make it so that the other person understands our thoughts and feelings, communication is futile. We might as well not ever try to talk to anyone, because they won’t understand us anyway! It is impossible to make someone actually understand us as a subject. So we might as well just keep to ourselves and never talk to anyone else, right? Yeah! The introvert’s dream! No. That is a terrible idea. When we talk to people, when we try to learn them as a subject, it shows that we care enough about them to try to understand. It’s like this: God is a mystery. But even though He is a mystery, we love Him enough to try to learn about Him. We will never truly know Him fully, because He is God. But we still try. It’s the same way with people. When we care about and love someone else enough, we take the time to talk with them and learn more about them. Because, even though we won’t ever know them as a subject, we think that they are worth the effort. That is why the silent treatment hurts so much: we want to develop that relationship and understand them as a person, as a subject, but they won’t let us.

BuddytheelfBut there is this interesting phenomenon. As we get to know a person, there is no need to talk with them. But why is that? We don’t actually truly know them as a subject. No matter how much we try, we can only know them as an object. If we look at Peter Parker above, he has no idea what to say or how to say it. But Gwen Stacy knows exactly what he is saying. It is through, not words, but silence that we fully and truly communicate with someone. Silence is the language that we were made for. Whether or not you believe the story to be true, there’s a story in Genesis about the Tower of Babel. They built up to high, so God cast it down and spread the people all across the world, giving them different languages to speak. At that point, people couldn’t understand each other anymore. They were bound by a language barrier. Even those who spoke the same language became destined to not understand each other. The story reveals a deeper truth than just what’s on the surface. Our true form of communication is squandered by those who try to communicate with language. We can best communicate in the silence.

Some people truly despise the silence. Some people can’t get enough of it. Why is it that there are such differing opinions on silence? It is only silence that we have no distractions. Look at the world: at all times, we’re either talking, listening to music, texting, on our computers, watching TV. There are so many things that distract us, that take our time and keep us occupied. But the word “distraction” often connotes something from which we are distracted, something to which we cannot give our attention. What is that if we are always surrounded by these “distractions”? Ourselves. And God. And others. When we are silent, we are firstly distracted from looking at ourselves and who we truly are. When we are talking to others, or listening to music, we aren’t forced to look at ourselves, our true selves. We can lie about who we are, or we can get so lost into what we are doing that we don’t even think about it. But when we just sit in the silence of our surroundings, we are present with our true selves; there is nothing that separates our minds from who we are.

Silence also brings our true selves into presence with God. Our inmost being has an intimate connection with God. Most of the time, we try to stay away from that part of ourselves, because we don’t want God to see who we truly are. But when we are in that silence, we allow God to meet us where we are; we allow Him to be present to us. When we get lost in using words, we get lost in who we want to be, or in who we think others want us to be. Words spoil thoughts, feelings, and identity. Words deny us and God the ability to truly just be present, to just be. I’m not saying that we should never use words. But at those times when we should be stand true with ourselves and with God, we end up not; we take that away by trying, and failing, to communicate by using imperfect words.

This is the same way with our relationships with others. When we truly care about them and wish to be in relationship with them, while they can never know us as a subject, we want them to know us, and to communicate with us. But when we try and use words, we are misunderstood and unclear in conveying ourselves and our message. That is why two people who are in love tend to be okay with just sitting with each other in silence. It’s not that they are bored of each other. Rather, they understand that words would provide an injustice to their relationship. Words would be a waste in their attempts to know each other better. Silence is the clearest way to communicate oneself to another. They won’t fully know you, but that can never happen. To know someone is to be truly and fully one. And I will not get into that, because that would be too big of a tangent. Silence is the purest and surest way of communicating the realities of oneself to someone else.

As I’ve said several times above, we know that someone truly cares about us and loves us when they are truly willing to communicate with us. The purest way to communicate with us is by simply being with us, in silence. So when someone is communicating with someone else, they are loving them. So as you boil it all down to the bare minimum, to the simplest form, communication is love. When I communicate with them, whatever words I may be saying, even if I’m not saying anything, I communicate that I love them. That’s why ignorance, a lack of communication, tells someone else that you are not happy with them, basically that you don’t love them. When someone tells another that they hate them, they are basically just contradicting themselves. They are making the effort to communicate something of themselves to the other, and yet, while their words say one thing, their communication conveys the completely contradictory message: love. If someone truly wishes to convey that they don’t care about or love someone else, they should stay away and ignore them. When we communicate with someone, they are worth our time, our effort; we truly care about them and love them. The purest form of communication, in essence, is silence, which communicates our true love and care for that person.

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