What the *@&%!

Elizabeth Pearl Corey, Co-Editor-in-Chief

*!?@#!!! What the ** did I just say? Did it have any meaning at all? Cursing is often considered to be a taboo habit of sailors and angry teenagers. But if cursing is considered to be so bad, why don’t we make hurtful words curses, too? Why do we make some harmless words curses, instead of only words that could actually affect people? Yes, sexual profanities should be kept out of the heads of children, and slurs are a no-no, but should words about waste be considered curse words if people are the ones who add meaning to words? Especially if a word is—to the speaker—just a word.

Everybody has an opinion on the subject of cursing. There are adults who believe that there should be an absolute ban on cursing, but others that consider it as only a way to let out frustration—which it really is. Whether one curses or not, the most important things to consider are context, intention, connotation, situation, and audience. Cursing often stems from words that are considered socially taboo, and can be used to release negative emotions. When one curses, adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, blood rises, and the heart races. These often are what make cursing feel so good and why it can be “addicting,” as many people have told me, and as I’ve observed in my interactions with others. Those who oppose cursing believe that the effects of cursing are negative and harmful. If somebody has high blood pressure or heart problems, it might be something that one would like to avoid. But there are other things that have the same effects as cursing. Solving math, doing school work, texting, playing video games, going on amusement park rides all have the same effect, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be outlawing any of those things anytime soon. One also has to consider that there are two different types of stress: eustress and distress. The former is a blessing, the latter is a curse. To most, cursing might be a blessing. I, personally, don’t curse, just because it’s not something I prefer. Instead, I use euphemisms I’ve come up with. Flowerpluck. Fruit. Flowers and beanballs. Fruits and beanballs. These are all things that I say that have the same effect on me, personally, as cursing has on other people. Yet, if I say such things, no one is going to yell at me for being foul-mouthed because no one associates those words with cursing. I could say anything and use it as a replacement for the f-bomb or the word from Mr. John T. Crapper’s name, and if it isn’t socially accepted as a curse word, I could be complimented instead of scolded. I often have been. But if people begin to say it enough, the innocent words could be deemed inappropriate. Does that make sense?

Alright, now, I realize that words connoting explicit rendezvous and emotionally harming people are not to be used, but why are words implying cleaning, or bodily functions off limits? What about names that have been mistakenly woven into the mad mix? That never made much sense to me. In fact, some names for animals have been taken from their original context and turned into something negative. Now, I’m not naming names, but I’ve never understood it. And, despite what people commonly believe, children aren’t as influenced by words as older demographics are. They may ask what a word means, but if they’re told it means something bad, it’s likely they’d be too scared of getting in trouble to say it.On the other end of the spectrum, if children experience cursing in their own home, they’re likely to see the word as normal and copy their “foul-mouthed” family members. It isn’t too far-fetched to assume that either way, curses will still be lingering, like it or not.     

Now, I’m not forcing anyone to curse or telling you that it’s okay to curse all the time. There are people who genuinely don’t like to have sullied mouths or minds, or who prefer using only, or primarily euphemisms. What I am saying, however, is that no one should be afraid of cursing, or ashamed of it if it doesn’t affect anyone in a negative manner. It’s simply a case of—not ethics, but—syntax, diction, and semantics. Word…choice.   


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license