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Thursday, December 2, 2010

To @#$% or not to @#$%

A while back, Devlin O'Neill blogged about cursing and how he does not use it (or allow it in comments) on his blog. Despite my yanking his chain sometimes, I understand his viewpoint that he wants everyone to feel comfortable and safe. But his post gave me food for thought. What are people's thoughts on swearing? Yes? No? What's too much?

Before I continue, allow me to state two points up front: 1) I do not condone hurling ugly names in anger, and 2) the "c" word is off the table, in any circumstance. That word should be banned from the lexicon, as far as I'm concerned.

Moving on... obviously, as you've noted in my own blogs, I do cuss. As with most things in my life, I employ moderation. Of course, moderation is relative. To one who is offended by relatively mild epithets such as "damn" and "hell," my swearing is beyond moderate. But on average, I'd say I use it for emphasis, rather than allowing it to usurp my vocabulary.

Can we all agree that a well-placed swear word can be hilarious? Granted, spewing them right and left makes them redundant (and obnoxious), but with the right timing and placement, an unexpected cuss word can make me laugh until my stomach hurts.

Take spanking videos, for one example. On the extreme side, I once watched a video from a company whose product is not to my liking (won't mention the name, but it's not anyone I've worked for!), and it featured two girls getting spanked who blurted the f word and the s word every other sentence, which I found distasteful. However, an example for the plus side is one of my favorite adlibs of all time. (And no, I wasn't the one who said it.) In Shadow Lane's Sting Operation 2, Samantha Woodley is confronted by her teacher (Lance Del Toro) for cheating on an exam. After wheedling and flirting doesn't budge him, she gets petulant and snaps, "I said I was sorry! Now forgive and forget, and fuck off!" Hearing that come out of her sweet little face, and her timing, made me double over.

My thoughts on the ever-controversial word in the spanko scene: ass. Some people mistakenly think I disapprove of the word, but I don't. Where I don't like it is within a spanking scene. The phrase "You're getting a bare-bottom spanking, young lady" causes my stomach to flip-flop and my nether regions to react the way nether regions react; whereas "I'm going to beat your bare ass, bitch," makes me recoil in disgust. However, outside of scene conversation, there are times when only the word "ass" will do. I mean, calling someone a "dumb-bottom" or hurling off a snappy, "Oh, kiss my behind" just doesn't cut it.

When I was growing up, I didn't hear much swearing in my house. Sometimes I'd overhear cuss words when my older brother was in his room with his buddies, but my mother never swore in front of me. As I grew into adolescence, I thought she was quite the prig, using words like "golly" and "gee." Little did I know.

One summer day when I was 16, I was in her house, which had no air-conditioning. It was miserably hot and she had gone into her bedroom to attempt a nap, pulling down the shades and running a fan. But I guess it was simply too hot for her to sleep. Suddenly, she came bursting out of the bedroom in her underwear and yelled, "Aaaaaaaagh, it's so FUCKING HOT in here!" I was shocked! Who was this woman?? "Maaaaaa!" I said, laughing. "Well, it is!" she snapped. I guess she figured I was old enough to hear how she really talked! LOL

For many of you, cussing has always been around on TV, and certainly in movies. I'm old enough to remember the opposite, when you not only couldn't say "damn" or "hell," but you couldn't say "pregnant," you couldn't show a married couple in one bed, toilets didn't exist, etc. Of course, now on premium cable, they say everything, and even on network TV, several cuss words and references to bodily parts pass the censors.

Which brings me back to the moderation thing. No, I really don't want to return to the era of dialogue like "Honestly, Father," "Geeee, Wally," and "Well, gollllllllyyyy!" Wholesome, they called it. Another show comes to mind, a more current one -- Big Love. Because it depicts a Mormon family, there is no swearing. And I have to admit, sometimes the lack of swearing is jarring to my ears. They fight a lot, and somehow, hearing a heated "Darn you, Nicki!" or "Margene, what the H do you think you're doing?" doesn't ring true for me.

BUT -- when it's nonstop filthy mouth like on The Sopranos? Too much for me. I don't find South Park all that funny.

Returning to the humor aspect, there is one thing I do miss from bygone days of television -- innuendo. Nowadays, humor is so in-your-face dirty, spelling everything out, and so few people know the art of subtlety and suggestion anymore. The late, great Groucho Marx, on his show You Bet Your Life, could imply a world of ribaldry by simply looking into the camera and raising his eyebrows. In that era, it wasn't what was said -- it was what wasn't said that could bring on the side-splitting laughter.

One of my favorite examples of this is a classic clip from the Tonight Show, circa 1965, with the wonderful Johnny Carson. Actor Ed Ames, who played Mingo on the TV western Daniel Boone, was demonstrating how to throw a tomahawk, hurling one at a crude drawing of a cowboy figure. The tomahawk landed squarely in a most unfortunate area, and the audience exploded in laughter, as did Ames. Carson, however, didn't laugh, and didn't speak. He merely stood there, a very naughty smile twitching on his lips, looking at the tomahawk, then at Ames, then the audience, his face speaking volumes, while the laughter went on and on. And finally when it started to die down, with his perfect comedic timing, he uttered a line that made the howling erupt anew. It was one of the longest sustained laughs in television history.

If you haven't seen this clip, do watch: it's priceless.

So where am I going with all this? I guess I wanted to open the floor and see how people feel about cussing in general. Does it bother you? Are there circumstances where you think it works well? Do you think there's too much of it in the overall media nowadays?

And just so you know, I do appreciate moderation in comment cussing as well. ;-)


  1. godfrey daniel what a topic.

    suffering sciatica, what to say???

    much of the problem is pov. in the u.s.a if you say "she's got a nice fanny" no one would blink. do not, not say this in the u.k. ditto bloody.

    as an ex g.i. nothing shocks me. it's just barracks talk and signifys nothing. but one must consider who you're talking with.

    i really try and keep it clean but watch out if i whop my thumb with a hammer.

    Carlin, Kinnison,& Pryor were so funny and sharp that their language doesn't bother me.

    because you never know who is going to read a post i try and be civil but when blogger f**ked richard windsor i lost it.

    for me its not such a much but you have to think of others.

    one can always use the w.c. tact[the man not the room]. example... "if that safferatin' motin diver had a brain in his head it would be lonely!!!

    great topic.



  2. I happen to think.. that a few curse words here and there is not gonna break my etiquette bank.. ;-)

    Like you.. I despise the 'c' word.. and instantly form an opinion of the person using it.. and that might be wrong to judge a book by it's cover.. but I damn sure judge a person by what comes outta their mouth.. both good and bad. It's just human nature. We all have likes and dislikes.. but we're all adult enough .. I THINK .. to "know" within a reasonable doubt, if whether or not our "off color language" is going to offend the masses .. or fit well into the gist of the story or joke, or reference to life in general that we're trying to convey.

    Damn... that was one hellacious run on sentence. LOL

  3. ddon -- interesting trio. Carlin: loved him. Freaking brilliant. Kinison: couldn't stand him. Pryor: liked him sometimes, when he wasn't TOO over the top (like on Saturday Night Live).

    Zelle -- what run-on? I see lots of periods! :-D

  4. The religious people of Kensington hope that your blog abolish all obscenities,

    Yours acronymically,

    The parishoners at the First United Church of Kensington

  5. I am against the use of the "C" word as you are . However I feel as strongly about the "F" word . If you were in my household that would get your mouth washed out and soundly birched EVERTIME. But then again , since you like it so much, That might not work LOLOL

  6. Paul -- clever, my friend. Very clever. :-)

    Alan -- you'd birch my mouth??? ACK!

  7. Erica, very good continuation started on Dev's blog of a good discussion topic. I pretty much mirror your feelings on cursing. It is necessary and even called for in certain circumstances, and other in situations there is no call for it ever. And like most I detest the use of the "c" word in media and especially in real life. I agree with Zelle; fair or not, I form an immediate impression - negative to put it mildly - of a person who spews that, and I have heard many women use it which is especially jarring. I use the word ass ll the time but rarely to describe a woman's bottom, and NEVER with my Season or any of the lovely women in our community. Overuse diminishes the power and effectiveness of a good curse word where it becomes a rather bland adjective. Better to be used rarely but effectively to emphasis a point or for shock value when needed.

  8. Sometimes nothing hits the mark like a well placed swear word. Gosh darnit! doesn't really cut the mustard.

  9. Michael -- always glad to see you. I admit, I do the same thing as you and Zelle, regarding that word. If someone says it or writes it, male or female, they automatically drop in my estimation. I can't help it.

    Dana -- most definitely agree! And the operative phrase is "well placed."

  10. Hello my Erica, Gee is Wally and the Beave coming over hehehe :-) that clip of the tonight show was so frickin funny hehehe the cowboy got hit in the balls with the axe OUCH. i think some parts of south park are funny i like it when they say OMG THEY KILLED KENNY YOU BASTARD hehehe, you warned me about the C word and you mean business, i think who ever says the C word should get a good hard otk spanking and that includes me. LOL and HUGS from your naughty girl Jade xoxo

  11. Jade -- yes, you know I'm serious about that. That word is not allowed, never ever.

    Wally and Beaver are old now -- even older than me! :-D

  12. So many clever comments here, so I will only say I fully agree with you Erica. Too much profanity is just noise. The Soprano writers often over used it in my opinion.

  13. Great post and love the video clip, Erica. As you said, I've ranted on this subject often, and have drawn a solid line at my blog. But like you, an unexpected and well-timed word that I would censor on the blog can put me on the floor laughing. Overuse of course leaves me completely cold, and as DDon said, reminds me of tedious barracks (or in my case fo'c's'le) blather that I'm so happy to be far, far past.

    Good job, as always. :-)

  14. I have to admit I adore the C word. I used to hate it, hate it, hate it. But then I went to see The Vagina Monologues and it totally changed how I perceived it. I still don't use it though because other people do not hear it the way I mean it.
    I think that swearing is great if it is appropriate. I think some situations require an expletive and even Dev agrees with that.
    I don’t like it when every second word is a swear word. When I grew up it was not unusual to hear (I will use the word, fudge), “I am fudging, fudged off. I went out to get some fudge off boots and the fugder did not fudging have any. Fudge!”
    I swear, that was a normal speech. It was just so dull. I think some people swear because they let the swearing be their expression rather than what they say. I associate that kind of swearing with teenagers and think that grown ups should grow out of it.
    But the well placed F word is sometimes necessary and a beautiful thing.
    Dev’s approach to swearing did sometimes (does sometimes) drive me a bit bonkers because it is so all encompassing. I would like to say however, that expletives used in high emotion (such as dropping a hammer on one’s toe. I have no idea what you may have thought of) are fine by him. But what it has taught me is to luxuriate in language a little more. I can be express myself and make myself clear without swearing and I like knowing that because I was a terrible swearer. His site is not the rest of my life and I like the difference there. It feels like a safer place, old fashioned because of the language rules.
    I know I am writing an essay here but one last thing. I work with an amazing woman who swears like a trooper. She is very intelligent and perceptive but it took me a year to realise that and some of my colleagues still cannot see it. She resorts to swearing to make her points and it makes her seem very limited.
    But when you swear, you do it seldom and you do it well. It works. It is part of who you are. I like a world and a community with you in and with Dev in. I like the freedom to choose.

  15. I am not easily offended, but when someone uses swear words to describe every situation, I immediately think they lack imagination.

    I have been known to swear. But I will never, ever swear in front of certain people. My parents have never heard a naughty word come out of my mouth -- out of respect for them. And, of course, I will never swear in front of children or in a business setting.

    Do you know that for years my friends were afraid to swear around me? They were afraid of offending my delicate sensibilities. Ha! I'm certainly no puritan, but I use swear words in speech much less often than in writing, where I try to be as uncensored as possible.

    Great continuation of the topic!



  16. Shakes my head ... U silly girl ... You KNOW what i meant . LOLOLOLOLOL , However after reading it , it did sound kinda funny !

  17. OBB -- noise is a good way to describe it.

    Devlin -- thanks! When I first saw that entry of yours, I knew I'd want to expand on it, but then I got sidetracked with other stuff... still, it stuck in the brain queue until I was ready. :-)

    Poppy -- exactly; moderation once again. Using cuss words as the bulk of one's vocabulary is sophomoric. As for the "c" word, I fully admit to being a bit over the top about my feelings for it, but trust me, I have ugly personal experience with it and I doubt I'll ever see it as just a harmless word.

    And you may write all the essays you wish. Love it when you pop by. :-)

    pink -- discretion is key, for sure; I don't want to offend anyone. Didn't have to worry about my parents, though, once I discovered they both swore like sailors! LOL

  18. I have to admit I have a very foul mouth when I am VERY angry. I use all of the biggie swear words, too including the "c" word female and male counterpart. But I never,ever direct anything vulgar to my friends or my spanking partners. Those 2 especially nasty terms would never come out of my mouth during a session or a shoot. I do have SOME civility about me. :)

    During a spanking session, I do say F@4$ when I am really feeling the burn, but it's not directed at my tops. I say it aloud using a combo of laughing/groaning and admiration of their spanking prowess.

  19. Kelly -- I've hurled the f-bomb at tops a time or two, during scene. But they know I don't mean it; sometimes it's my way of saying "Keep doing what you're doing." :-)

  20. rofl @ Erica hurling the "F" bomb a time or two.. LOL ..

    Oooohhh yeah.. I get that! The biggest check I could write.. and know I could cash.. was calling a Top (or two.. or three) a "rat bastard" .. yup.. that pretty much said .. "keep up the good work dude!" (rofl)

  21. Zelle -- (giggling) We do take our chances with those names, don't we...

    If I do say so myself, one of my finer moments was on video when my "husband" demanded that I say I'm sorry, and I replied, "OK -- I'm sorry I'm married to such a pompous jackass."

  22. Here in the UK, standards have gradually loosened. Back in the 1960s when someone said the 'F' word on television for the very first time, there was shock and horror, and it made headine news on YV and in the press in the following days.

    These days, only one word, the 'C' word seems to be taboo. But we do hear it on the odd occasion. Not so long ago, one of the UK's most respective broadcasters - James Naughtie who regularly present's the BBC's flagship current affairs radio programmes, 'Today' - accidentally referred to a government minister Jeremy Hunt as Jeremy...(you guessed it). This is the one word I will not use, even when I am with my closest friends and acquintances, and I doubt it will ever become acceptable in 'polite' society. But that of itself adds to its power and impact.