That's a very creative way to highlight the increasing use of swearing in
cinema. The other day we rented a Robert Redford movie where he was
the only actor and there were less than 2 dozen words spoken, and yet one of
those words was a swear word. Foul language is hard to avoid without tuning out
all mainstream media.
Use of vulgar or profane language has multiplied because the users seek to shock
and awe their audiences, not realizing that the use of such language only
exposes their woefully inept command of the English language. Just like
addictive drugs, the increasing use of foul language has a diminishing effect,
so the dosage has to be ever increased to achieve the same level of revulsion.
John Donne wisely observed: "Vice is a monster of such frightful mien, as to
be hated needs but to be seen; yet seen too often, familiar with her face, we
first endure, then pity, then embrace." And as Jesus observed, "Not
that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the
mouth, this defileth a man." Joseph Smith stood up to the foul-mouthed
jailers in Liberty; so should we. Yet we continue to watch and listen to the
whirlwind of vulgarity all around us, which only reinforces its continued and
expanded use. [climbing down from soap-box]
They're just words. We own any power they might have over us.
Are racial or sexual epithets "just words"? Are slander and libel
"just words"? Is verbal abuse of a child "just words"? Does the
law not agree that some words have power in and of themselves?
Yes, they're just words. Slander and libel almost always consist of words
that are not 'swear' words. Offensive as they are, neither are racial
epithets. Verbal abuse of a child can and usually does exist totally outside the
realm of the dreaded swear terminology, yet it is otherwise reprehensible, and
often reflects physical abuse of a child. Again, reprehensible, but religion can
be used to excuse it. Terminology people find offensive is so because people
find it offensive. More often, it's intent rather than simply the lexicon
that is meant to, and does, offend. But those words, those seven words that
George Carlin identified that can get people so atwist, well they're still
just words. There are sentiments and intent that are offensive because
they're meant to be. But those words, well, they're just words. If I
hear one in the media I take it for what it is. A word. Slander or child abuse
are slander or child abuse of their own merit. So called 'swearing',
on the other hand, is just words.
Clark Gable may have uttered the first swear word in a movie, but Shakespeare
has plenty in his plays - they are just so common that their history has been
lost and we no longer consider them offensive. And for the record,
the whole PC movement started with concern over swear words.
@CurmudgeonI always find this to be a spurious argument. Plenty of
eloquent people swear, I mean isn't it just 7-60(depending on what you
consider swearing) words I have in my vocabulary that you don't use? Sure
some people overuse swear words, but people also overuse "like",
"ummmm", "ya" and "huh", and I find that either way it
means that they aren't incredibly smart. I'd bet that Mark Twain,
Hemingway and Shakespeare wouldn't agree that swearing automatically means
less intelligence or a small vocabulary.
@Hutterite: You lose your so called power the minute you accept and allow
movie producers or others to bombard you with these words. Language
and nudity are the two main reasons I rarely go to the movies. My real power is
in being able to refuse to listen to this smut. I have walked out of business
meetings when the language becomes less than professional. Using foul, dirty
language is not creative, shows a lack of intelligence, and alienates the
majority of any listening audience.
So in other words, Hutterite, “Words don't hurt people; people hurt
people?” Hmm. I just don't think you can separate a word from its
intent. All words intend a message for the hearer. Swear (no scare quotes
necessary! It's a bona fide word!) words are intended to be offensive;
that's their definition. Just because they don't offend you
doesn't mean they don't produce in others the response that they were
intended to. It would be arrogant to prescribe to others what their experience
should be when they hear a certain word. You neatly sidestepped the
issue of sexual epithets (but still managed to work in a dig at religion).
I'm thinking of a particular “swear” word which most people
would find degrading to women no matter how it was used, because it attempts to
reduce women to their physiology. Racial epithets are so rife with negative
connotations that even in an academic context they are abbreviated. Even in
neutral circumstances, words have power.