What is a bad word and why?
“Different strokes for different folks” – I’m using this picture to illustrate differences of opinion on a single topic. The story that accompanies this was not between Joanna and I, it was a guest we had for Christmas. Please read and share your thoughts…
Have you ever been attacked for merely asking a question?
The other night, I was in an interesting conversation that went from 0 to 60 in about 3.4 seconds.
I asked a question that absolutely set someone off and it wasn’t supposed to be controversial at all… and then it did.
“Would you think bad words are bad if you were never told they were bad?”
Bad words, for this example, are also known as cuss words, swear words, cursing, profanity, filthy & foul language. Not slang, derogatory remarks or slurs.
You’d have thought I criticized someone’s life work. It was as if she created all the bad words with intent and then was defending their usage and place in this world as bad.
I never did give my opinion, but I did continue asking questions.
“Why do these words upset people?” “Why are some words acceptable and some are taboo?” “What makes a word bad?” “What about the science that says using cuss words is a sign of high intelligence?” “What about people who grow up around these words?” “Who determines when a word is foul?”
I’ve made it a point to normalize words for my kids so they’re not shocked nor completely put off by these words when they come across people who use them… and a LOT of people use them. If they learn to use them correctly I feel they’ll be that much further ahead.
But, more importantly, I wanted to remove the taboo parts of language so they’d understand. And, sure, there are times to be a little more conservative, but, that’s like everything, words matter.
Some people are super sensitive to bad words, and some people avoid them simply because their moms or dads told them to but they never knew why.
There are several books on this topic (a good one is “Swearing is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language” – another great one that my kids and I just went through is “THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK” – highly recommended – touches on caring too much about little things that don’t really matter). There are several well known speakers helping to normalize language right now (namely Gary Vaynerchuk) & a new series that’s about to start on Netflix called “The History of Swear Words” starring Nicholas Cage.
Anyway, this literally became a personal attack on ME for merely asking the questions. I was told to look up the original meanings of the words and that no one else thinks like this. I explained that I had looked them up and that I know them but was told, emphatically, that my questions were just ridiculous and that I should never bring this topic up again.
I ended up walking away from the conversation as it was no longer civil and the person was not open to listening to my perspective whatsoever. No feelings hurt, just ended. And, that’s okay. We don’t have to listen to anyone… nor do we have to stand for it when we’re under attack.
Well, friends, I chose to not listen to this advice and, instead, bring it up here as I feel it’s a conversation worth having.
If you’re uncomfortable with bad words, ask yourself why. Why do they make you uncomfortable? Who told you they were bad? Do you feel comfortable using them around some people, but not everyone?
I’ve learned a few things over the years and one is that there’s a time and place for everything – and that’s just to avoid creating problems. For example, there are a few places I’d recommend not using foul language… like, in front of a judge. In a church. In a classroom. Directly at someone as an adjective. In many of my social media writings. But, that’s just my own filter.
Anyone who spends any time around me knows I’m open and honest with my speech and use colorful language to help me get through life’s most awkward moments. It’s a healthy coping mechanism and it releases frustration. Stub my toe. Cuss. Someone leaves a mess. Cuss in the form of a question. You know, that kind of thing. If you were here you’d laugh along with me.
Intent and usage is important, like anything, but the truth is, language is a funny thing and it crosses cultures, subcultures, industries, ages, and other languages in general. And, certainly, the extent to which someone uses these words also matters. Someone who uses them as their main language (like every other word) will have a tendency to have others stop listening over time. And, someone who uses dirty language to describe others, constantly, also runs the risk of losing their audience, quickly.
Everything in moderation, for sure. My balance post the other day references this. Too much of anything leaves you vulnerable. Perhaps these are lessons we can all attest to?
It’s all in our heads and how we interpret things. Being offended by hearing a word might just be related to deep-seeded beliefs or learnings that were never questioned or understood. Exposure and understanding changes a lot. Spend some time on the streets, around some military personnel or some high-level executives and you’ll be desensitized quickly.
I’d much rather have conversations with people who can use language that helps them come off (even if it’s cuss words) as genuine than someone who pretends to be someone else because they’ve never been comfortable in their own skin.
And, in case you misinterpreted any of what I’m saying here, this is in no way relating to any words that are intended to stereotype races or countries or people in general. This is learning about words like d*mn, sh*t, h*ll, a*s, assh*le, b*stard, and f*ck.
I’m amused by people who use them wisely and I do my best to do the same.
Again, I don’t use them much in writings as it’s easier to miss the intent & tone, but in person, the question is “why are these words bad to some people?” If we hadn’t been told they were bad, would they be?
Who told you they were bad and why? Please be as specific as possible? Like, don’t just say “the Bible says not to use explicit words”. Who decides if something is explicit? Do we really have freedom of speech? Where is the arbitrary line drawn?
Have you ever been attacked for merely asking a question?
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