June 28, 2017

Tacos and Potty Mouths

I don't do my own stunts, but I do make my own tacos.
I'm all about tacos. When I heard there were diets going around suited for the taco life,  I decided to check this new idea out. Imagine my disappointment when I downloaded a popular book on the subject and couldn't read past the first page. It wasn't poor writing exactly, it was the two f-bombs in the first three sentences.

I've often been fascinated by the history of swearing since it seems to develop culturally and over time. In the Age of Sail, a lot of words used for filthy references have become commonplace today. Some have been used for so many years, they've developed different meanings altogether. In earlier centuries, a lady would not be caught writing, much less repeating, words the lower man used like bugger, bootlicker, or even Mary (in a cursing context).

Swear words today are almost always a euphemism for intimate relationships and acts. They are used as commonplace nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. They're in memes, sung with no reservation in popular music, and printed on tees shirts and bumper stickers for shock value. They are found just about everywhere you look or listen. Social media is polluted with them.

I have to admit, I scratch my head over the idea that curse words add value to a statement, make a point, or automatically give one a respectable image. There are about a quarter of a million words in the English language. There are only hundreds of swear words. In literature, they stand out. If they are not offensive to the reader, they are at least a distraction. Too many, and it signals, even if unconsciously, that the speaker is trying too hard to be "cool," else he has a limited vocabulary.

In the past few decades, it's become necessary for some to argue for the rating of books. That pretty much says it all. Even bestselling or highly respected "literature" uses profanity for "realism," or because of the misunderstood notion that everyone speaks that way.

I grew up during the days when saying a bad word earned you a trip to the sink to get your mouth washed out with soap. My mother always told me swearing showed a lack of intelligence and education (in-between soap washings). While that certainly isn't factual, it does have a ring of truth.

Polluting the English language, especially in the Arts, does no favors for the audience. Grimy, weak words do not uplift us. They do not inspire. They are not succinct, nor do they add any measure of respect or intelligence to a work.

With all this said, I understand we have freedom of expression. I get that, especially in dialogue or non-fiction, it is a way an ugly truth is gutted out. That doesn't mean I agree with it. That doesn't mean I like it. And that doesn't mean that I never swear. However, there is always an intelligent and creative way to get around polluting the English language.

After tossing away the new book I'd been looking forward to reading this week, I realized today's quick access to literature and information comes with a price. We are losing some of the beauty that humanity can access through all of the different venues of creativity. We are watering down our language, and ourselves, by replacing the beauty of our language with potty talk to get attention.

Really, it's tragic. There's no true strength in a "dirty" word. It will never move mountains. It will never move readers.

P.S. Yes, I am still on a mission to do a three day taco "cleanse," because secretly, I just want to eat tacos for three days.

Stay balanced (and eat tacos),
~Danielle Thorne~


Sherry Fundin said...

Great post.
sherry @ fundinmental

Marianne Sciucco said...

Excellent post. Agree 100 percent.

Dawn Swansbrough said...

Agree and...guilty at the same time. I also think that if the movies are close to any truth, then pirates are more creative in their cursing or derogatory use of language (ex. Yer scurvy dogs, bloom in' cockroaches). I also wonder if Gone With The Wind would have been as memorable or quoted as often without Rhett saying "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!" for shock value? Hmmm. I don't mind occasional curse words, used sparingly, in books or movies, but overuse just gets annoying, is distracting and shows a lack of imagination on the writer's part. Great post...let's talk over tacos! 🌮

Danielle Thorne said...

Thanks for the comments, Sherry and Marianne. And yes, Dawn, I totally agree. I do love a good pirate oath. The more creative, the funnier. I guess they were considered to be a great deal worse back then!

Great question about GWTW. I don't think that line would have ever been remembered without the "damn." It's actually considered by many to be the first real curse word in a movie, but John Wayne used it in 1930 in The Big Trail . According to the web, MASH was the first to use the f-bomb.

Isn't interesting it only took about 40 years to go from "the d-word" to the f***? They have major different meanings, too, which I think matters a great deal in the ways and purposes of using them. Just my thoughts.