Saturday, May 1, 2010

On Cussing (Part 1)

Frequently, from people’s mouths are emitted certain words, and those of the norm stand in judgment, shock or disappointment (or all three simultaneously, or a combination any two) labeling such perpetrators as deviant. Of course, it all depends on the context of the situation. When people cuss, they are often in the norm of culture, but they are also deviant in that such language is not considered proper say, during professional meetings (except out west, or in Detroit) or in front of children or kindly grandmothers.
When some people cuss, like the man in the lumber yard whose lifestyle permits such language because his peers do the same and they hold the same interests (a lascivious lifestyle of drinking, smoking, carousing and blasphemy), such language is accepted as the norm but subconsciously known as ‘bad.’ After all, one would not accept Joe Blue Collar’s behavior if he spoke in such a manner to his child’s kindergarten teacher. So then, cussing is considered inappropriate in certain contexts—even if those who use such deviance accept it as the norm in their own culture. It’s not limited to factory workers, though. This deviance is predominant in what people consider more sophisticated (white-collar) culture as well. ‘Deviance,’ as a matter of fact, is an offensive and often moot term because of the moral relativism in which our culture is inculcated. To wit, Hollywood frequently commends cussing and other forms of deviant behavior in their movies and t.v. shows—because “that’s reality.”
And it is. Reality is, the world at large uses ‘cuss words.’ And we know which ones they are—and which ones they aren’t: the real ones have twin sisters who are nicer and wear flowery dresses—especially on Sundays. But not all of the nicer sisters are equally nice; these good kin exist on the whole spectrum of kind, sweet and harmless, to edging dangerously close to the bad sisters. Consequently, some of the good sisters don’t like to associate themselves with those of their own clique, because the others are so close to the bad side of the family. Maybe the good cuss words should be called cousins of the bad sisters instead, and the ‘badder’ good cuss words could be called not-as-bad sisters of the bad cuss words. Gosh, darn, heck, oh my word (a blasphemy?), frick, frickin’, they progressivly move from pleasing and denominative of good character, to ill-fated and almost as offensive as the real thing.

1 comment:

summeravey said...

Chris, you always make me think, you know that? I agree, there are socially appropriate levels to cursing, dependent upon one's environment and one's audience, as well as one's culture and the context of those words. What is permissible is not always beneficial, to be sure. I broke the junior high habit of cussing when I entered high school, fresh start and all, didn't want that muck in my mouth. I only did it in middle school because I was trying to fit in and not feel like an outsider in a new school. Some words have snuck back into my vocabulary, but need to be put away for good. Old habits die hard, but they can be put to death for good with self control and Holy Spirit power. Thanks for the thoughts Chris.