Modified Swearing

February 22, 2009

I swear a lot. Really, a lot. So does Cate. We are desperately afraid that our child’s first word will be “fuck”. However, in my use of profanity, I have come to realize that there are two types. There is the type of profanity that only calls into question the capabilities of the moron in front of me who has had his turn signal on for 1/2 a mile, and then there is the kind that attempts to insult someone by assigning them membership into what is implied to be a deficient and undesirable group. For example:

bitch, pussy, girl, etc.: I think there are others on this list that I just can’t come up with right now, but the overarching reason for these is the same: They demean women. Using these words to insult someone, especially if I am insulting a male, implies that there is something wrong with femininity. It implies that there is something men have that women lack, to that end, I am trying (and have been pretty successful), to remove these terms from my vocabulary. And really, “You’re a fucking asshole” or “Your an enormous wimp” accomplishes the goal just as well without managing to insult femininity. Further, I’ve heard girls use these words as insults. I do not want my daughter growing up with the thought that the idea of being a woman is so terrible, that she is willing to imply her own inferiority when swearing at some jackass that just knocked over her drink.

lame, retarded, etc.: I’m pretty good about these already, but they do slip in from time to time. Probably as a function of teaching high school. The same things apply to these words as those above, only the implied slight is directed at those with some form of disability. And again, something along the lines of “You are an enormous fucking moron” works just fine.

gay, faggot, etc.: I don’t use these at all, but I’m including them just to complete the list. There is nothing wrong with being homosexual. Correspondingly, there is no good reason to use these words as insults. This is the current war I am waging with my students. I’ve thrown a few kids out because they couldn’t hold back with this kind of language.

So, yeah, I’m working on all of these things, and I’m trying to extend it to my classroom, but that is more of a battle. Most of my students swear so much that I wonder if I will ever find a way to get them to sufficiently modify their vocabulary, at least in my classroom. I’ll keep trying, I suppose.