C is for Curse

Culling the unsavory language from every day conversation is a challenge for some people. The desire–no, the need— to curse is, for some of us, an expression of self as near to smiling or wearing fancy hats is to others. When we are forced to leave an Expletive Deleted, it feels as though we’ve lost half the power of our lexicon. Not all the cylinders are firing in our linguistic engine, giving us only half the power, and none of the oomph we usually rely on to get our point across.

Of course, we know that we’re not supposed to swear in pleasant company and for the most part, we managed not to. But believe me, in between the “yes ma’ams” and the “no sirs” there are several unspoken “f*cks.” However hard it is at times, we know how and when to keep our Depraved and Insulting English to ourselves.

My mother used to keep a plaque on the wall that read:

Swearing is the product
of a weak mind
trying to express itself

Whenever I happened to forget about this pithy little wall message and let a wild, untamed curse free, she’d point emphatically to the plaque and say, “Watch Your F*cking Language!” But linguists who dare enough to study the history and purpose of the humble swear know that they fulfill a vital, cathartic role in our lives. As unpleasant as it may be, if we didn’t release some of this pent up emotion in vigorous puffs of taboo words, I think some of us might just explode.

However, if you still find yourself shying away from curses, swears, oaths and all their ilk, if your tongue is too pristine to utter a sh*t, a c*nt, or a d*ck, and if your eyes for certain are too scandalized to add the vowels into those words, you could always leave Passive Aggressive Notes around town, to work out some of those pressure points of anger that the rest of us exorcise with a rigorous



63 thoughts on “C is for Curse

    • Hehehe. I’ve gotten into the habit of swearing in other languages. The difficulty arises, though, when you meet someone who understands that language. For example, I was out at training camp with my kendo club, and our teacher happened to be walking just ahead of us when I realized I’d forgotten some equipment. “KUSO!” I said without thinking. Of course, he turned and looked at me funny, much to my chagrin.

  1. I loved this. I can go without swearing and be ok with it but I prefer the freedom that comes with the threat of an F-Bomb.

  2. Yes!!!!
    And there are studies that prove that swearing is good for you for the very reason you point out here in your article. I know because I’ve read them to validate *some* people’s need to vent an expletive.

  3. Yep. I curse rather often and agree with all that’s here.

    My mother and husband rarely say anything stronger than crap, but my dad’s an ex-marine. He never swears when he’s angry, but continues to just throw f*ck and sh*t in casual conversation. “Close the f&cking door behind you.” “This food is greasier than s*it on a brick.” He doesn’t allow people to say b*tch around him though, because he “has two daughters.”

    • When I was young and stupid and didn’t know any better I called my mother a b*tch on mother’s day. I was slapped so hard and so fast I retroactively lost the need for braces. Respect for the power of the words is what I learned. Also, don’t curse at your mother. Good lessons, those.

  4. Too funny and oh, so interesting. I didn’t swear too much until law school but there it was an epidemic. Then the United Nations came with swear words in all languages and like you, I have stuck to a few favs in the hope that others don’t understand. Usually that works for me. My Dutch swear words remain my usual course of response! They sound the best and feel the best. Have a great effing day. Cheryl

    • I like the Finnish “perkele,” only because it hardly sounds like a curse at all…. I suppose also because Finnish is a lovely language to hear all around.

  5. Got a kick out of this post. XD
    My husband and I are big believers that it’s not the WORD you should be offended by, but the intent. If I call you a pr*ck while laughing and slapping you on the back, it’s a hell of a different story from if I say it while growling and preparing to slug you in the face. I’ve never understood why people get so up in arms about the gaggle of vocal excretions and not the meaning BEHIND them. ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. I mostly curse when I’m driving and always at other f*cking drivers that can’t stay in their lanes because they are texting, reading, putting on makeup, eating, etc. Usually I refrain from dipping into the more colorful phrase I acquired during my stint with the Navy, but sometimes you just have to let go!

  7. It’s all in context! Sometimes it’s because I am ticked, hurt, surprised, or just can’t think of something else appropriate to say (so I go right for the inappropriate LOL) ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Linguists would say you’re using curses for all the right reasons! I mostly swear to myself when I’m angry, or when I’ve hurt myself unexpectedly (such as getting hand sanitizer in an open wound a few nights ago, for example).

  8. Love the post. I’m with the let it hang crew. After all if Geoffrey Chaucer can go around wearing them out who am I, with my prissy Victorian roots to say no. One area that is troubling however is where a Foreign name doubles as a curse. My law firm merged in 2000 with a German firm. We inherited some stupid names – Hildegard Bison springs to mind – but the killer was Bernd Kunth, pronounced as you would expect for maximum embarrassment. How we were meant to cross sell his speciality to the British and American clients was never explained. In the end, like Voldemort he was the one who would not be named – or, if we had to, the Singed Minge as he became known…

    • Oh my god, that’s priceless! It reminds me of a friend I had whose last name was Cooke, and she had the unfortunate pleasure of correcting everyone she met with, “It’s pronounced ‘cock’.”

      I also had an English teacher who had the vestiges of a British accent. It would only come out on certain words, which made those words especially difficult to hear. Unfortunately, ‘can’t’ was one of them. ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. I very rarely curse and if it do, it’s in my head… though when it comes to my characters, they don’t seem to hold back:)

    • Hehehe~ Naughty little characters, letting all the naughty words fly. ๐Ÿ™‚ I recently toned out most of the cursing in one of my stories, only because it sounded awkward coming from that character. Curse words need to be reserved for special characters.

  10. Love that last paragraph. You sum up how I feel about that expression brilliantly. I curse like a sailor offline. On the Internet, not so much, but occasionally I use it as punctuation.

    Happy A to Z!

      • ha! I have a friend who contributes to the blog and it is an art form for him. When I first started, I had a no-profanity rule because NSFW issues are hard to navigate.

        We’re progressively relaxing that rule at Sourcerer.

      • You can’t keep a good curser down. It’s hard, too, since there are some instances where profanity in a blog actually helps it. I mean, look at this post. I don’t make a habit of cursing around here, but lots of people have come in to share their experiences and personal tastes on cursing. I pop them in here and there as a surprise for a sleepy reader. I like them in moderation. Like an unexpected fire cracker, they’re good for recapturing attention. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Yes they are! And I find that, having built a reputation as blogger who doesn’t use profanity, when I drop a shit or a fuck into some social thing I am worked up about, people sit up and take notice.

  11. My son, the soldier, f-bombs virtually everything with his men, but somehow controls it in polite company. I couldn’t write without a well-placed curse to express feeling! Great post!

    • The curses make it all become clear. I don’t curse much in my writing, but I don’t have many characters who have that personality, either. The curse has to fit the character, otherwise it feels strange.

    • Right below it we had a painted hemp wall hanging with two monks on it. The first one carried a sign that said “Love thy enemy” and the second one carried a sign that said, “Drink is thy enemy.” Guess which monk was drunk. ๐Ÿ˜›

  12. Love this! And love your mother, too. My husband never swears, but I grew up with a mother who continually hurled invective and sometimes ashtrays at the TV throughout Nixon’s presidency. I’m not as bad as that, but I do find it incredibly therapeutic to scream “F*ck!” at the top of my lungs when I’m alone in the car with all the windows rolled up.

    Lorrie at http://shrinkrapped.com/

    • Admittedly, hurling a curse is less likely to get one in trouble than hurling an ashtray. I think my parents tried not to swear around us when we were growing up. That lasted until about my teens though and then they gave up.

  13. Loved the post! So refreshing ๐Ÿ™‚ Ive been known to drop the F-bomb on numerous occasions and am no stranger to cursing. Lately, though Ive been around people who use curse words for about 7o% of their vocabulary. that seems to be excessive for me….but….too each his own ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Heh, great post!
    I mostly curse when I’m driving. Everyone on the road is a c*nt, a *tw*t, or a motherf*cking sh*tpoke. I bob my head like I’m singing along with the radio so if they catch me, they have no idea I’m cursing them roundly for not using their blinkers.

  15. Fun post. My dad used to swear like a drunken sailor when he got angry, so when I reached adulthood I had to unlearn, or try. It was fucking hard.

    Happy A to Z-ing!

    • I imagine so! There wasn’t a huge amount of swearing in my house when I was a child. More so when I was a teenager. I avoided it for as long as I could, but there’s something to be said for letting loose a good fucking curse.

  16. I don’t find words to be offensive. I find it’s the tone of voice and facial expression that delivers offense. A word is only a collection of letters, inflection is meaning. This is my favorite post by far in the A-Z challenge.

    • I find it strange when people I’ve known to have pure mouths for as long as I’ve known them suddenly erupt in a string of curses, but after that I find I have much more respect for them. You’re right, it’s not the word itself that’s offensive, if you really think about it. It’s the intent to be abusive, that’s offensive.

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