On swearing.

I knew this chick once – she was friendly and had nice hair. I thought she was cool, and she became about 45 times cooler when I found out she was from Manitoba (Winnipeg, maybe?). It was at a time in my life when I knew few people from outside the United States, but – unfortunately for her, I guess – her novelty wore off quickly when I overheard a snippet of conversation between her and someone else.

The Someone Else had said something – I can’t precisely remember – but it must have included what some would consider blue language because Canadian Chick responded with something like “When people use words like that, it makes them sound stupid. There are better ways to express yourself. Swearing is a sign of a weak vocabulary and a lack of education.”

Well, that smug little bitch!

When I was younger, my grasp of inappropriate language was loose, tentative. It was wild and unwieldy in my mouth. I spat these  “dirty words” sloppily and without precise aim. They would bloat my conversation, weighing down the points I thought I was so clearly and dramatically making. Instead of providing emphasis, they became the focus of my speech. I swore with the fluidity of someone trying to speak Cantonese for the very first time. 

And yet, I persevered. I knew I sounded stupid, so I listened carefully to those whom I considered artful cussers; to me, these were the folks who could bring an entire room to their knees with the delicate placement of a sole F-bomb. The tone of their voice, its forcefulness or its timbre, did not change when their tongues came upon these colorful interjections. I studied the form and put it into practice.

So to hear this chick, one whom I previously held in high esteem, speak such a blanket statement? It was fucking irritating.

Do I still garble strings of shits-and-fucks with the gracefulness of an ice dancing walrus? And is my written prose riddled with profanity? Yes, and yes. But do I make careful note of my surroundings when speaking in blue tongues – taking care to avoid certain four-letter-and-up words around particular individuals or groups? Of course. Mama didn’t raise no idiot.

But I don’t use these words for shock value. They are not the foundation upon which I’ve built the rest of my speech patterns. My vocabulary is (I believe) above average, thankyouverramuch. I don’t substitute expletives when I can’t find the word for which my brain is searching… usually. I am simply a believer in the power of certain words and the humor of their placement. It can be overdone to the point of obnoxious-ness, yes, but it can also be understated and, I believe, even kind of… elegant.

I take offense when others, listening from upon their high horses, are offended by my spoken or written language (for the record, I did hear Canadian Chick use a few “damns” and “hells” over the course of our brief acquaintanceship) but I will readily apologize when I sense I’ve crossed a line.

But I’ll also defend myself, if that wasn’t already completely fucking obvious.

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