What the #@%* ?

Yep, this post is about potty words, otherwise known as expletives, profanity, cursing, and swears. I’m writing this because I am perplexed by this form of language and how it fits in with our culture. Or my culture. The traditional definition of a swear is “offensive language, esp. as an expression of anger.” This is sometimes true, but swearing is now used to help express many different things, not just anger.

As a young adult I had a bit of a potty mouth. I swore around my friends, but never around my parents or my bosses. I was raised in a household where swearing was not tolerated. Once I became a parent, I kicked the potty mouth habit and managed to eliminate swearing altogether. Well, at least when around others. Somehow it has hung on in my own private space, particularly when experiencing printer problems. My office has been privy to all sorts of profanity against those #@%#$ printers.

So here’s the rub. Swearing is everywhere now. It’s on TV. It’s in the movies… and btw, when did the f-word become acceptable in PG-13 movies? It’s in the kids music. It’s commonplace at the office. I hear it almost every time I’m out in a crowd. Many of my kids friends swear and I see it often on Facebook. Some of my favorite blog posts have expletives sprinkled throughout and are usually strategically placed to add that little punch to the humor or emotion of the post. And actually, it works.

So why do I cringe when swears are spoken around my 13 & 16 year old kids when they hear them all the time? The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when my son listens to J. Cole music. He argues that a swear word is nothing more than a word, why do I make a big deal of it? In his teenage opinion, the only thing that gives cursing the power of being offensive is the fact that people like me treat the words differently than other words. And if this is true, have I wasted all those years of wiping it out of my vocabulary? Am I a hypocrite because I swear in private? A closet swearer?

So, what are the rules? When and with whom does swearing become acceptable? Is there a certain age? Like a drinking age? I’m guessing that most people might be a little surprised if a 4 year old dropped the f-bomb? My 16 year old has tried to swear in front of me and has gotten a earful. Am I overreacting? Am I giving profanity too much power? What do you think?
Thank you for reading!

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36 Responses to “What the #@%* ?”

  1. Susan says:

    Suerae, no you’re not overreacting. I hate the fact that the f-word (can’t even bring myself to say it) is used so freely. I try not to swear in my writing because one expletive begats another. Swearing doesn’t offend me morally, but as a communicator I feel it makes the user lazy — there are so many other words to use, words that are more accurate and effective. Susan

    • suerae says:

      Interesting thoughts, Susan. Thank you for posting! I agree to your point of the use of swearing in communication in certain situations. The areas where I think swearing is actually effective in writing is if it reflects the writer’s voice. In other words, I follow some really fabulous, funny (and sometimes emotional) blogs. There is usually swearing in them. I’ve never spoken to the writers in person, but (I assume) they write the way they speak, which make the blog posts feel more authentic. But I think it takes a particularly talented writer to pull it off, which the blog writers I am referring to do. Not everyone can (and should) do it. I love to hear the different perspectives on it!

  2. Laurie Springer says:

    There IS power in profanity.I used to swear to get a rise out of my mother and then skulk to my room when I got scolded. I try not to let my kids catch me, because the one time they heard me, it would be thrown in my face for eternity. I will swear in great frustration and it helps. I will swear to make a point or be funny (when appropriate). However…. I will whip my head around in disgust when I hear someone doing it in public,or preach to my children how unnecessary it is to use it in music. (Will Smith refuses). So I guess that makes me a hypocrite as well. So I guess profanity only has as much power as we give it. Ben is right though…in the end,they are just words.

    • suerae says:

      Well said, Laurie! Funny how far we’ve come, isn’t it? And how much alike we still are… Hypocrites unite – lol! You sound exactly like I am on this subject. I didn’t know that Will Smith refuses – good for him! :) Thank you for your thoughts!

      • Laurie Springer says:

        Hahah my fellow hypocrite…I guess thats why we are “still” friends. We hit it off in our youth for a reason.Deep down we had a lot of the same values. It just took mine longer to mature.

        • suerae says:

          I’m still waiting for your blog, Laurie! Ole buddy ole pal!

          • Laurie Springer says:

            I started….I did one about drugs. I am not sure where it went haha. I can’t do it daily, Something has to move me before I can write. I guess nothing has moved me lately.

          • suerae says:

            No one says you have to do it daily – let me know if you write another one or find the one about drugs (I’d love to read that one). You don’t have to write on any schedule at all – just when it moves you. Hope to read it soon! :)

  3. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Suerae,

    For grown ups, consistently swearing is silly. Makes an adult look immature.

    For kids, swearing is cool, or kind of normal…at least when hanging out with friends. The key is to keep it with friends.

    I never cursed in front of my parents, until 1 special day…..the day I had my mouth scrubbed with soap one time when I cursed at home. Literally. That’s what my parents thought about swearing ;)

    I also went to Catholic school. Carmelite nuns, the whole 9 yards. I only began swearing more when I hung out with my college buddies but the habit quickly faded.

    The odd drop of a swear word in an emotionally-charged situation is OK, be it humor, happiness or some drama, but casual or consistent usage of the word is boorish. Knocks about 100 points off of someone’s IQ for starters.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Suerae!


    • suerae says:

      Hi Ryan! I think you and I agree on this. And I like how you say the key for kids is to keep it with friends. That’s how I grew up as well. (Only no nuns at my school)! And I agree, hearing it over and over again, f-ing this and f-ing that makes me cringe. But here and there I think is unavoidable (especially in my own emotionally charged moments). Thank you for your insight on this!

  4. Ann says:

    Suerae, I came of age when Hippies ruled the planet and everyone swore. My parents moved from the Bible-belt South to New Jersey and they began swearing. I thought nothing of it until my 2 year old and I were in the grocery frozen food department and he said, “It’s f-ing cold in here.” Expletive semi-deleted. He was right, it was. But I was mortified and worked on changing my language habits. Shortly thereafter I joined a church that only says damned like when you dam up a river and you can’t move forward. We don’t even approve of OMG in words or techspeak. I can’t tell you how hard it was and still is for me to keep my words clean. I have even cussed in church. Paint me with a giant red blush.

    I can also tell you why just words is not a sufficient excuse.

    We begin with an “innocent” thought. Think of something you probably would never do (like shoot your printer). You cuss at the printer and anger builds. You threaten to get a gun and blow it to kingdom come. It messes up again and again and again (like my new computer does). Finally your thoughts and words become THE DEED. But wait, that’s not the end of it. Because you shot the printer while your kids were in the house, your neighbor heard the gun shots, the police came, they haul you off to jail for “reckless endangerment” and you spend several years in jail. We need to watch our thoughts, our words and our deeds.

    Expletives already have a person into part 2.

    Think about it for a minute. Someone who says the f-word all the time is more likely to do the f-word. Logical extension is an illness, hopefully not fatal.

    My sister cusses like a sailor and sometimes I do so, too. I do not think I am a hypocrite. I am addicted to bad language and I mess up. Hello, my name is Ann and I have potty mouth.

    • suerae says:

      I love your comments, Ann! I cracked up laughing at your son’s outburst! And I love your analogy about shooting my printer (funny how I can relate to that). I agree that, like anything, swearing in great anger can lead to worse, but I also find that it can help to calm me down. Sometimes my regular vocabulary just doesn’t cut it when expressing my extreme emotions. I hope I never end up in jail! I think in the end, for me, it will always be a small part of my vocabulary, when needing words with a little more umph! And it’s likely that my potty mouth will increase when the kids are gone. But we’ll see. Thank you for your thoughts – they are terrific! :)

  5. Deeone says:

    Hiya Suerae,

    Thought provoking post.

    I personally don’t think anything is wrong with profanity. I will say that some people misuse these words that we give WAY too much power. I myself am sort of a potty mouth, but I know when and where to use my choice words. I don’t drop them in front of kids of any age, and I respect my elders; my grandmother taught me right. It was a personal choice of mine, not to hearken to the lesson of “Absolutely no profanity allowed.”

    However, there are times when those choice words fit better than any other word in my arsenal. They express some emotions better than the use of the word itself. If you are “sad” or “upset” because some did you wrongly, saying that you’re “p’ed off” just makes much more sense. At least to me anyways.

    In a sense I blame those who like everything else, find a problem with something another adult does, because they chose not to do it.

    For example, but certainly not limited too; alcohol, guns, cigarettes, gay marriages, etc. In this country, if people gathered an opinion or were taught to not participate in something; they feel it’s their God-given right to push their feelings onto others. Regardless of whether the individual(s) agrees with their viewpoint or not.

    In my opinion, if a person doesn’t like profanity being used; then first, they themselves shouldn’t participate in the same exact thing that they shun for others doing. And secondly, they may want to come to grips with the fact that not everyone has reached the same opinion or were taught to have their opinion. Especially since I don’t think any of the words, anytime soon are going to become unlawful to use.

    I absolutely loved this post though Suerae. You asked a question about a topic that I’m sure everyone has an opinion on. Well done young lady! I love these kind of post. It’s post like these, again in my opinion, that get people discussing theories, beliefs, traditions, and ideas. And we in this great country of ours and the world as a whole, could certainly use a lesson in discussion.

    Awesome job! :)

    • suerae says:

      Hello Deeone! Welcome to my blog! Your comments are always welcome. And I love that they are lengthy and honest. I agree with your statement that at times, those “choice words fit better than any other word in my arsenal”. I guess that’s why they are often called “choice” words. We choose them for a good reason. I think those words have more power to those of us who use them less frequently. That’s why they are “choice”. Because if we used them constantly the wouldn’t have the same UMPH behind them, would they? And you are so right – people should lead by example. If they are offended by something, then they shouldn’t do it themselves. It’s interesting that I wasn’t offended by swearing until I had kids, and I’m only offended by it in their presence, so I try not to use those choice words around them. But it doesn’t stop me from swearing altogether. Nor do I expect others not to swear, but I do think others should curb their cursing around children and the elderly. To me, it’s just common courtesy.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I did too – lots of great opinions on this subject – and great discussion, which as you pointed out, we can always use a lesson in! Thank you again! ~ Suerae

      • Deeone says:

        You’re so right about those who use them less frequently, when they do happen to come out of our mouths; the world pauses for just a minute, traffic slows down, friends get nervous, and family members… well, the ones they get used on, anyways, they flee. :D It has certainly happened to me. Especially when no one was used to such language coming from me.

        I had a serious chuckle when I read your “UMPH”. I must admit, I thought it, even if I didn’t type it. So glad we were on the same page there. ;)

        I do understand what you mean about it happening in front of your kids though, and rightfully so. You’re suppose to protect them. Nothing to feel bad or hypocritical about there, because I guarantee when they get older, even if they do like I did and not really hearken unto the lessons you gave them; the lesson itself will never leave. They may even find themselves teaching them to their children; not understanding why they are doing so.

        Thank you for such a heartfelt welcome in your response… I really appreciate it and I’ll definitely be returning. ;)

        Enjoy the rest of your evening.

        Your friend in Atlanta,
        Deeone recently posted..How Do You Spell R.E.L.I.E.F?My Profile

        • suerae says:

          Haha! Thanks for the laugh about the traffic slowing down! It does make more of an impact. Growing up, my father was a quiet man and he didn’t lose his cool very often at all, so when he did yell, WOW! It was exactly like you said… the world paused and we wanted to FLEE! Very funny!

          So glad you feel welcome here. I like nothing better than meaningful discussion on my posts. Okay, I also love light-hearted banter! Either way, it makes me feel like the work was worthwhile and I always seem to learn something from those who comment. Like you said in your last comment, it’s a lesson in discussion, which we can all use sometime! I’m grateful you’ll be returning and I enjoyed your post about relief very much. I will now start heeding your advice and get off my computer to read my book!

          Thank you Deeone! I look forward to continued discussions!

  6. Kesha Brown says:

    Wow, I guess you and me both are alike on this one…I used to be a potty mouth when I was younger too – I guess it was a learned behavior from my friends because it wasn’t much of that going on at home.

    Then as I got older, I couldn’t stand swear words. I used to, and still kinda do, think they are words of the ignorant who just need to ramp up their vocabulary to express themselves.

    But I am somewhat of a hypocrite too. For instance, my favorite comedians use curse words in their acts and they are funny as heck!

    As far as kids are concerned, the jury is still out on that. I’m 33 and I wouldn’t curse in front of my elders so I don’t think kids should either. Among their friends is a different story…

    Great discussion!


    • suerae says:

      I’m with you about the kids, Lakesha. I think it’s a sign of courtesy to curb the swearing in front of certain people – kids, elderly, employers. But that doesn’t stop me from letting out an occasional SH#% every now and again. And I think that might be a difference too. There are different uses for swears. Like you said, comedians can use them very effectively in their acts, my blogger friends also use them very effectively and non-offensively, but never constantly and never in a durogatory manner towards someone else. It’s one thing for me to drop the f-bomb at my printer, but I would never say that to another person (okay, maybe not to their face, but sometimes under my breath in the car at another drivier – lol!) Thank you for visiting and for your thoughts! I’m excited to be connected on twitter, Diva, and Mastermind! ~ Suerae

  7. Suerae:
    I am certain Ann and I are contemporaries. And, it was the norm- especially in the circles in which I worked hard to be close to the center. The vernacular in the 60′s, registering voters or confronting hard hats/university administrators was clearly the 4, 7, and 10 letter varieties. And, to be honest, I still fall into that genre (probably way too easily).
    My children knew what language was appropriate where. We explained how other folks don’t use these terms, schools don’t accept them, even if they are on TV, theater, or movies. And, to this day, they are far less prone than their parents to employ the George Carlin “monologue”. Even if the radio plays them, their iPod’s blare them, or their parents blast them…

    • suerae says:

      Roy, thank you for reminding me about George Carlin’s monologue. He was a genius when it came to profanity… And to comedy, of course! His timing was amazing. The more I read through the varying opinions on this topic, the clearer my thoughts on this become. Your way of teaching your children where and when it’s appropriate is about the way I feel about it. There are times when other words just don’t seem to get the point across with quite the same emotion. But I guess I want my kids to know that it’s not appropriate in front of everyone. It should be curbed around children, elders, employers and teachers and people they don’t know very well. Thanks for your thoughts on this subject! ~ Suerae

  8. Larry Lewis says:

    Like you i come from a home where swearing was totrally unacceptable. In 82 years my mother never allowed any form oif swearing to pass her lips. Being the father of a 16 and 20 yeaar old daughter, i remember the struggle of keeping them away from swearing. But as you say the music they listen to, the tv programs they watch, swearing is so much a part of a young persons culture. Maybe i should thank my lucky stars that smoking is no longer with it. So one of them swears like a trooper but does’t smoke like one. The other is an angel but theres still time for her.

    • suerae says:

      So true, Larry! MUCH better that they are not smoking! I hope I will be so lucky with my two kids. It is definitely in their culture, much more so than when I was young. We swore when I was young, but it wasn’t in the movies as much and definitely not in the music or on tv. It will be interesting to see how far it goes in their lives, and if your “trooper” continues to swear all throughout his or her adult life, or cuts back like many do as they mature. Thanks for commenting – I’ve enjoyed reading your views! ~ Suerae

  9. Helen says:

    I also went through the rebellious swearing stage in my youth. It didn’t feel right. It came out awkward with the inflections in the wrong place. So it didn’t last. As an adult I swore in my mind,and kept it there, when I was super frustrated with something my children did or did not do. But somehow in the past few years I have verbilized some powerful feelings with the words that seem to have more weight than my oft times limited vocabulary could. How do you express something that has made you so upset to throw you over the edge while using the same words that you’ve used for 45 years. Maybe I should be reading a dictionary before bed…But for now, amongst those closest to me, who are of a mature age, I use the words that express how utterly fr&$#ING P@##$% I am at that moment. I just hope I continue to reserve it for those infrequent moments that need clarity. Maybe I can work on writing a thesaurus to articulate what we are really trying to say when we do use these fulgar words of body parts and functions. Thanks Suerae for giving me something to ponder.

    • suerae says:

      Hi Helen! Your comment made me laugh about reading a dictionary before bed! I think what you say rings true – those “choice” words really are the only ones that give relief sometimes. For some reason “Darn” or “shoot” just don’t always cut it! And I think the fact that we don’t drop the f-bomb all that often makes it that much more appropriate during those emotionally charged moments. You can curse in front of me anytime you want! :) Thanks for reading and participating! Great comment! ~ Suerae

  10. Traci says:

    Suerae, I personally do not swear anymore, but I am not totally offended when other people do. I think there is a time and a place. I don’t want my kids to think it is acceptable to swear. I do not think it is appropriate at all in the workplace or school or church, etc. But if the atmosphere is casual and only adults are around then whatever. Do as you will.

    • suerae says:

      Hi Traci! Yes, a time and place – I think that is the consensus, and I have to agree. This has been a great conversation and I’m happy that you joined in. Thank you! Have a great day!

  11. Tasha says:

    I’m one of those people who uses what I refer to as “salty” language in my blog posts – and hell, I swear when I’m speaking too, but generally it’s just about stuff that I get passionate or worked up about, not totally randomly. But ha, maybe I get pissed off a lot. :-)

    Having said that – I don’t swear around kids, and I don’t approve when I hear swear words being tossed around so casually on tv, radio, etc. It shocks me, that the use of swear words has become THAT casual. I think those words should be reserved for stuff that requires it almost – like me wearing my Fuck Cancer hat in the winter. I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t agree with THAT sentiment.

    Ech, I feel like I’m defining the usage of swear words kind of like the way some people define porn: “I can’t explain it, but I know it when I see it.” I can’t explain the situations in which I think using swear words is so not appropriate, but there are a lot of them – and heck, if we use them TOO often, then what do we use when we REALLY need them?

    • suerae says:

      Salty – yes! I wish I had thought of that word when writing this post!!! What a great reaction I’ve been getting. It’s so interesting to hear people’s thoughts. You, my dear, were on my mind when I wrote this post, so I’m glad you were able to read it. The way you write your posts, salty language and all, is so authentic and honest – as I said before – they make me feel as though I know you and you are talking to me. And if you left out those words, it wouldn’t be who you are. So, as I said to a reader earlier, only a few writers can pull off including those “choice” words without sounding as if they are either purposely adding them for effect, or sounding crass. And you pull it off! Well done! I think they actually enhance your writing the way they should. You write from your heart and that’s what makes for good reading, regardless of the language used. Thanks Tasha, and I really hope your week starts to get better! :) Suerae

  12. LeAnne says:

    I’ll never forget the day Mom dropped the F bomb at me and exclaimed…”Well, that seems to be the only language you understand!” when I was an expletive teenager…and then I had kids…and well, I became Mom. Well, in that regard. :) I too swear at my printer and apologize if one slips in front of my 23 year old son who I know swears in his writing and among friends (but never in front of me.) I even find myself apoligizing if I am alone in the room or to the dogs.

    I feel when it was first allowed it was overused in movies, yet in some movies and writings they are perfectly placed, reflecting the voice of the character, or in some it is just too much in order to get a reaction, which ends up either alienating much of the audience or desensitising the audience which takes away the original shock value. I think both you and Ben are in the right. You are doing your job as a Mom and he is a typical teenager. If it is bothersome to you he will respect that because he respects you and your feeling comfortable in your home. If he hears one slip, he will smile and see that you are human, and will know that something is really upsetting or frustrating you. No swearing was a rule in our home when our kids were here and Nick thought we were uncool until he experienced living with another family who he considered cool and lo and behold they had the same rule! It is common in his age group to swear regularly, but he catches himself around me and I appreciate that.

    • suerae says:

      Hi LeAnne!
      I don’t think I’ve ever heard the f-word from mom – wow! I never ever apologize to my printers. I think they owe me at least 2 dozen apologies – lol! And it’s true that some movies and songs overuse it and it loses it’s power. It has to have real emotion with the words and be used only on occasion to carry any weight. Kind of like dad yelling. He didn’t do it often, so when he did, time stood still!! I also try to have the no swearing rule at home. I think it’s good to teach them control. It keeps it from becoming too much of their regular vocabulary and then they can learn when and where it’s appropriate. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful thoughts! :)

  13. Tammy says:

    What the hell, here goes. Your son is right; words are words. Some carry more punch than others. Some are inappropriate and some are disrespectful. Profanity has it’s place, and therein lies the rub. Who calls that shot. As the mom, you are the boss of that. When your son becomes the dad, he gets to be the boss of that. Our upbringings do not define the society that surrounds us. We conform, to some degree and it works for us. There are many times in my life that I can rememer that a cuss word was very appropriate, and I felt better for belting it out. When I tried to protect my daughter and teach her that cuss words didn’t carry much substance in our day to day, her schoolmates taught her differently. We cannot hide from the world outside our doors, and cuss words abound there. We can accept or decline their usage, but it does not diminish their impact or their worth (or worthlessness). That, my friend is my two cents. Great post…keep then coming.

    • suerae says:

      It’s true that cuss words do make us feel better for “belting it out” sometimes. I think my son is testing the waters on these and definitely feels better if he can get away with it. Thank you, Tammy, for your two cents – they’re worth a hell of a lot more than that! ~Suerae

  14. Gustavo | Frugal Science says:

    Hi Suerae!

    Now, this is a provoking post and I think you must touched a nerve, judging for the tons of comments it provoked. Personally, I couldn’t help laughing mainly due to guilt because I am also a closet swearer –at least, around home. Anyways, when my children drops their bombs I always take much in account the implicit violence and try to focus on that.

    • suerae says:

      Hello Gustavo – nice to see you! Yes, this was a fun and provoking post. Lots of people had lots of great things to say. We closet swearers have to stick together! lol! And I think the consensus is that there is a time and a place for cursing. Everyone has somewhat differing opinions on what the time is and where the place is, but most agree that swearing should be limited to friends and others that you know are not offended by it. Not around young children, the elderly, employers, and in school. And the less frequent, the better, then they are more powerful and satisfying. Thank you for your thoughts in this subject, and it’s true that there can be implicit violence in curse words and the situations in which they are used. Have a great weekend! ~Suerae

  15. I have had those same thoughts so many times Suerae – wondering myself where, how, why, and when I picked up the attitude that it’s wrong to cuss. Probably my parents, who were/are non-cussers. As my husband and I are, but not my two children – whom I’m embarrassed to say are “cussers.” I just don’t get it either.

    At some point in our life, someone, somewhere decided there was a handful of “bad” words (also known as cussing or swearing) and therefore ‘proper, educated, caring’ people shouldn’t use them.

    People just don’t seem to care if they are offensive to anyone around them with the foul language they pollute my airwaves with. Then I could make the argument that other cultural words shouldn’t be off limits because, like just like expletives – what does it matter, those words are not offensive to MY ears. We could go round and round all day couldn’t we?! Where does the maddness end and the public courtesy begin? Anyway….great post.

    • suerae says:

      Thank you for checking in , Kris! It is perplexing, this #%^& cursing, isn’t it? The consensus among most who have chimed in is that there is a time and a place for those who choose to curse and they should choose wisely or it doesn’t have the intended effect. Letting out a slew of expletives at my printer somehow makes me feel a whole lot better… much better than saying “You stupid printer!” And I think it’s because I use cursing less frequently than I use the word stupid, so it just feels more powerful. But I wouldn’t feel so good about myself if I let loose on a person that same way. I do think it is much more prevalent today than ever and I wonder if the pendulum will start to swing in the opposite direction at some point. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments! ~ Suerae

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