The Joy of Swearing
Oh, how I love to say that word. It rolls off my tongue with pure joy and satisfaction. People tell me they have never known anyone who enjoys swearing as much as I do and that they feel my pleasure when I curse. While they might usually be offended by the word, they can’t help but enjoy my foul language.
Why do I enjoy swearing so much? One reason is that I come from a long line of female swearers. My grandmother had no problem swearing, and my mom, a Lutheran minister by trade, was no different. Mom was the only mom and/or minister I knew who swore freely with pleasure and without a sense of guilt. Swearing wasn’t a vulgar act, but instead done for fun without the intent of offending anyone. During a celebration at our house, either a confirmation or graduation, Mom leaned over with a sly smile and whispered into my ear, “Go pick up the fucking newspaper and put it away, would you?” It was clear to me that her swearing was used to accentuate and also that it was just plain fun to do. I came to believe that swearing has its place when it is used judiciously.
Frequently, I swear to make a point. Throwing in an expletive, especially the word “fuck,” tends to 1) make people listen, and 2) express my strong feelings. As someone who usually follows the rules, I also swear because deep down I feel that it is something I’m not supposed to do. Swearing allows me to give convention a little kick in the butt. And society still doesn’t really expect women to swear. So maybe it’s one of my methods of challenging gender roles. Finally, I guess, at some level I think, true or not, that it makes me more fun or more real.
I’ve found that my love of swearing is hardly unique. Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and author of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, says, “there are circumstances when swearing is deeply satisfying.” Boy, did he get that right. He refers to this kind of swearing as “cathartic swearing.” Tracy V. Wilson in the article “How Swearing Works,” reports that swearing is less acceptable for women than men in our society and that women who swear “appear to violate more societal taboos.” The content of numerous blogs is evidence that some women agree that societal taboos be damned as they too voice their affinity for swearing.
Characters in the media take pleasure in the practice too. In one episode from Sex and the City, Mr. Big doesn’t just tell Carrie that he loves her, but instead says, “Well, I fucking love you,” to make his point. He also regularly utters the invented word “absofuckinlutely” when he wants to express his enthusiastic agreement. Doesn’t that word just say it all?
Profanity, especially the word “fuck,” offends many and is only appropriate in certain contexts, I realize. While it isn’t for everyone, it is a simple pleasure for many of us who, in this small way, want to revel in the irreverent.
Kristin Eggerling is the mother of two and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota. She has worked at the Minnesota Senate and as a public health administrator and held a variety of positions on numerous legislative campaigns. She serves on a number of local, regional and state boards and is active in DFL politics.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 12:30 pm and is filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.