AND I SWEAR

Posted in Rants on September 14th, 2016 by Ed

People who know me in Real Life ask me two questions about Gin and Tacos fairly regularly. I'll get to the other one when I'm feeling more introspective. First, though, let's tackle "Why do you swear so much?" It's a more interesting question, at least to me, than it appears to be on the surface.

The shortest answer is that it's the internet (which permits swearing, I believe) and this format allows one to write whatever words one chooses. That's not very satisfying.

Another totally valid but unsatisfying reason is that I swear a lot when I'm talking, so why not while writing.

The more interesting answer is that in print there are few things more idiotic and puritan than writing "f**k!" and thinking that it is somehow better, more acceptable, or different than "fuck!" If everyone who sees it knows exactly which word "f**k" refers to and says it inside their head when they read that bowdlerized version, then what constructive purpose is served by replacing letters with asterisks or their equivalent?

subtle

We see things like the title of this book more and more often. What is the point? If you've made the creative and editorial decision to put the word "fuck" in the title of the book, then put it in the title of the book. And contrary to whatever silly delicacy you think you're accomplishing by writing "F*ck" instead, I have surprising news for you: the title still has "fuck" in it.

The less obvious part of the issue, though, is why words considered profanity are necessary from a stylistic or rhetorical perspective. Strictly speaking they aren't, of course. The only words that could be called "necessary" are those with no synonyms, so there are always alternatives. I suppose I pick those words when they seem like the most appropriate means of communicating not just the idea but the tone that I want to communicate. What's wrong with that? We're adults here.

I often think back to this interview exchange:

Q: "Why all the infamous language, then?"

A: "Infamous language, are you joking? I speak nothing but the fucking English language. That’s the only thing I’ve been brought up with, and if that’s infamous, then tough shit."

Back in 1977 there was an obvious component of shock value to the choice to say Dirty Words on radio and TV. I think we can agree that there is very little shock value to be gleaned from swearing in 2016; no one but a small child or the most uptight prude bats an eye at an Infamous Four Letter Word anymore. The former will soon get used to it, and the latter have minds and worldviews so small that we really can't concern ourselves with their thought processes.

So, seeing nothing wrong with talking the way normal people talk, it all boils down to using the words that best convey what I feel. It isn't easy to convey feeling in cold text, and anything that advances that goal is worth considering. I can tell you something is ridiculous but goddamn ridiculous paints a better picture, does it not? Calling something nonsense or describing it as an empty or evasive statement is sometimes going to be the best strategy; in others the optimal choice is to call it bullshit. So be it.

Presuming there aren't many underage children reading anything I write, I don't have any problem using words that normal adults understand and use regularly. I see nothing "unprofessional" about it, and some people will disagree with that. To me, insulting the reader's intelligence with asterisks or subjecting them to bland, stilted, colorless writing is unprofessional. "Appropriate" is a nebulous and moving target, and the core of what I believe is that if the world can be full of hateful, poorly written, and / or totally illogical rhetoric considered acceptable and appropriate for mass consumption then a few salty nouns and adjectives should be the least of anyone's concern.