*F-BOMB ALERT* – CONTAINS (more) COARSE LANGUAGE (than usual)
I’m a connoisseur of rude and vulgar language. I collect it, use it frequently, and occasionally dust off some of my truly one-of-a-kind pieces to lovingly share with the world.
Hey, everybody needs a hobby, right?
But I started thinking about the nature of obscenities the other day, and after considerable reflection, I just don’t get it.
Why do we designate certain words as “offensive”?
They’re just collections of syllables and sounds. I mean, normal phonetic sounds. I could understand it if there were swear words that included, say, fart sounds or something – those would be offensive. But there aren’t any words like that.
Though now I’m feeling inspired…
Back to my point: “Ay”; “ee”; “oo”; whatever; as long as you’re not including “pbphltttt” as a phonetic building block, they’re all pretty innocuous. We use them in millions of different sequences, so why should certain combinations make people blush/titter/freeze you with a look of outrage?
I know, I’m zooming past the obvious. It’s not the phonetic sound that offends, it’s the meaning behind it. I see how someone with strong religious views might have a problem with exclamations they consider blasphemous, so I’ll leave that topic aside for now.
But what about our good old Anglo-Saxon four-letter words? Shit, piss, fuck. These babies have been around for a long time. They’re short, simple words for perfectly natural body functions.
Why should “shit” be more offensive than “bowel movement”? Seriously, the words “bowel movement” make me cringe. And what about our other euphemisms? Drop a log, pinch a loaf, take a dump – they all sound pretty vulgar. By comparison, “shit” is quick and tidy.
Ditto “piss”. What’s so doggone special about the word “urine” that makes it somehow less offensive? It’s still the same stuff. And I’m sure those folks with the surname “Uren” would prefer people to use the Anglo-Saxon alternative when referring to bodily functions. I’ve never met anybody with the surname “Piss”.
Or take “pee”. (No, I didn’t say “take a pee”. Well, unless you need to. In that case, fire away. Though I’ve never really understood why we say “take” when we really mean “leave”, either.) But digressions aside, why is it cute when little kids say “pee”, but everybody gasps if they say “piss”? What’s so cute about “pee”?
Many talented folks have already outlined the versatility of “fuck” as verb, noun, adjective, adverb, interjection, and so on, so I won’t belabour that point.
But think about this: “Somebody fucked up the copier” is instantly comprehended by virtually every English-speaking person on the planet. We hear that, and we know we won’t be getting any copies of our document today.
But if we eliminate “fuck”? Look out. How about: “Somebody had sexual intercourse with the copier”?
Bystanders flee screaming, faces contorted in horror. Those with sensitive stomachs vomit into the nearest receptacle. Scrub your hands, bleach your brain, stuff yourself into a haz-mat suit and never, ever make copies EVER AGAIN.
A simple F-bomb could have averted that entire disaster.
They’re all perfectly good words: short, easy to spell, and universally understood. And we’re not supposed to use them.
I just don’t get it.