James Larson
Programmer/Analyst Consultant
A.K.A. Computer Guy
A.K.A. Internet Grandpa
Remember, it takes hard work to make computers easy to use.

Links to other sites I like.

To Cuss or Not to Cuss - That is the Question

I recently had a meeting with a headhunter where the subject of cussing came up. She allowed that she had a tendency to do so as she felt words were just words, and that the taboo against certain words existed just so society could "control people."

George Carlin would agree, since he produced his famous Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. He argued that since there are so many words in the English language, why should seven be banned from common usage?

The answer, of course, lies in the nature of common courtesy. It is the same reason why we are encouraged, even expected, to use certain words like, "please" and "thank you." By doing so, we demonstrate that we conform to certain norms of decency and sensitivity. Whether we like it or not, cuss words have certain emotional impact on both the hearer and speaker. This impact comes from the training we receive from birth through early childhood. The hearer of "bad words" can't really help feeling the way they do, although with continued exposure they will become desensitized. The speaker, on the other hand, is making a point, that they will not consent to be restrained in their speech for the sake of other's sensitivities. As a result, they mark territory on the behavioral landscape as nonconformists and rebels. Some would view them as bold and brave for doing something they themselves want to do, but lack courage to do. Still others will be right at home with such foul language, and freely use such themselves.

It isn't my place to judge people like my headhunter friend. Fortunately, we are all free agents in this society. But, I believe the people who use cuss words on a regular basis are actually limiting their own freedom of expression. As people get used to hearing and speaking cuss words, the words themselves lose the power to shock and convey strong emotion. Consequently, these folks lose the ability to effectively communicate their strong feelings to those closest to them. And, in the end, the very reason to use cuss words in the first place becomes moot.

I made an attempt to explain this to my headhunter friend, but I suspect she already knew it. I personally believe in politeness and restraint in word choice. Then, when I am really desirous of expressing deeply felt passion, the "bad words" I don't use will have maximum impact on my hearer.

Official PayPal Seal
Visitor #

This essay has been written and distributed by

James Larson
Programmer/Analyst Consultant
E-mail address
In God We Trust...