Before I ruffle too many feathers, I’m not saying everyone should swear prolifically, I understand that would upset a lot of people. I mean that things that are considered profane are just words. How can we be offended by words? As a wordsmith, I sometimes find profanity is a useful tool. People swear, it’s a fact, and I feel that to accurately and believably portray my characters, sometimes, they will swear or act profanely. It’s not the actual word that causes offence, it is the meaning, the emotion behind it; if someone tells you to go away, it can be a little upsetting, but if someone tells you to fuck off, especially if it is shouted with venom, then that causes hurt, it’s an exclamation mark on an emotion. These words (and we all know the list of those naughty words) have origins in their meanings, some quite innocent and descriptive that have developed into offensive words by the context in which the masses have used them. It’s very much a double edged sword, they can and do cause offence, but being offended is a choice, you can just as easily chose to ignore it. It seems to me that it is more to do with cultural convention than any actual tangible offence. If someone swears at you in a normal voice but in a language you don’t understand, you won’t be offended, but if they raise their voice and gesticulate, you’ll get the point even if you don’t understand the words. The point I’m trying to make (through many tangents) is that these words are not offensive, they are just like any other word in our language (or any language come to that) they are tools for expressing meaning and emotion and as such have a rightful place in the structure of life. I swear in my life, probably more than I should, but never to anyone I think may be offend unless offence is meant (which is rare in my life as I’m so easy going I rarely offend anyone) I have taught my children not to say “naughty”words, but have also explained to them that they have their place in our language but it’s not appropriate for them to use them until they are grown up and educated enough to know what the words mean and the emotion they can evoke (as well a the reaction they can provoke!). An example of where profanity would improve something is soaps; they are light hearted entertainment that I personally have no time for, but having spent a lot of time working in and around London, I can testify to the fact that out would be much more realistic to let soap stars swear like drunken sailors than to expect us to believe that some London thug in a bad temper is not going to use a single expletive! In my writing, my characters say some horrendous things that I wouldn’t say in my workaday life, but it transfers the meaning, it shows who they are and how they are feeling at that point in the story. If, for example, you wanted to convey absolute shock at something that was happening in your story, what better way than to have a clergyman passing by utter the words “fucking hell”, a gut reaction, a real reaction that is out of the mouth before the mind has a chance to censor it. Another example of this is the use of racism, now I am vehemently against racism, sexism, sizeism, the list goes on, but I can see there is a place for out in fiction to illustrate the anger and hate felt by some characters. But I digress, that’s a whole other blog post. My point is that you can choose to be offended or you can choose to let it not effect you and take it for what it is. Don’t misjudge someone because he uses profanity, it may be just to illustrate a point and convey a meaning, a feeling or an emotion more effectively than dancing around it trying to be PC!
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