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Saturday, December 02, 2006
(10:36 AM) | Stephen:
Potty Mouth

As I'm sure you know, Dennis Prager made up a fake controversy about Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, the nation's lone Muslim Representative to Congress, saying that Ellison had made a statement that he would not swear his oath of office on a Bible, but would require a Koran.

That's fairly sad, of course. Apparently Prager - and those who joined in with him - are so bereft of intellectual prowess and integrity that they can't make their arguments without creating them out of whole cloth.

But the ridiculous story did get me thinking about swearing oaths, which got me thinking about "swear" or "curse" words. Neil the Morally Upright Lycanthropist is also thinking about these words, although from a completely different source and perspective.

What's interesting about swearing oaths on the Bible, or at all, is how it is actually a way for the State to co-opt religious sentiment for its own purposes. All efforts to swear upon something are a bit blasphemous, of course, whether it is our mothers' graves, "heaven, for it is God's throne. . .the earth, for it is his footstool. . .Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. . .[or] your head, [upon which] you cannot make even one hair white or black." And Jesus goes on to say that our "yes" should just be "yes," and our "no" should just be "no." There is no reason to suggest that one would - or even can - place the integrity and holiness of a grave, heaven or God himself at one's disposal to prove that a claim is true. Simply be people of integrity.

So the idea of placing one's hand upon a holy text and swearing an oath is an entirely unChristian idea; I suspect it's the same for Judaism and Islam as well, and probably quite a few other religions. Pressing a holy book into the service of the State exalts the State above God, and a person's obligation to that State upon his/her obligation to serve that God.

Anyway, everyone knows what the "bad" words are, and the various ways we have devised to express something that sounds similar yet doesn't carry the social stigma - or soap tasting opportunities - as the words themselves.

Dang, darn, heck, zounds!, egad! and others are all substitutes that were employed at one time or another to curse without cursing, as it were. It's funny how different parts of our society are headed in opposite directions; TV and radio allow much more profanity than they did when I was a child, at the same time conservative parents don't like for their kids to even say "crap" or "dang."

Of course, saying a word like "shit" or even "fuck" - or words experiencing newish popularity like "cunt" is not the same as "taking the Lord's name in vain." That's actually what Jesus was referring to with his admonition against making oaths upon heaven and the like. We might also be able to place exclamations such as "Oh my God" in this category. However, the usual complaint is that exclamations that use the name of God or Jesus are calling upon them when it's not really necessary to get their attention, thereby wasting their time, I guess. While I don't think we need to reduce the words God or Jesus to nothing more than exclamations in response to a good candy bar or surprising event, I'm not sure that we need to worry so much about wasting their time or assume so much that we are able to command them in such ways.

As for the rest of the naughty words, none of them really have anything to do with God except for Goddamn, and its various forms. This one is probably the only one that we can properly call a curse word, since its literal meaning is to tell God to curse someone or something. So just as we can't really call these words take the Lord's name in vain, neither can we properly call them curse words. Anyway, I've never been able to get a bunch of "she-bears" to come down a hill and maul a bunch of kids.

There was a time when I decided that it wasn't the words themselves, but the attitude behind them that was the problem. This is correct, I still believe, because it's keeping in line with the general thrust of the Sermon on the Mount. So I tried to keep even the replacement profanity out of my vocabulary. Do you know how hard that is to do? Pretty darn hard I can tell you. Oops.

Anyway, I've come to another place in my understanding of profanity. Words of this type are absolutely necessary for us. We rely upon our language abilities for our entire civilization as humans, and we need words that will express the entire range of feelings, positive and negative. And I believe that trying to avoid certain words completely places us under too much psychological strain. We probably should avoid making these words our all-purpose adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs, but when there are feelings that must be expressed, we should use the words that best express them.

However, we should make every effort to excise certain words, or at least their negative connotations from our vocabulary. Bitch, cunt, pussy, basically any word that carries with it the idea that a person is bad because of particular feminine characteristics. There simply is no need to perpetuate the idea of women as less than fully human when we are seeking to insult one another. There's plenty of other words to use.

Have a great *&$# day, #&$@!$&#.

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