A Girl and Her Profanity

July 14, 2005

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I believe in the power of the word. I love people who can crystallize a thought, scenario or emotion in powerful phrases. I could collect great, intelligently written tag lines. I am a slave to cool new expressions (and G-d bless HBO for providing my latest fav, "Hug it out!")

And I love profanity.

George Carlin and my grandfather taught me the value of profanity. When I was 16, I heard Carlin’s "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television" routine. Shortly thereafter, I used the word “schmuck” in a conversation with my grandfather (who I loved dearly). I immediately realized that my mouth had once again gotten away from my brain and turned bright red with embarrassment. Instead of getting the “Oh-My-G-d-I’m-Glad-Your-Grandmother-Wasn’t-in-the-Room” face, he just smiled and told me if I’m going to use those words I need to know what they mean so that I could use them correctly. (He was a stickler for education.) We spent the next 10 minutes translating some popular Yiddish phrases to English.

Lesson for the day: Schmuck means “penis”. Putz means “SMALL penis” – which is extra insulting on that whole “you don’t even warrant being called a normal-sized dick” level.

There really is nothing like adding a great expletive to a sentence to really bring it home. It just adds that little something extra, no? Why choose (in a moment of exasperation), “What?!” when you could drop, “What are you fuckin’ CRAZY?!” on someone? It is just so much more expressive. And really, isn’t that what clear communication is all about?

I especially love that many expletives are so powerful they can stand alone – a sentence and sentiment unto themselves. Prick. Dickhead. Cocksucker. Just brilliant. Said to an umpire, that last one’ll get ya thrown out of a baseball game, ya know.

But let me be clear, using expletives because you lack the ability to use more mainstream words and phrases creatively and powerfully is simply ignorant and weak.

Only once you’ve mastered language at this level should you begin to use expletives. They will have more impact and more grace because you choose to use them judiciously and with precision.

Should I drop “fuck” in casual conversation? Probably not. And if I ever meet the Queen of England (or that putz son of hers), my brain will override my mouth and I’ll behave. (Although I bet that cute Wills has some of Diana’s love of irreverence.) But for now, these words are a part of me and a part of my language.

So, love me, love my mouth. Can’t deal? Tough shit.

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