• Newsflash: Just Because You Can Swear Doesn’t Mean You Should

    Surge Summary: Cursing is becoming more and more acceptable in modern culture, even from prominent figures, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. The use of public profanity degrades language in general. 

    by Michael Cummings

    My father and my father-in-law are gentlemen who always keep their composures. The latter rarely swears. Just being around him, I find myself keeping my language to a PG if not G rating. Some years ago, we were planning a day out for our children with grandma and grandpa. As with most households with young children, even trips to the mailbox can turn into mass productions — “She’s touching me! Why don’t your socks match? Stop blowing spit bubbles! Why aren’t you wearing a jacket?!”

    So it was normal that I was at my wit’s end that morning just getting out the door. While the kids were loading in the car, I decided to make a quick pot of coffee to bring on the trip. My hands were moving fast — filter, water, one scoop, two scoop, three scoop…and the can slipped out of my hands, launching the entire contents into the air in a beautiful coffee grounds shower to land on the floor.

    The surge of anger and frustration hit me so hard and fast, I didn’t have time to temper my response. And I was alone anyway so it was okay, right? Therefore, at the top of my lungs, I let the F word sail.

    …right when my father-in-law walked in from the garage.

    It took me until later that day before I could look him in the eye, but the incident made me think about the use of swearing in public and private settings. The more scenarios I considered, the more it seems swear words should not be used in public, and sparingly in private.

    The problem is we’re experiencing a greater acceptance of public swearing.

    From books like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK to Unfu*k Yourself to sales gurus on LinkedIn like Keenan, John Barrows, and Gary Vaynerchuck, to diet and exercise experts like Dr. Tro and Keith Norris – these men throw out swear words as if they’re part of a normal conversation. My question is, if you wouldn’t swear directly in front a child, why do it in public at all?

    I recently bought a Koala, a device that tethers your cell phone to clothing to prevent you from dropping it during outdoor activities like skiing, hunting, or hiking. The words “SH*T HAPPENS” are on emblazoned across the top of the packaging.

    And then we have politicians. When the LA Kings won the 2014 Stanley Cup, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said:

    “There are two rules in politics,” he said to a cheering crowd at a rally inside Staples Center, as he held a beer bottle in his hand. “They say never, ever be pictured with a drink in your hand, and never swear — but this is a big f—— day. Congratulations, guys.”

    When you object to this discourse degradation, you’ll be criticized by people like those from Time magazine.

    Some viewers take it personally, taking it as classless, or moral degradation; I would argue they’re only thinking of the historically sexual meaning of the word “fuck.” But both Garcetti and Biden (along with Bono at the Golden Globes) used “fucking” as an intensifier, not as a sexual obscenity. Yet most swear words are used connotatively (to convey emotion).

    We don’t object because we’re thinking of intercourse when the f word is spoken. Nor are we thinking about excrement or male anatomy when the s word and d word surface. We object because the use of bad language in pubic, or the overuse of it in private, degrades our language.

    We get it. When something heavy gets dropped on your foot, yelling “fiddlesticks” doesn’t cut it. But we will maintain the power these words wield when we limit their use to the proper occasion.

    Free speech is like wearing spandex: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge.

    Image: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/; Adapted from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/12716692273; 

    Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns.


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