Brian, I swear…


Sometimes I swear.

There. I said it.  I’m not exempt from the entrapments of the World. I’ve been known to color the occasional sentence with invective or metaphor. Sometimes I swear in my sleep; in fact, some of my best metaphors were probably invented while I dreamed.

I thought it was interesting: I included a half dozen YouTube videos using swear words that I found interesting and comical (and hopefully pointed commentary) as well as great music.  Of all this, the only one that presented itself in “safety mode” (for 18 and older) was George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words monologue, which is probably the most sharp social critique of swearing ever written. Yet, Cee Lo Green’s hit “Fuck You” was just nominated for a Grammy and is unblocked by any sort of “safety mode”. The universally-acclaimed film The King’s Speech was rated R, ostensibly for the scene where the Duke of York was taught to overcome his stutter by swearing. I despise this sociocultural hypocrisy, where society would allow a seventeen year old child to see the cinematic abomination, The A Team, as it skated through the year unscathed, with a PG-13.

All these bad words probably makes me seem less-than-intelligent, but what can I do? I’ve always said I wanted to be a guy known for my words; hence the blog, hence the swearing. It’s a gummy topic, using bad words. Does Jesus get pissed off? How do the words from my mouth affect my provably less-than-Christlike religion?

Hold on to your goddamn seats because I’m about to give you an answer that might make you blink twice. What if it [gasp!] didn’t matter? I’ve become convinced in my vast travels (okay, a year in France and almost 20 years affiliated with a Bible college. But hell, I lived in Visalia for five of those years…) That words we utter are a social propriety, and not a religious one.

Don’t get me wrong.  If you feel like the mark you want to leave on your tombstone is “Jerry: That Guy Sure Had a Clean Mouth,” by all means go right ahead. I’ve had a tougher time of it.  My Dad, growing up, could, quite at will, paint a glorious collage of swear words that left us children both in awe and delight. He admittedly wasn’t a Christian, but by the heavenly orbs, he knew that the words you say matter much less than the way you live your life.  He provided for the family by working long hours in the woods. I don’t remember him ever missing a day of work, not even for the flu. He had left the house long before anybody could say goodbye to him, and was in bed well before the rest of the family. Small wonder he could swear so well.

I mentioned France. I realized, sometime during my year there, that words had different levels of meaning there. For example, “shit”, in English, has a much heavier connotation than merde does in French, even thought they translate to the same idea. Similarly, putain, even though it means “whore” is roughly the equivalent of saying “fuck” in English. So, we have to ask ourselves, are we as a culture afraid of the word itself? Or does it come from the idea of that word? The French word biche.  Any guesses? It means “doe” (a deer). Tant pis means “oh well,” and has nothing to do with piss. Un bon phoque means “a good seal,” and not… well, you get the picture…. If we shy away from a collection of morphemes grouped in a certain way, then we’ve just unknowingly condemned a lot of folks to Hell.

(Warning: don’t click this link to Ben Folds’ Bitches Ain’t Shit unless you really can handle this language thing… He rewrote the melody to Dr Dre’s rap classic and added a very pretty melody. The irony is quite intense.)

Dwight Wilson, a history professor and colleague at Bethany University, used to tell his class that the only difference between saying Shit, fuck, piss or cunt, and saying “feces, intercourse, urine and vagina” is: the people from the Latinate language group conquered the more vulgar Saxon culture.  Suck on that, doubters!

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