Giving a F^(# about Language

Almost exactly a year ago (350 days ago, to be exact), I wrote a post about swearing. In case you want to read the whole thing, I’ve linked it here. Regardless, I wanted to highlight a few points about good ol’ invective, and how it’s affected me. I recently felt it was time to revisit the whole thing because… well, because I wanted to.

In the thirteen months I’ve been writing this blog, I consistently harp on this  point in as many ways as possible: words matter.

Here ya go, folks--cuss 'til your heart's content. These are called "sniglets" by the way. It's a good word. You should use it. all the time

In July I wrote a post that elicited as much vitriol because of its subject matter (accepting LGBTs in your church) as because of the sentence where I referred to the Bible as a “musty 2,000 year old document.” I was told by one that I had “done great damage to the Kingdom [of God].” That’s debatable. Anyone who had read my statement in passing, and actually changed their mind about something… well, I’d guess their Kingdom wasn’t very stable in the first place.

I was raised in the Church, attended a Bible college, and then worked in that same academic environment for nearly 20 years of my adult life. Swearing was one of those litmus tests that, for Christians, separated the sheep from the goats. The goats were the ones who swore. I was a goat.

Recently I saw a pastor whose blog I frequent (don’t click the link if you’re even a little bit worried about having your faith challenged), who dropped the F-Bomb. An upset person droned up all the usual arguments: “We are a people set apart” and “They shall know us by our fruits” and… yeah. I don’t buy it. I think people are thin-skinned. I don’t mention this in defense of him by any means. He’s a big boy and can fend for himself; I’m just qualifying my words matter mantra with the following: when you get upset, remember what your mother taught you: “Sticks and stones may break your bones….” Really. Words matter, but words can’t ultimately hurt you. I think God has better stuff to do than to be a language cop. Why do I think this? here’s an extract from my Feb. 2011 blog on the matter:

I realized, sometime during my year [in France], 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. A female 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…

I ended the paragraph with the following: “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.” I stand by these words a year later, and urge everyone to look beyond the delivery of the message, to see the message itself. You might be missing out on a lot by taking offense at a random collection of fucking syllables that are only meaningful in a handful of cultures, on a globe of seven billion people.


5 thoughts on “Giving a F^(# about Language”

  1. I totally agree ! Well said. But then, I am no longer of the Kingdom, so perhaps to some it may not matter.

    I was raised swearing. I have had to learn NOT to swear — but swearing is my default mode. But I think having control over swearing is the important thing — it is not if you swore or not, but if you did it knowing and wanting the effect on the various listeners. For me — I wish I swore a little less. Bad habits are bad habits.

    I learned this most about myself as I learned to swear in other languages and natives told me that it made me look bad — I instantly understood.

    But on to a deeper point:

    You said,

    I stand by these words a year later, and urge everyone to look beyond the delivery of the message, to see the message itself.

    I think theology and belief, are like language — superficial. We should not be tricked by what someone believes — the real person lies much deeper.


  2. My personal feeling is that it’s the emotion behind the words that sets people off. Some use them offhandedly, some with a boatload of rage attached like a barge. It can be hard to know which.


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