Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Foiled Again!

I was thinking about cursing this morning -- not that I was on the verge of cursing but I was considering the entire concept. I admit, I had a few extra minutes and what else should I think about?

I don't curse. I really try hard not to for a few different reasons. I also don't condone cursing in others. Now, in the interest of full disclosure I have to say that when I was younger I cursed. A lot. I had the mouth of a sailor. I said things like ship and forecastle. A little profane humor for all you salty speakers about there.

But seriously f*lks, why is cursing bad? I have broken it down as follows:

1. it isn't bad -- a curse word is a collection of letters which when strung together make an arbitrary sound. That's it. It has no power over me unless I give it the title of taboo. These words are part of a well-rounded vocabulary and should neither be censored nor censured.
2. Curses discuss personal bodily practices which are best not discussed in public. If one must discuss them, one should use clinical/medical terms or infantile nicknames or euphemisms. If doctors and nursery school teachers were to co-opt certain curses, those curses would lose their value as taboo. If teenagers were to start incorporating clinical words (or new coinages randomly generated or unrelated words defined in context as having those sexual or scatological/biological connotations) into counter-cultural contents, or imbue their use with lascivious overtones, those words would become inappropriate.
3. Curses are an expression of extreme -- extreme objectification and dehumanization, extreme graphic description, extremes in emotions which drive us to yell them when we hit our thumb with a hammer (I have never, no matter how many comics I read, been able to pronounce the # sign in "@#!"). To my mind, this extreme indicates a loss of control, or a lack of mastery over the self and the language which would allow expression even in moments of crisis in a way indicating more self control. Does this mean an inability to allow the self to lose control even when it might be appropriate? Maybe.
4. Cursing is about power and rebellion. It is about the choice to express in a way which others would fain deny. The words are immaterial but the exercise of will is the problem. Once society or whatever the power structure is has decided that certain things are off limits, those who wish to establish themselves as on the fringe or not under the rule of authority will push the envelope of expression. When you come to terms with not feeling the need to rebel (or with the need to find more interesting ways to rebel), you no longer need to curse.

I stopped cursing before my first child was born. I decided that I needed to exercise self control in how I spoke instead of hoping that I could turn on that control when I thought it necessary. Because of the amount of time I spend in front of students, I know that my control of my words has to be all the time and every day so it is best to self regulate consistently than to hope that I can become careful when the need suddenly arises. I also know that my children, had they heard me cursing when they were young, would not understand the distinction between "when daddy is sad because his team loses" and "when I drop my crayon in school." I didn't want my kid to be the one that every parent can blame when 25 other 3 year olds come home yelling expletives with an innocent smile.

So I don't curse because of some bizarre and personal combination of the various factors. Take it for what it's worth.

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