Alright…you may have seen the “NC-17” rating at the bottom of this page. That’s not an official government-slapped certification… just a silly little “find what your website is rated” kind of thing. Someone made a program that does it for you, and it’s solely meant for entertainment value. And even though I don’t think I get too nasty or controversial on this blog… the program gave me “NC-17” because of the occurrence of certain words… most of them stemming from my very first post… which was about a movie-premiere party for a Light-Bondage and Discipline Porn Film. So, I wasn’t getting violent or writing anything blatantly and purposefully offensive… I was just peripherally talking about Sex. (Go figure)
Well… today, let’s EARN that NC-17 rating! And talk about some Mother-Fuckin swear words! Huzzah!
Now, I can’t say I particularly *like* cussing… nor can I say I hate it.
Actually, my views on it are probably a little contradictory.
On one hand, I see the point of view of them being “bad words”… and in the interest of manners, civilization and appropriateness… I can see why some wouldn’t want them to be said. In fact, sometimes I have to watch myself to make sure I don’t say any “bad words” around kids.
Which of course, then begs the question… what makes them bad? For instance…. Shit, Poo, Doo-Doo and Crap are all talking about the exact same thing. All synonyms of the same noun… and when using it as a metaphor, they can be interchanged there as well. So what makes one phonetic formation worse or more offensive than the other? What exactly is so offensive about “Doo-Doo”? (Wait… is that the one? Or is it Poo?)
Which leads me to the other hand… my “Fan of Lenny Bruce” hand. He used a lot of naughty words in his stand-up act… because he felt they were only words. If certain words were offensive or had any kind of “power” to them, it was because we gave it to them. As Saint Lenny himself said:
“It's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness.”
So… to battle this idea… he used them. A lot! He was actually thrown in jail numerous times for violations of “indecency laws”. Later on, his entire act would be just reading the transcripts of his Indecency Trials… trying to point out how hilarious the whole situation is… because they’re only words.
One of the first bits of his that I ever read about involved using pretty much every racial slur imaginable inside of 45 seconds. He would go on to say:
"Now why have I done this? Is it only for shock value? Well, if all the niggers started calling each other nigger, not only among themselves, which they do anyway, but among others. If President Kennedy got on television and said: 'I'm considering appointing two or three of the top niggers in the country to my cabinet' -- if it was nothing but nigger, nigger, nigger -- in six months nigger wouldn't mean any more than good night, god bless you... -- when that beautiful day comes, you'll never see another nigger kid come home from school crying because some motherfucker called him a nigger."
Holy crap… shock comedy with an actual POINT! I think that *would* be a beautiful day… but we’re not there yet… and he was talking about this in the early 60s. (It’s probably worth noting that I’m *only* comfortable writing or saying the N-word when I’m quoting Lenny Bruce.)
It’s there… they’re just words, and we have “Freedom of Speech” in this country… so go nuts. What’s the big deal?
That’s when I think that personal tastes come into it… because I actually try to watch my OWN language, (even as a Lenny Bruce fan). I wholeheartedly agree that a lot of words need to be stripped of their power… but to let a *few* of them retain some power and strength to them… isn’t entirely a bad thing.
Take “Fuck” for instance.
There was a guy in High School… looked like he was straight out the 70’s. He had a poofy kind of mullet, always wore jeans, a heavy-metal t-shirt, a brown leather jacket… I think he fancied himself some kind of “rebel without a care”. And he used the F-bomb, literally, as every other word in a sentence.
“What the fuck is this fuckin shit? I fuckin, don’t fuckin care about the fuckin homework. Fuckin, why the fuck do I fuckin gotta do this fuckin stupid fuckin thing?”
It literally took him twice the time to say anything, because he was adding so many “fucks”. Wow… I’ve never heard a swear word mean LESS coming from anyone else. Now, I highly doubt he had the wherewithal to be pulling a “Lenny Bruce” here… no, he didn’t have a social message he was trying to impart… he just thought he was “playing by his own rules”. (I think he actually sounded more like an idiot.)
I’m sure we’ve all seen the chain e-mails and gags that illustrate the variety of uses for that word… it can be a noun, adjective, a title, a qualifier… pretty much anything you need it for. Because it CAN be used in so many ways… it’s important that you’re careful not to overuse it. Think of “Fuck” like Spider-Man… “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
So I say be careful where you use it… because it’s such a great word.
Especially when an attractive member of your preferred sex is using it as a verb, in a request involving you and saying it with a particular look in their eye. But I digress…
I remember when I was a Senior in High School… walking down the hall with a few acquaintances of mine. And in our conversation, I swore. I don’t remember if I was angry about something (I don’t think so) or what… or even what I said, but I used a swear word. One of the ones I was walking with was a young lady and was suddenly a bit shocked, saying, “I don’t think I ever heard you swear before!”
Well… I *had* sworn before… but I think I realized that I didn’t really do it that often (at least in public). Hence the shock when I did.
A few years later, I went through a period when I swore a lot more often… don’t know why, I just did. After one particular instance of interspersing several curse words, a friend of mine actually paused and studied me for a second… then saying, “Nah, swearing doesn’t work for you.”
I think it doesn’t necessarily “work” for me… because I’ve always looked younger than I was. It was like hearing a young kid, or a toddler, say “Motherfucker”. Shocking yes… but also freaking funny as hell, so you can’t take it seriously. So, me looking more “innocent” and young… the extreme swearing just didn’t “feel” right when hearing it from me. Nowadays, even if I look younger than I am… that younger-looking age is old enough that hearing swears and cusses from me sounds a little more normal.
Still… I do like to be careful of my language. Being a writer, I like to consider myself as having a decent-sized vocabulary… (and find it a point of pride that I’ve been able to use the word “Machiavellian” in a normal conversation) and I think its more interesting to not have to rely on the same old words time after time. Which makes it give the words a little more punch when a well-placed “bitch” or “fuck” is thrown in.
Course, there are some swears that don’t have a lot of meaning to me, so they’ll be thrown in willy-nilly to a conversation, and it just feels like saying a preposition or any other word. Like “hell”, “ass”, “damn”… whatever. Those are no big deal.
Now “Jesus”… is a special case. You may notice in this blog, that I don’t use it. Rather, I use “Jeebus”. Now, I don’t consider it “taking the Lord’s name in vain”… because I don’t think I’m using it in vanity, nor am I even a religious person. So… it honestly doesn’t really mean anything to me… not in a positive or negative way. I don’t use it that way… NOT because I’m afraid of offending people… but rather, I say “Jeebus” (of which that pronunciation comes from The Simpsons) solely because I find it funny. That’s it.
There ARE some words that I don’t use at all. The aforementioned “N-word”… because it is still MAJORLY taboo. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if that word simply went away… and NOONE used it at all. (It’s hypocritical to say that one group can use it, and another can’t. Even if that one group is using it to “take away its power”… the fact that you won’t let other groups use it is only FEEDING it that power.) The word is associated with so much hate… that it would be better to just erase it from everyone’s brain. And in 100 years, if the word is rediscovered, the context will be completely lost to history and won’t make any sense to those finding it. They’ll say, “Who cares?”… and then it will truly be finished.
I also don’t use the “C-word”… and I’m not sure why I think it’s on that level of “that bad”. Maybe it’s the hard consonant sounds at the beginning and end of the word… makes it sound harsh and uber-insulting. But it’s a female body part… that’s it. We have no problem using the synonyms… especially in the heat of the moment when that type of language is appropriate, and even encouraged from your loved one. Even amongst many people that advocate swearing and freedom of speech… the C-Word is still seen as ultra-taboo and very few seem to want to even touch it.
But the first time I ever saw The Vagina Monologues… a friend of mine was performing the piece entitled, “Reclaiming C*nt”. And… Holy Crap… she made that word sound SOOOO freaking Sexy. Wow! And the point of the piece was really to take away that negative power to it… and in the context of that monologue, it totally works. (Not to mention that my friend totally nailed it... it was awesome!) Unfortunately, outside of that… it’s still a harsh, unforgiving word. That is one I’d like to see have its power taken away. Not so that *I* can say it… I have no desire for that… but rather because no part of the human body (especially a woman’s) should be presented as a negative.
Which reminds me of another Lenny Bruce quote:
“If something about the human body disgusts you, the fault lies with the manufacturer.”
Yeah, it really does all come back to Saint Lenny. (His autobiography How to Talk Dirty and Influence People is great… one of the extremely few biographies I ever had an interest in reading.)
I’m actually going to make a recommendation here… if you’re interested in learning more about cussing and some different viewpoints on the social implications… the show Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!... has an episode all about the subject of profanity. Very much worth watching… entertaining and even a bit educational.
There. Don’t ever say I don’t promote education.
I’ll end off with another quote… this time from the late, great George Carlin. A very poignant moment from one of his most famous routines: