Nothing Profound About Profanity

Nothing Profound About Profanity

Jonathon Chatham, Staff Writer

Profanity is a very touchy subject for some people. On this campus, some teachers are highly opposed to it, while others use it themselves. One tends to have to ride a fine line when using profanities because for some, it is a degrading use for language, and for others, it is a completely normal part of it.

I do my best to shy away from profanity, but at the same time, I don’t find it repulsive. I don’t see it being useful in a highly academic setting, yet I don’t think that curse words should never be used. Sometimes, some words and emotions are nearly impossible to get across without using profanity. In addition, I find the idea of words being profane somewhat odd at times, especially those that are used in a mundane way. 

Many of our profanities today come from what are, or once were, insults towards a certain race, gender, sexuality, or lifestyle. Others come from terms that weren’t derogatory or meant to be offensive at all, and just came to get their new meaning. These other words typically relate to something gross or seen as bad. A light example of the latter would be ‘hell,’ commonly thought of the destination for sinners in Christianity.

But increasingly, and definitely on this campus, words seem to have almost lost their meaning. Pretty much anywhere around campus, especially in the boy’s locker room, slurs against African-Americans, the LGTBQ+ community, people with disabilities, and more are thrown around like they’re nothing, because they are nothing to those who are saying it.

While it may not be regarded well to call someone a derogatory term, in modern society, especially among teenagers, it has become normal, and the words have lost all their meaning. I hear girls walking up to each other and calling each other a “b*tch” because that word has lost its meaning to them.

The core of this issue is the words losing their meaning. There are arguments that even the worst of profanities, that are seen as so horrible that they should never be uttered, should just be said, normalized, and stripped of their negative connotation. Because what has begun to make some of these terms lose their meanings in modern society is just that: the normalization of the term and stripping the term of its meaning.

Unfortunately that only works for derogatory slang words. For other words, taking away the connotations of those words has become incredibly difficult. Some of these words indicate specific acts or body parts will have a hard time losing their negative connotation because they indicate something that is already negative. Rather, it would require a social change around the certain topics that these words are about, rather than just a change of the connotation and not the meaning of the word.

There is definitely a place for swearing in society, but when it is near-constant, especially in our own school, it is noticeable that these words almost lose their meaning. When some people swear, you can tell it means something to them because they often do their best not to. Yet, it has become such a normalized part of society that certain words have lost their negative connotation entirely and have come to have different, more mundane meanings, rather than a word with centuries of history of being derogatory.

In fairness, there is a solid argument to allow certain words to lose their historical meaning and purpose, because it disempowers those who would use the word. According to Benjamin K. Bergen, author of “What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains and Ourselves,” swearing is passed down from generation to generation because of the habit to refrain from swearing in front of children.

 Increasingly, that is changing. With the advent of the internet and video streaming sites, such as YouTube, people who swear freely to an audience of unknown age has drastically increased. While television and radio have the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the amount of vulgarity in a show, those same protections aren’t offered through sites such as YouTube.

Anyone can access YouTube for free and find any number of creators who swear and curse constantly in their videos. While these people aren’t typically targeting a younger demographic, it doesn’t mean younger children aren’t watching these creators, such as Jacksepticeye, Shane Dawson, and Pewdiepie, who still feature plenty of swearing on their channels. This suggests that kids are being more open to swearing at younger ages. Additionally, Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, suggests that the rise in the swearing adults has caused some of elevation in swearing among children as well. 

Does all of this suggest that swear words are losing their meanings entirely? No, not even a bit. While some words may be around friends in a more casual environment, many still believe that these profanities shouldn’t be uttered, that they should be kept in the private life of people, which means that realistically these words won’t lose their meanings.

There is plenty to suggest many of the more derogatory curse words may take decades, if not centuries, more to lose their rude meanings that many find a problem with. But with the growing introduction of curse words to younger people, these words will be increasingly legitimized in casual settings, even if still wholly unacceptable for others.