The following content contains more profanity than the above comic strip. Reader discretion is advised.
It seems that with the times being what they are, people are gradually becoming more progressive and less entrenched in traditional values (which, for the most part, is a good thing). That being said, I believe that there are some that should remain in place, one of which is how we treat children, particularly when it comes to swearing.
Children are still seen by mostly everyone to be people that are innocent and unaware of the evils of the world. They shouldn’t be exposed to profanity and use it regularly as part of their development, whether it’s an attempt to look cool and “be an adult,” or the environment that they’ve grown up in. In most cases, they don’t even know what the words they’re spouting even mean.
The inspiration for this post was the FCKH8 Youtube channel with videos such as this. The message is something that I agree with (ending homophobia), but the execution? HOLY SHIT, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? IS THIS SUPPOSED TO PAINT A GOOD PICTURE FOR THE LGBT COMMUNITY?
On the other hand, what is defined as profanity is determined by the culture in which it takes place. Location plays a role in the severity of the terms. Take vulgar gestures for example: in Greece sticking up one’s middle finger is not as offensive as giving someone a moutza.
Semantic drift also occurs over time for many words, including profanity. The use of profanity has infiltrated into the everyday language of all creeds in North America (particularly the use of the term “shit” which has been substituted for “stuff”) and its impact as something shocking has diminished over the years. It’s become more acceptable in many casual situations, even though in more formal settings and around more traditionally-entrenched people its use is still frowned upon. Up until the late 30s , the word “damn” was censored and not allowed in literature or in films. Nowadays the word is thrown out willy-nilly in many primetime shows.
So should kids be allowed to swear if the only power that it has is determined by society? What are the positive effects of swearing?
Swearing is an efficient tool to express our heightened emotions by using vulgarities, as it causes us to respond viscerally (Example). A study conducted by Richard Stevens showed that swearing can reduce the sensation of pain (not primary literature), but cautions that the effect is inversely proportional to the frequency of swearing (a la desensitisation) and as such swearing should be used sparingly.
It can also be used as a tool for building solidarity within a group, as observed in a group of tradies in Australia, where vulgarity is not used in a derogatory or demeaning manner. This also links to the desensitisation of swearing and semantic drift.
My opinion? Try and discourage children from swearing, or this may be the result (Warning: rampant profane language):
Feel free to comment!