Some random late-night musings on profanity

When I was a kid, I had a little plaque with a poem on it hanging up on my bedroom wall. I have no idea who wrote the poem or where it came from, but it was there on my wall for so long I memorized it.

Never say die, say “damn!”
It isn’t poetic,
it may be profane,
but we mortals have need of it,
time and again.
And you’ll find you recover from Fate’s hardest slam,
if you never say die, say “damn!”

I love profanity. I’ll admit it. Supposedly “profane” language is language that communicates quickly and effectively, with lovely immediacy. It’s shunned because it’s particularly well-suited to conveying unruly emotions–messy, untidy emotions that some folks would like to pretend don’t exist.

But they do, and “vulgar” language is singularly eloquent in expressing them.

There is tremendous nuance in vulgarity. If I call someone a hopeless fuckmuppet, that conveys a different meaning than if I say they’re a hopeless fuckwit or a hopeless fuckhead. Each of these communicates disdain, to be sure, and in a far more visceral way than saying “I rather do believe that chap is quite distressingly incompetent at going about this business of life,” but those few syllables after the vulgarity carry a great deal of subtlety and differentiation.

People who fear vulgar language fear life, for it is a fact not easily overlooked that some parts of life are vulgar.

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