Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Controversial Statement: Tom Doesn't Believe in Curse Words

So this week's post is a little late, Internet, and I am very sorry for that. Alas; it was out of my hands. My internet was extremely spotty last night, cutting in and out constantly, and making pretty much any internet-related activity nigh impossible. So I'm sorry, I didn't write anything last night. I'm writing this the day of, when there should already be a post and a new poll up but hey; it's here now. Everything's going to be okay. You can finally procrastinate in peace, your Wednesday now complete. 

All that aside, while last night wasn't the greatest for blog writing, it was pretty fantastic for dugeoneering.

See that wyrmling? His name is Geoff. See how everything's on fire and smashed up? Me and Geoff did that. We're badasses like that.
Speaking of games; I do have some news to share with you! Do you like games? Do you like relatively inexpensive games which come bundled five or so at a time and with soundtracks? Do you enjoy giving money to charities? Do you have anywhere between one and a zillion dollars burning a hole in your pocket? If any of those are the case, fine sir or madam, then let me direct you to the Humble Bundle. What is Humble Bundle? Essentially, Humble Bundle bundles (humbly, I would presume) five games; usually smaller indie faire; and some goodies like soundtracks and so on and then lets you, the consumer, choose any amount to pay for said bundle of goodies between one and infinity dollars. what's MORE, you can choose how much of your money goes to the developers, the charities, and the Humble Bundle itself (for upkeep and so on) This round is the Humble Bundle V and All the games are, at the very least, worth checking out, especially the fantastic Bastion and Psychonauts, which I am surprised to see, though also very happy. Here's their promo video, just because.

That narrator, by the way? He narrates Bastion. All of Bastion. Do you need a better reason?

ALSO! Do any of you remember Ivy? That crazy lady who wrote a post for me while I was literally sweating final exams? Did you know she makes stuff? She does! Specifically, right now, she makes made-to-order scarves! Right now, she's working on an avengers set to sell at cons as well as a Dungeons of Dredmor one for me and they look like this:

Her scarves are double-knitted in yarns of variable (read negotiable) types and qualities, so if you've always wanted a scarf, yet never been satisfied with the amount of awesome in it or that it doesn't reflect the inner you or some crap like that, then you can email Ivy at to talk about pricing and designs and such. Incidentally, she also runs a costuming and cosplay blog here which she updates infrequently, but with relatively cool things and I am all about cool things.

Okay, that's a lot of news; more than I'm used to doing, so let's go straight to the actual post part of the post.

Controversial Statement: Tom Doesn't Believe in Curse Words

Before we begin; I wholly realize that there are some certain folks out there who can't work out in advance of the fact that a post about curse words is going to contain a lot of curse words, so let me go ahead and give a disclaimer, just because I'd rather not deal with it later; 

WARNING! This post will contain COPIOUS AMOUNTS of SALTY SAILOR LANGUAGE! All of your favorite curse words and many variations therin will be used excessively, willy-nilly, and in complete disregard of all common moral sensibilities. You have been warned.

Normally, I don't like phrases which begin in "I don't believe in" because it is equal parts haughty and misleading. Misleading because it implies that you don't actually believe such a thing could exist and haughty because it implies that, by your disbelief, such a thing does not exist. When someone says "I don't believe in Red Pandas, no matter how cute they are" it isn't because they don't actually believe in Red Pandas, it's because they don't support them, either practically or as an idea, God only knows why not.

How could you not give this thing your immediate support in whatever it was doing? Red Panda 2012? I think so.
Yet, I find myself using that phrase, in spite of my feelings on it. Why? Because I actually do not believe in the modern day curse word. Before we continue, I should qualify; there are curse words and there are dirty words. I think our cultural distaste for dirty words is silly as well and we'll actually be mostly talking about them because if you do a count, you'll find that we have a lot more dirty words than curse words. First though, let's get the curse business out of the way.

So the fuck is a curse? There's actually a few answers to that, but the easiest one is to just look at the word; "Curse." Although it's not a direct relation per se, cursing came from...curses. Funnily enough, both our concepts of curses and cursing come from the Christian church; once upon a time, wishing doom or misfortune upon a person wasn't so different from using profanity; both could be seen as being 'against God' With a word which belittled God being interpret-able as a wish against your fellow man and a wish against your fellow man being interpret-able as belittling god. The now hilariously outdated, Shakespearean "Zounds" for instance was somehow an abbreviation for "God's wounds" and was used at someone who you were angry with. Also, someone made it into a youth rock ministry for some reason. I have no idea why, but they're making it really hard to make a point.

Christianity; Taking things out of context since before cable news made it cool.
And we don't really have that today. Curses. Not Rock Ministry. Clearly, we still have that, whether we want it or not. We still have the words and several of them (Specifically damn, Christ, bloody [if you're English], and Shor's bones [if you're a Nord]) are even still in common use today, but they're not the same anymore. Rather, they are the same, but they all carry different connotations. The most obvious one, damn, historically carries the connotation of "I wish you an eternity in Hell" and that's some pretty serious shit right there. Last time I checked, an eternity was until at least December of this year and Hell is not a great place to be for seven months. Think about it though; how many times have you said that today? This week? This year? For most of you, It's probably higher than you'd like to admit and certainly at more things and people than you'd actually like to see in hell. It just doesn't carry the connotation anymore like it used to. It literally means almost nothing to us now; just a sound we make when we're angry or feel like augmenting the rhythm of our sentences.

It's not a thing we tend to consider, especially because most people are wholly unfamiliar with curses from back when curses were a big deal and the ones that are probably got it from Shakespeare and he dropped the Z-bomb like it was going out of style. Shakespeare is still pretty racey stuff today, but back then he was kind of the cutting edge of controversy. Curses were a big deal back then, tantamount to blasphemy, and so it wasn't unusual to see his work get less of the "National Treasure" treatment and more of the "Heresy and Witchcraft" type thing. These days, partly by his work, curses are diminished in impact almost to being unnoticeable and so are hardly what we claim them to be.

Now that being said; I do still think you can levy a righteous curse on someone and have it sting just as much as zounds did in 1400, but I also think we get too hung up on the word rather than the intent. I believe in curses, but not curse words. When I drop something expensive and say "Goddamnit all!" I clearly don't mean it; I'm just pissed because now I have to pay for something I didn't want. When I tearfully look into Fox's eyes and say "I hope you burn in hell for cancelling my favorite shows" Clearly, I do mean it; there's directed intent there and I am really really angry at Fox and I will never forgive them because Firefly was a great show, damnit.

I should warn anyone who hasn't seen it though; totally some errant gypsy midriffs hanging about in that show.
We come from, are, and always have been, a very superficial society, however, and so we get hung up on the words because those are easier to remember than all of that other nonsense. I can't really blame us for that either; brain space is valuable and why bother trying to store all of that information about "Context" and so on when you could be watching 16 and Pregnant? It does come with a nasty side-effect though. It gives those words more power. Probably more power than they actually warrant. Because we decided to focus on and taboo the words that were said rather than their meanings, we inflated the inherent power of the word to the point of silliness and, what's worse, without any sort of mediating quality. So when I go into one of my Dungeons of Dredmor post-permadeath curseathons, I'm using the whole words, at full strength for a thing that should really be maybe half-strength at best. To an extent, everyone knows I don't mean it, but because we don't allow our perception of the words to account for context, we cheapen it.

This weird "Empowering/Cheapening" dichotomy is even worse with those "Dirty words" I mentioned before. Dirty here referring to anything that has to do with body parts or bodily functions; Shit, Fuck, Cunt, Cock, Ass, Motherfucker, Crap, Tits [Arguably], and Taint [Also Arguably]. To a greater extent, the unacceptability of these words baffles me. Clearly, it's not about the topic matter; we talk about the things regularly, sometimes on a daily basis, in a neutered fashion. But why do we need to neuter them in the first place? Why do we teach our children to call it a peepee, our students to call it a penis, and leave cock out in the rain as an unacceptable moniker? In truth, I can see it as an evolution. Take cock for instance; obviously the word began as "Male Bird." Over time, it migrated to mean "one who struts like a cock" or a guy in prime sexing years. Then, finally, it just meant penis and I'm sure that for a while, it was the standard word for penis which was, just, as a rule, just not something you talk about a whole lot. So what did we do? We made up euphemisms because we avoid social awkwardness like it was death itself. These euphemisms became such a good way to talk about a thing that was commonplace but not okay to talk about because Jesus that THEY became the standard word and now we're back at square one. Not only does that create a cycle of trying to stay on the cutting edge of appropriateness, it's stupidly arbitrary and based on shame about things we probably shouldn't be ashamed of.

It seems like the situation could very easily have been switched around. It's like saying "These are all monkies, and you can call them monkies and you can even call them primates, but I swear to God, the moment you call one of them hairy, I'm going to punch you in the dick." It may not be our favorite aspect about the monkey (though featuring well ahead of "Surprisingly Murderous") but that doesn't make the monkey any less hairy. We're not going to go around shaving all the chimps just because we don't like how much hair they have. 

And truth be told, I find them a little more unsettling without hair. The rape face doesn't help much, either.
It gets even more mind-boggling when you introduce the idea of "Near-swearing" Like saying fudge instead of fuck or darn instead of damn. If we don't like the word, how is a word that sounds just like it somehow okay? You're clearly referencing the word, it immediately brings the word to mind, what part of that doesn't seem like the verbal equivalent to "Anal doesn't count"? I realize how it started; someone somewhere started a sentence one way, saw a kid and decided they want to say something else, but how did anyone decide "That's just what I'm going to say from now on, all the time so I don't ever have to feel bad about it" All this really does is make the words they taboo look even more arbitrary and continue on with the whole stupid cycle and I am not okay with that. Fuck is a lot of fun to say. It's a satisfying sound with good potential for buildup (Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuu...) and a great, percussive ending. When used responsibly, it's a great way to let people know I'm either not crazy or very crazy about something and have fun doing it. Why do you think kids pick up curses so quickly? Because they're more fun versions of the words we're stupidly embarrassed to use otherwise.

But when it comes right down to it, it always comes back to how much power a word has. In a sense, these words become self-fulfilling prophecies. They're offensive, so when we use them, we're offended, so they're obviously offensive. By making the word taboo, we give it more power than it had, which in turn makes it more taboo until suddenly it's got -bomb after it and the FCC won't let you say it on television. 

A fact which some people struggled with.
One thing I haven't brought up yet is slurs. They haven't and won't really feature because I do believe in them. I actually should talk about that; slurs are a form of inappropriate language I do totally understand as being inappropriate. Being someone who makes his home on the Internet, I see them on a near-daily basis and unlike modern cursing, all of the intent is still there. I actually kind of consider slurs our modern-day equivalent of curses; all of the horrible hatred is there, we're just calling the value of the individual (and social groups they belong to) into question rather than wishing them direct harm. Inappropriate or not, I do still think they have a place in our language; it's just a really angry, mean, hateful place that we shouldn't become too comfortable in, is all.

One final note before we wrap things up; just because I don't understand the relative weight we put on words we seemingly chose offhand doesn't mean I support the idea of slipping curses, swears, and dirty words into everything. Inappropriate or not, I recognize that these words have connotations and, like any other word, fucking overusing the damn shit out of them and without any motherfucking consider-fuck-your-face-ation for their fucking context comes off as goddamn trying too hard to look like a goddamn grownup. As much as I'm for free use of language, I'm also for responsible use of it. My general rule is "If you feel like you need to say some things people might find objectionable, have the courtesy to at least do it well" 

And that's all I have to say about that. Go do something fucking productive. 

Thank you, Goodnight.


  1. I believe that curse words are overused, so I try to use them only when I REALLY fucking mean it.

  2. Remember the friend I mentioned before? His little group of morons is attempting to "remove" words from their vocabularies. Any word that other people might find offensive...including lame, retarded, gay, etc. Do they understand the idea behind intent? Not by a long shot. But don't try to tell them that. Then you are a hateful, bigoted person. (Who hates alternative lifestyle people...while being bisexual)