Once upon a time there was a word. A word so foul, so rancorous in
meaning, in usage, that until recently even dictionaries refused
it. This word was so explosive, so corrosive that merely using
it in a text would corrupt and contaminate paragraphs on either
side. This word was so dangerous, so hazardous that even when
someone did use it, others would go out of their way to hide
it from sensitive eyes: "It means `Read the Friendly
Yet this word did, in fact, have its uses.
There are times in life when events overwhelm us; Times when
despair overcomes us. Times when it seems as if God Himself has
climbed down from his throne to administer unto you a personalized,
monogrammed, butt-kicking. It used to be that when such things
happened, we had a tool to express our utter and complete abjection
- to verbally indicate that our souls felt as if we had just been
chewed up and spat out by the great hay baler of life. But this is
no longer true.
Recently, I participated in a discussion on what makes
American culture distinct. Leaving aside such bits as flame
wars over the precise frequency with which Americans say
"God Bless America" and even overlooking the question of "Can you
consider a group of people to be a distinct culture when they can't
even agree on what to call a carbonated beverage?", the point
was raised that, in places such as the UK, the word of legend had
lost its power and was, in fact, being bandied about like some mere
Later, it was alleged that among the young people today, even
children of good American stock are prone to try to color the air
blue at the drop of the hat.
And that's a shame - not because there's something intrinsically
wrong with cursing but because by taking a word that used to be
(un)sacred and making it everyday, we've robbed the word of the
very power that made it so useful in the first place.
Consider that back when polite people were apt to say things
like "Excuse me sir, but your vehicle has rolled over my foot", the
mere use of even a mild profanity was sufficient to stop all
conversation and focus attention on the speaker. More over, the
sheer range of profanity, from the most mild to the
never-uttered-in-mixed-company, made it possible to precisely
convey the exact level of irritation or anxiety with which the
speaker was filled.
But that sort of nuance is no longer possible today. Indeed, who
has not been at a loss to determine whether an internet poster was
expressing mild disinterest or had, in fact, just had his genitals
chewed off by a rabid badger? In truth, there are work-arounds to
this problem, such as using a creative combination of terms to
achieve the desired affect, but this is a partial solution at best.
After all, when you are in the middle of crashing your automobile
at a high rate of speed do you really have time to say "Well,
doesn't this just wax the sacred carrot of Hammurabi"?
Thus, in conclusion I would like to ask you, my good friends, to
reserve profanity for those occasions that really demand it.
Otherwise we'll all be saying thinks like "I haven't felt this
poorly since the Olsen twins became Carmelite nuns!"
And that would be a fucking shame.