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> Swearing, It's not big, and it's not clever. Maybe.
Hobbes
post Mar 24 2011, 05:23 PM
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F*** you!

Whilst ensuring you do not break forum rules (i.e. probably best not to list your favourite obscenities), I would be interested to hear your opinions on swearing/cussing/cursing.

I wouldn't say that I swear a lot. I'm not the kind of person to stick the f-word several times into one sentence, but I'd happily admit to swearing. I am always careful not to do so in front of people that do not like it, and I always ensure that there's nobody in ear-shot that would also be unhappy about it. I'm not out to cause offence...

But that's where my query really lies. Can a single word actually BE offensive? My opinion is that people can be offended by a word, but it isn't the fault of the word itself. The person has chosen (or been conditioned) to be offended. Randomly generate four letters and, eventually, you might get the F-word. What suddenly makes this combination of letters offensive? It is just a word.

Personally, if I try to remember moments when I have been offended by what a person has said to me, it never has anything to do with them 'effing and blinding'. Call me arrogant, or obnoxious, or ignorant, etc. and I am likely to feel the negative effects. But telling me to f*** off doesn't, for me, cause any more offence than telling me to get lost.

A few friends of mine will happily use any profanity they can think of... except the c-word. And, indeed, one in particular hates the word, and is extremely unhappy to hear it in any situation. I find this interesting: every single word is fine, every combination of letters is fine, except one. Gather up four innocent letters in a particular way and suddenly they become "harmful".

Should people be offended by language? Is it right to be? Is it petty, or archaic?

The rules of this forum promote correct use of the English language, and I whole-heartedly support that (I am not disputing the rules here, I am just using them as a point of reference). We are encouraged to write proper sentences to the best of our abilities - I think this is marvellous - and we are encouraged to avoid using "offensive" language because of the varying visitors to the site. A fair load of profanities have been censored in the past, and a handful have been allowed due to the situation/circumstances of the post. It all makes sense. But I do find the concept of 'bad language' (beyond the confines of this forum) to be interesting.

Here's another point...

As Mata writes in the forum rules: "Anyway, it's far more fun to be creative with your swearing, 'arsebuckets' is a favorite of mine". The word 'arse'/'ass' has joined the likes of 'damn', 'crap', 'bloody' and 'shag' (and, to a slightly lesser extent, 'bugger') as being pretty acceptable. Sure, they won't be found within children's television, but they all can be found in some pre-watershed programming (UK examples would be various soaps, some sit-coms, etc.). But twenty-years ago, this wasn't the case. The Harry Potter films - undeniably made to appeal to kids of many age groups - has 'bloody' and 'bugger' in them. So some swearing has become okay?

Except, obviously, the words themselves haven't evolved to become acceptable. Just social opinion of them. The "strongest" language (c-word, f-word) can be seen and heard fairly regularly in media now (the latter more than the former, admittedly), as long as there are sufficient warnings and ratings. But there was a time when neither would ever have been heard on television.

I have censored myself in this post when mentioning the words that are considered to be higher up the scale of profanity. And SOME of the media does the same. Interestingly, I read a comment from one broadcaster earlier today that mentioned cases where bleeping an obscenity had caused more complaints than they'd have predicted had they let it be heard. Everybody KNOWS what was said, covering up the word has never stopped an intelligent person from being entirely aware what it was originally, so why is that actually okay? Hearing it vs. knowing it? Hmm. But the point the broadcaster was making, was that the complaints were actually along the lines of: "Why are you treating us like fools? Don't pretend we are stupid by censoring this material. Don't assume what we will or won't find offensive."

QUOTE
In general, I think Radio 4 listeners have a high tolerance for swearing. We had 20 or so complaints in this case. But we attract just as many when we bleep or edit out swearing. Listeners argue we are insulting their intelligence and censoring when we do it. - Peter Rippon, BBC


Will there come a point when the REALLY BAD WORDS are no longer censored, but just provide us (as they already do) with a negative extreme in our language.? Will 'damn' edge its way into Peppa Pig and The Tellytubbies, and the f-word into Eastenders? Probably, to some extent at least. It is fair to say that each generation is more liberal with language use, so perhaps eventually there will be nobody left who finds the words offensive. And we don't really seem to have made any new swear words to take the place of those we don't care about anymore.

So... thoughts, please smile.gif

Some interesting reading (I guess all NSFW due to language; containing words that you MAY find 'offensive'):

BBC Editorial Guidelines - Language
The XXX Factor: An uncensored history of swearing on TV
BBC Blog: To swear or not to swear


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CrazyFooIAintGet...
post Mar 24 2011, 06:42 PM
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QUOTE
Personally, if I try to remember moments when I have been offended by what a person has said to me, it never has anything to do with them 'effing and blinding'. Call me arrogant, or obnoxious, or ignorant, etc. and I am likely to feel the negative effects. But telling me to f*** off doesn't, for me, cause any more offence than telling me to get lost.
Agreed. It is the underlying message and how it is said that causes offence, not the choice of words. Compare "f-off" vs "get lost" vs "I respectfully disagree and would like to end this discussion please".

I don't think I've ever met anyone who would be offended by the mere use of a swear word. But even if the words don't cause offense, it's just not the norm in certain situations so people are likely to look down on you if you do it. We don't like children learning swear words because they don't know when it is appropriate to use them, not because we think the words are bad.

Personally I find the forum's rules on swearing annoying as heck, as I'm not eloquent enough to express myself properly otherwise. Sometimes I just want to moan about stuff and using euphemisms or creative swearing ruins the tone of what I'm trying to say.


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Hobbes
post Mar 24 2011, 08:07 PM
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QUOTE (CrazyFooIAintGettinOnNoPlane @ Mar 24 2011, 06:42 PM) *
I don't think I've ever met anyone who would be offended by the mere use of a swear word


I know quite a few people that are offended by, for instance, the c-word... regardless of how/when it is used.

i.e. saying something like, "Historically, where does the word 'c***' come from?" would be a problem, even thought it might be considered a 'legitimate' excuse for using the word, and the sentence itself isn't really meant to be causing any offense. Just the fact the word is being said is enough for it to be offensive.


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CrazyFooIAintGet...
post Mar 24 2011, 08:26 PM
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Hmm, yeah, but I think it's more the misogynistic overtones with that one, which I consider different from the sweariness. Same for b****. Most other "strong language" is more neutral and the words themselves can mean anything really.


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Moosh
post Mar 24 2011, 08:35 PM
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I would agree that words themselves are not inherently offensive, it's the usage that matters. In that spirit, I shall not censor any word I use in this post, because the usage is in a discussion about swearing. They are not aimed at anyone or anything, and are therefore, in my view, not offensive. If the mods disagree with me on this, they are, of course, welcome to edit.

Now, I swear in general conversation, because I see no reason not to, and I like to use the full extent of my vocabulary. On the other hand, I wouldn't use swear words in, say a dissertation, or when talking to my grandmother, or rather if I did use swear words, it'd be in a different way. For example, I'd have no qualms about quoting a swear word in an academic context, or if I were, for some reason, to be writing an essay about swearing, it'd be silly to censor myself. Similarly, if I were relating an anecdote in which swearing occurs, I wouldn't change it to suit the audience. It's all a matter of context.

An interesting point is the "level" of a swearword. Why does lady part carry more expressive power than damn? Is it more offensive to be told to fuck off than bugger off? Surely the offence lies in the intent behind the statement, the idea that whoever it is doesn't want you to be there, and that matters to you in some way. The form of words that they use to express that idea should be irrelevant. Indeed the tone of voice, body language and the rest of it can make bugger off a lot more offensive than fuck off, in certain situations. lady part is an interesting case. Unlike most swearwords, and more in common with racial epithets, it's usage is tied up with the idea of prejudice and discrimination. So as a word, it has power because of the history attached to it. However, it only has that power if you give it to it. That is, using the word in a derogatory or aggressive manner gives it a power that using it in a casual way doesn't, to my mind it's only offensive in the former case.

Something that annoys me, currently manifested in the amazon box below where I'm typing this, is censorship of media titles. There's a book advertised below called "Watch Your F*cking Language" (sic). That's the kind of thing that makes me want to swear, if you're going to choose a title, for God's sake have the balls to write it properly. Similarly, when I'm watching tv, there are often announcements like "Up next, *bleep* My Dad Said". It's not called *bleep* My Dad Said, it's called Shit My Dad Said. If you're not grown up enough to say the word shit without being scared someone's going to tell your mummy then you shouldn't be working in television.

So yeah, offensive language is offensive because of the meaning behind it, not the words you use. Of course it's possible to be unintentionally offensive, I can't think of an example right now involving swearing, but there are many examples of, say, racism that are still offensive even if you weren't trying to be derogatory. But again that's about ignorance, prejudice and so on, not about the words that you use. It's not racist because you said nigger, it's racist because you said it with the context of the history of that word and what it represents. The word isn't racist in and of itself, but it's use is s huge indicator of racism in the meaning behind it. Not always a correct indicator of course, since I've said nigger twice in this paragraph and I'll happily defend their use as non-racist if anyone thinks it is.

I'm not sure whether any of this is making any kind of sense, I'm tired, I have work to do and I don't have time to go polish this up. So I'll sum up by saying that if you want to be offensive, you can do so with or without swearwords, if you want to be inoffensive, ditto. If people cared more about what people meant than the words that they used, we could all get along better.


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MrNice
post Mar 24 2011, 10:57 PM
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I don't have any direct issues with mild swearing myself, however some phrases of horrible sexual nature I find completely unaccepable and unnecessary. Phrases I never want to tolerate hearing or us letting it slide because it is becoming common usage. Well, I don't want it to be common usage, ever, and I will voice that direct always. Truth be known, IRL when in company of certain companions, my language may shock some of you, but I did say "company of certain companions" I rarely swear when in company of ladies and try my utmost when conversing online, not knowing everyones age/gender. Believe me when I say, I can talk like a thug very very well, and will when I feel I need to, putting the likes of Pacino and lock stock to witty shame. But, mostly, I choose to be a gentleman.

For me its a matter of respect of those around you, I too am not a fan of the C word and seldom use it unless I absolute mean it and would never use untoward friends and acquaintances, even in a joking fashion. Do I find it offensive and disrepectful if someone said it to me, even in a jest?? yes I do. Trouble is, certain words, as history shows us, become acceptable and tolerated and I really don't look forward to hearing the C word commonly spoken like we use the F word tongue.gif

A good measure might be to think about what your peers might find acceptable, I am by no means encouraging swearing here if you can so openly curse in front of say, your BF's parents, friends children, YOUR children maybe, your boss' or the young lady/man you're trying to impress. I guess what I saying is that if you think what you might say would be frowned upon by the recently mentioned, i suggest you don't say it.. often or when unnecessary.

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Pikasyuu
post Mar 26 2011, 05:32 PM
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i treat swearing the same way i do smoking - limit it around kids and anyone else who doesn't want to be impacted, use it as salt and pepper for my daily vocabulary otherwise. i was strongly encouraged never to swear as a child, and these days, in casual conversation, i tend to swear a lot. like everything else, swear words have context. i never understood the problem with the c-word until i noticed that some women have a violent reaction to it. that was strange to me and not a little amusing, so it's always there to be used on anyone who wishes to take it that seriously. in my environment, it's just the same as the f-word and i'm not sure why people choose to give it so much power - especially when there are other four letter words that mean exactly the same thing and never get such a reaction. the two are no different, yet one gets people foaming at the mouth.


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Hobbes
post Mar 27 2011, 12:21 AM
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QUOTE (CheeseMoose @ Mar 24 2011, 08:35 PM) *
[The C-word] is an interesting case. Unlike most swearwords, and more in common with racial epithets, it's usage is tied up with the idea of prejudice and discrimination. So as a word, it has power because of the history attached to it. However, it only has that power if you give it to it. That is, using the word in a derogatory or aggressive manner gives it a power that using it in a casual way doesn't, to my mind it's only offensive in the former case.


QUOTE (CrazyFooIAintGettinOnNoPlane @ Mar 24 2011, 08:26 PM)
Hmm, yeah, but I think it's more the misogynistic overtones with that one, which I consider different from the sweariness


To be entirely honest, I've been entirely ignorant of the possible misogynistic overtones of the C-word. Until you pointed it out, I had never even considered it - even though it is entirely obvious. I guess because whenever I might make of the word as an 'insult' or 'faux-insult', the literal meaning of it never even occurs to me. Chances are there was quite a long gap between me learning the word, and discovering what it actually referred to. I suppose, personally, I never consider that aspect of it when I use the C-word, and I do find it difficult to understand the fuss about it - in the same way that I have no issue with insults based on male genitals.

But then as an argument, "It's okay 'cause there's opposite swears that expresse misandry instead", is about as good as saying, "It's okay to use racist nicknames for [X] because they have ones for us too!".

Hmmm...

I don't have any problem with lingual evolution leading to certain words becoming more "acceptable". Yes it will take time for it to filter through the generations and become in standard use, but if that means a reduced amount of fuss about a few letters, then that's great. The F-word is said far more often (and without shock) by those younger than me, than I ever said at their age. And so, eventually, the taboo-factor will be worn away.

I tend to feel more "offended" by hearing the word 'like' used repeatedly in a single sentence, than hearing regular swearing.


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Tarantio
post Mar 27 2011, 02:41 AM
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on the subject of the "c" word, I was lucky enough to catch a performance of the Vagina Monologues one time, and was chatting to the well-educated woman who did the "reclaiming c***" section of the show afterwards. Her upper-class accent and posh name completely contrasted with the filth she was spouting on stage, yet the same contrast held me enraptured.

For those who haven't seen it, the section is a very empowering rant about ownership of the word, and certainly put myself in a different mind about both the C word and swearing in general; such things have power, and the thought of words having power is an old, old idea that makes vulgarities demand a little more respect than might be generally given them - if they are used properly, and for the right reasons.

Also, she told me her favourite swearing phrase was "Co**-juggling thunder-cu**" and I have the utmost respect for Ryan Reynolds fans biggrin.gif


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elphaba2
post Mar 27 2011, 08:41 PM
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I am OK with the c-word as long as it is preceded by thunder-. That makes it seem like superhero genitals! To save the day it's.........THUNDER lady part! Like a lady part of such awe-inspiring power that it causes incidences of severe weather. Otherwise? There are better words. I think it's worth the poetic loss to stop using words that devalue anyones genitals, male or female. So chances are I'll use a term like assbag, or douchehat, or shitbird, rather than cock, lady part, dick, etc. Plus those are more imaginative, and I think in the case of douchehat more withering. As in, dude, you are so terrible, you are the human equivalent of the experience of wearing a douchebag-hat.

(We're talking about swearing. Mods, is it OK that I'm using the actual cusses?)

That said, I cuss a lot. Often in inappropriate context. I get funny looks in conferences when I refer to historical events as "one dude getting up in the shit of another dude" even when that's the most accurate way to describe said historical event. I often say "fuck" in response to dropping a thing. Especially on my foot. Fuck. Ouch. Like that. And I can tell it weirds people out, but generally in a kind of endearing way. Probably because I'm a small lady who doesn't speak very loudly, there's some kind of weird residuo-Sarah Silverman thing happening where having a mouth like a sailor is cute. I don't know. But I appreciate the directness and attention-grabbing qualities of cusses, and I think people should use them out of a 'bump-into-your-friend-on-the-road-and-commiserate-yesterday's-final' context. Like business meetings. Wouldn't that be nice? Rather than 'blah blah quarterly spending is up blah blah' it would become 'kids, we got shitkicked by our overheads last month and we need to... something something business'. I don't know anything about business.

I'm definitely oversimplifying. But my base points: cusses are powerful and interesting words that are often used in a boring and hateful way.

edit: I can't use the word! I can't say thundercunt! Oh, my.


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Daria
post Mar 31 2011, 05:19 PM
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I have a mouth like a sailor (double entendre fully intended), I live in Scotland and I love the c-word. (I hate the term c-word only marginally less than I hate the replacement of "lady part")

QUOTE (Hobbits @ Mar 27 2011, 12:21 AM) *
QUOTE (CheeseMoose @ Mar 24 2011, 08:35 PM) *
[The C-word] is an interesting case. Unlike most swearwords, and more in common with racial epithets, it's usage is tied up with the idea of prejudice and discrimination. So as a word, it has power because of the history attached to it. However, it only has that power if you give it to it. That is, using the word in a derogatory or aggressive manner gives it a power that using it in a casual way doesn't, to my mind it's only offensive in the former case.


QUOTE (CrazyFooIAintGettinOnNoPlane @ Mar 24 2011, 08:26 PM)
Hmm, yeah, but I think it's more the misogynistic overtones with that one, which I consider different from the sweariness


To be entirely honest, I've been entirely ignorant of the possible misogynistic overtones of the C-word. Until you pointed it out, I had never even considered it - even though it is entirely obvious. I guess because whenever I might make of the word as an 'insult' or 'faux-insult', the literal meaning of it never even occurs to me. Chances are there was quite a long gap between me learning the word, and discovering what it actually referred to. I suppose, personally, I never consider that aspect of it when I use the C-word, and I do find it difficult to understand the fuss about it - in the same way that I have no issue with insults based on male genitals.

But then as an argument, "It's okay 'cause there's opposite swears that expresse misandry instead", is about as good as saying, "It's okay to use racist nicknames for [X] because they have ones for us too!".

Hmmm...

I don't have any problem with lingual evolution leading to certain words becoming more "acceptable". Yes it will take time for it to filter through the generations and become in standard use, but if that means a reduced amount of fuss about a few letters, then that's great. The F-word is said far more often (and without shock) by those younger than me, than I ever said at their age. And so, eventually, the taboo-factor will be worn away.

I tend to feel more "offended" by hearing the word 'like' used repeatedly in a single sentence, than hearing regular swearing.

Spoken language is real language- written language is just an approximation of that. Words can be spelt exactly the same but mean completely different things. You could call someone a c*** and it's offensive. You can call the thingy between a lady's legs a c*** and you're just calling it a synonymn of vagina. Consider the word "match": you have a football match, a matching pair, a match you light a fire with...
The fact that words change their meaning over time- be it something like "that's fine" changing from meaning "That'll do nicely" to coming across as a slightly disappointed affirmative, or swearwords becoming less strong in their impact- is, as Hobbes put, linguistic evolution and it really pisses me off when people attribute it to a sudden lack of societal morals.
Something else that pisses me off:


QUOTE (Tarantio @ Mar 27 2011, 02:41 AM) *
on the subject of the "c" word, I was lucky enough to catch a performance of the Vagina Monologues one time, and was chatting to the well-educated woman who did the "reclaiming c***" section of the show afterwards. Her upper-class accent and posh name completely contrasted with the filth she was spouting on stage, yet the same contrast held me enraptured.


In line with the subject of this thread, and using swearwords because they are short ways of expressing opinion and emotion: fuck. that. shit.

Hi, my name is Daria and I have to deal with this bullshit attitude every fucking day (no offence, Tara- it's just a trigger for RAAAAGE).
RP (received pronunciation) was once the standard accent taught through education (and elocution lessons). Back in the day, when education was a prestigious affair that cost a lot of money, having an RP accent denoted refinement and a level of power and wealth. Having a regional accent usually denoted a lower class- with the start of the middle class, English saw new and interesting pronunciations of words (hypercorrections) due to people wanting to sound more "refined". Often- in RP pronounced "offen"- became "often" (I started to use IPA to denote pronunciations but gave up) and all manner of silent Hs started to be pronounced.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and the idea of RP denoting some kind of social standing and poshness has stuck with us even though regional dialects are much more accepted (and encouraged by the BBC), and almost everyone from a certain generation onwards has at least 11 years of the education system under their belt.

Here, have a video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8toZFhH_C4A It's old RP (much more clipped and Rs are tapped- sounding slightly like Ls) and a bad immitation of a Suffolk accent- but you get the gist.

I have a modern RP accent with a North Suffolk dialect, being pedantic about it. State schooled, lower middle-class family, lived in a council house when we were evicted due to bancruptcy. At primary school I was taught to say "ah" instead of "are" for R when saying my ABC and at highschool it was uncommon for our teachers to have East Anglian accents so I ended up with modern RP. No silver spoon or airs of entitlement- and yet I am perceived to be posh because of my accent. It causes barriers to be built between you before they even know what you're like. Linguistic discrimination in all its forms can go suck a fuck.

So, after a huge detour (*cough*vent*cough*) we get back to my sailor-like mouth. I frequently swear. It's tempered around those I think would be genuinely offended by it (my granma) and children, and it still feels odd to swear infront of my mum. As with any idiolect, it changes depending on the situation and who you're speaking to- if I'm attempting to diffuse a situation between people, it's unlikely that I'll swear because it can be seen as a form of aggression and reacted to with a higher degree of aggression back.

As for c***? I like the way it sounds, and I like how it's not a diminutive for a female bodypart. Pussy? No thanks. Vagina? Oh so clinical. It's not a big bad word because it is a c then a u then an n then a t in a row, it's only down to perception. Free yourselves! Use language however the hell you want! You do anyway without thinking about it.
Personally I find whore much more offensive.


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Daria
post Mar 31 2011, 05:32 PM
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Oh, also on the topic of the c-word: it is the one of two insults I can think of that don't denote being inferior, weak, or subserviant that is also a word used in conjunction with women/ the female form. The second being bitch (aaaalthough bitch has been reclaimed the other way and is now used in ways much more belittling e.g. "you're her bitch")
Examples of those that do are things like pussy or twat. Words relating to the male form are also used as insults but are much less likely to mean that they are weak - dick, cock, etc.

Edit: I was re-reading back through the thread and noticed something I'd missed the first time round.

QUOTE
I rarely swear when in company of ladies.

MrNice, why?


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post Mar 31 2011, 07:47 PM
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the solution for the C-word

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/c_word


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MrNice
post Mar 31 2011, 08:56 PM
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Because I don't like to smile.gif don't get me wrong, the term ladies I was using there was for ladies in general and directed more so at ladies I don't know and ladies I would encounter in a supermarket or bank or something. If it was a friend, they would ofc hear me swear and quite a bit but I tend to tone it down publicly in general. It's not attractive and openly swearing does make a statement about yourself to people around you. I tend to let my tattoos and heavy silver jewelry do the work for my tough guy image biggrin.gif

Also as my name suggests it's nice not to swear when in company of ladies, whether they find it offensive or not its my personal decision not to until I feel comfortable to do so biggrin.gif for example if I was standing on a train platform and the lady I was standing next to was complaining about the late train avec swearing, I would most likely join in with the slagging fest avec swearing, but if she wasn't swearing then I would mind my language.

on a side note.. I love these Rolo dessert pots!! yum!
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Daria
post Mar 31 2011, 09:10 PM
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Lovely. But why ladies in particular? Are they so delicate that swearing would offend them oh so much more than men?


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MrNice
post Mar 31 2011, 10:53 PM
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QUOTE (Daria @ Mar 31 2011, 10:10 PM) *
Lovely. But why ladies in particular? Are they so delicate that swearing would offend them oh so much more than men?


In a sense yes, I wouldn't go as far as saying delicate though biggrin.gif I am more likely to swear in company of men but thats more of a stamp of marking terrority to show that I am one of the lads and one of the lads you don't mess with, seriously I don't see any other reason to swear other than to make a statement about what type of person you are, people being aware of that or subconsiously. I don't want to give that impression to ladies as for me its a matter of respect and manners really and it's considered bad manners to swear in front of any stranger. I would have the same approach to an elderly gentleman standing on the platform minding my language out of respect, yet if it was some street rat wannabe gangsta, I'm likely to mouth off a little to give them the "warning: don't take me for a mug" image biggrin.gif
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Hobbes
post Apr 1 2011, 12:06 PM
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QUOTE (Daria @ Mar 31 2011, 06:19 PM) *
(I hate the term c-word only marginally less than I hate the replacement of "lady part")


I think 'lady part' is a replacement done automatically by the forum software (or possibly by admins/mods), since it has turned up in a couple of posts where the author has stated they won't censor themselves. I personally have used the alternatives (e.g. c-word, or c***) in trying to abide my forum rules. In this context, perhaps it would be deemed appropriate usage, but I have chosen to err on the side of caution.

QUOTE (Daria @ Mar 31 2011, 06:19 PM) *
Spoken language is real language- written language is just an approximation of that. Words can be spelt exactly the same but mean completely different things. You could call someone a c*** and it's offensive. You can call the thingy between a lady's legs a c*** and you're just calling it a synonymn of vagina. Consider the word "match": you have a football match, a matching pair, a match you light a fire with...


I think that's true to an extent. But, in the case of the c-word, I think that for those who find it offensive, whether it is said or written makes little difference, even in terms of usage. It is a 'horror', whether visual or aural. It's similar for most 'taboo' words I think. Regardless of their origin, and whether the word is being used literally or not, there's a fairly equal level of shock from those people who dislike the words. Sure, perhaps this shouldn't be the case, and thus offense should only be taken when USED 'offensively'. The only example I can think of where this is how it works is "bitch" when applied to a female dog. It might get the odd snigger, but it's acceptable usage in all company.

QUOTE (Daria @ Mar 31 2011, 06:19 PM) *
The fact that words change their meaning over time- be it something like "that's fine" changing from meaning "That'll do nicely" to coming across as a slightly disappointed affirmative, or swearwords becoming less strong in their impact- is, as Hobbes put, linguistic evolution and it really pisses me off when people attribute it to a sudden lack of societal morals.


I've known quite a few "upper-class" individuals who swear with absolute freedom, without so much as a blink of an eye or a worry that it might be 'offensive'. Perhaps, though, it is safe to make some kind of assumptions about, say, a person's level of education (or, at least, in terms of English language knowledge) from the frequency of swearing. For instance, somebody choosing to use the f-word and its variants as some kind of all-rounder adjective/adverb/noun/verb would suggest to me that they struggle to find any alternative words.

The age-old criticism was (is), "People swear because they have a small vocabulary". I disagree in part, since the 'bad words' themselves already add a few words to your vocab smile.gif But, I'd agree with the statement if it was more along the lines of: "People swear repeatedly in a single sentence without hesitation, irony, or concern, because they have a small vocabulary."

QUOTE (Daria @ Mar 31 2011, 06:19 PM) *
if I'm attempting to diffuse a situation between people, it's unlikely that I'll swear because it can be seen as a form of aggression and reacted to with a higher degree of aggression back.


Ditto. I tend to become far more traditionally "well-spoken" when trying to settle things down because, as you say Daria, others can find it aggressive and things can escalate quicky.

QUOTE (MrNice @ Mar 31 2011, 11:53 PM) *
QUOTE (Daria @ Mar 31 2011, 10:10 PM) *
Lovely. But why ladies in particular? Are they so delicate that swearing would offend them oh so much more than men?


In a sense yes, I wouldn't go as far as saying delicate though biggrin.gif I am more likely to swear in company of men but thats more of a stamp of marking terrority to show that I am one of the lads and one of the lads you don't mess with, seriously I don't see any other reason to swear other than to make a statement about what type of person you are, people being aware of that or subconsiously. I don't want to give that impression to ladies as for me its a matter of respect and manners really and it's considered bad manners to swear in front of any stranger. I would have the same approach to an elderly gentleman standing on the platform minding my language out of respect, yet if it was some street rat wannabe gangsta, I'm likely to mouth off a little to give them the "warning: don't take me for a mug" image biggrin.gif


I think what Daria is asking, MrNice, is why you feel it necessary to differ your language when talking to - for instance - a 25-year old man, and a 25-year old woman? If we approach this from the position of sexual-equality, what makes you think that a woman would be more offended than a man? And why should she demand more respect than a man? The point being that nowadays, away from the 'traditional' and 'stereotypical' views of the genders that have existed, our language should not be adjusted for that reason. Sex does not define sensibilities.

Hoooooooowever... most of the swearing I hear away from the media (i.e. in "real life" conversations: whether I'm involved in them, or just overhear them) comes from men. No doubt this is because of a continuation of what has been considered gender-acceptable, but hearing men swear more often than women could instill the notion that one shouldn't swear in front of women.

My own decision whether to swear in front of anyone tends to be, "If they do it first, then I know they don't have a problem with it." Though, obviously, if this was everybody's technique, then NOBODY would swear smile.gif

...

Going back to whether a word is offensive due to its use, or its meaning, I have one example. My sister finds the c-word particularly offensive (although, rewind about 15 years, and you'd have caught her using it), and she's mentioned before the say-it-without-actually-saying-it approach: See You Next Tuesday. Because of the mixture of acronym and homophones (See = C, You = U, and then the initial letters for the next two words), I have joked before than it actually spells 'synt'. Occasionally, in jest, I have chosen to call her "a synt" and she has been as equally offended by that, than if I had just used to c-word. However, using similar-sounding words is often how people get around possibly offending people. i.e. fudging, feckin, frickin, shat, Wayne Kerr, ballcocks, etc. It is, I guess, the equivalent of going, "BEEEEEEEEP" over your own words, but insteading giving an approximation of what you actually want to say. This is often acceptable, although not in the case of my own synonym-usage with my sister it would seem.

...

Finally... perhaps it is necessary for a language to have words that are considered offensive. If there are no longer any possible "extremes", then maybe we will lose an element of your language that is required? How else can we offend the offendable? smile.gif Or, at least, how else can we say something in a more directly-contentious way, when the actual element of it might be considered relatively mild?

Maybe some of the tame words of today will become the extremes of tomorrow, since lingual evolution has been responsible for some of the swear words that exist today? Most of what is deemed to be swearing today comes from sexual or scatalogical words, and from a time when discussion of such matters would be considered offensive, even without the odd swear thrown in. Offensive words that feel "new" to me tend to be formed from racial/ethnic epithets (some of which have been appropriated by sub-groups of the race itself, in attempts to make the words more of a positive affirmation - though whether this works is debatable). Even "newer" words that are often used as insults, tend to be related to music or fashion tastes: e.g. 'greebo', 'emo', etc. They might have begun just as words to define-genre, but I've heard them used as an insult.

So maybe these will become more offensive? Or maybe there's another group of words that will become hugely offensive?


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gothictheysay
post Apr 2 2011, 04:07 AM
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There are two swear words that I find really offensive and do not use. I hesitate to use "fa***t" or "f*g" jokingly - I know it's shorthand for cigarette in the UK, so probably completely different there - but in terms of referring to gay people, it has a vicious history. When used non-jokingly, yeah, it bothers me enough that I don't feel like I can use it. But I think that might fall into more racist/sexist/gender-ist terms... The other one is the n-word. Nothing else really offends me enough to make me gasp unless it's racial and it has to be really sexist to be offensive to me. I'm having trouble thinking of one, but it needs express chauvinistic content. I don't think most swear words are complex enough to handle that. And racial ones do tend to really bother me, probably because of historical precedents.

I don't like to offend people by swearing, which is why I might hesitate to use the c-word. But I tend to not hang around people who are expressly uncomfortable with it. And yeah, I do find it very odd that the c-word is the magical worse-than-ever one. Interesting from a linguistic standpoint.

/disclaimer: post was written while drinking a guinness...


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Tarantio
post Apr 2 2011, 10:26 AM
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Daria, I totally get where you're coming from, but the reason I took her as an upper-class, well educated woman wasn't anything to do with her pronunciation; the production was being put on by St Andrews students, and she was one, and was from a *very* well off background. I say she was posh and well-educated because I knew those things to be true for a fact.

Being rather well spoken myself, especially for someone from the ned capital of Scotland, I know what it's like to be singled out for sounding different. Trust me when I say I was in no way doing the same thing to the marvellous lady in question.


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Mata
post Apr 5 2011, 12:15 PM
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[Note: yes, if you want to swear in the context of discussing swear words then that's fine by me. It's when they're thrown either with the intent of causing offence or casually with no regard to their appropriateness that I have issues with swearing.]


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