Roland’s Aphorism and the Right Word

Recently, Roland said, “You know, it’s always the right fucking thing to do the right fucking thing.”

And then the other night Jon Stewart, mad as hell, ranted about a guest on Glenn Beck’s program who said right out that it would be a good thing if Osama Bin Laden set off a WMD in America because it would make national security a priority again. In his rant, Stewart used the word “fuck” several times and it was bleeped each time. Then Stewart said something like “Those of you at home just heard several bleeps when I used the word, ‘[bleep]’ because the government wants to protect you from a word that crudely describes the sex act while they allow some stupid son of a bitch advocate the mass murder of Americans as a means to rearrange priorities to fit his agenda.”

I’m being too lazy to go back and get the exact quote, but you get the idea. The thing is, as Lenny Bruce pointed out long ago, some words carry a perjorative power that there is no other adequate word to replace them. “Gosh darnit” just doesn’t have the same connotative, expressive power that “shit” does.

When we write commercially, we don’t need these words (though they have an edge, and if your target needs a little edge to move them, it may be… Michael is teaching me not to be so absolute). However, what about all the other forms of writing?

When we write love notes, it’s one on one and “fuck” has a visceral touch that “have sweet sex” does not. When we write politically, there’s often occasion to express one’s anger, and you know, nothing quite says anger like taking the Lord’s name and calling to the Skies above and the Fire below for divine condemnation (see how many words it takes to say, “God Damn It?”). And while Roland’s aphorism could be said, “It’s always the right thing to do the right thing,” does it really mean the same thing as “It’s always the right fucking thing to do the right fucking thing?” I don’t think so.

Now, I’m not sure what WordPress’s rules are about profanities. I may have written 350+ words that won’t get to the screen. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’ve said what I mean to say.

One response to “Roland’s Aphorism and the Right Word

  1. While I commend Stewart’s argument (both style and point), the problem with both Stewart’s argument and the fellow on Glen Beck’s program is the problem with the world–people act and speak on emotion. Such is the case when profanity is used in speech to emphasize a point. It’s being used to carry the speaker’s emotion in his/her message. The problem with that is, when one person feels that they have a right to speak based on emotion, they are no longer using reason, thus giving the receiver an equal right to speak based on emotion. I run into this problem often:
    “Are you mad at me?” and in my thoughts, I am mad, but if I say yes and lay out why I feel the way I do, it just makes the other person feel sad, or want to lash out. The person was already acting on emotion when they asked me the question–they were looking to justify their feelings of embarassment, shame, anger, etc. If I think about it, though, and figure out the reasons behind my anger, then I can tackle the problem head on. “No.” and then later, when the person is thinking rationally and not emotionally. “I think we should do X, instead of Y. [Rational argument follows].”
    Furthermore, when we use cursing in our dialogue, we rob ourselves and our audience of the wonderful variety of words in the English language–ones far more descriptive than the profanity itself.

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