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I’ve been playing at writing a story, (novel? graphic novel? I dunno! Like I said, I’m just playing at this point.) and I’ve considered sharing bits of it with friends and relatives.
The story has a slightly dark bent to it, and involves murder, plots for revenge, and medical experimentation on humans. It also has a character that says “damn” on occasion.
Of all the things my story contains, it is the swearing that has given me the most reservations about sharing with others. I find it interesting that I can imagine my mother, for example, overlooking the murders and so on, but getting seriously hung up on, and concerned for my eternal soul because of the swears.
Something about that just seems backwards to me.


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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17 Responses

  1. I think its a cultural thing. From what I understand, people who have actually lived in war or been in violent situations have more aversion to depictions of it. For some of us, graphic sexuality can be a problem, because it is something we consider to be private. Seeing it makes us feel like we’re intruding on something we shouldn’t be seeing (which is a feeling we may or may not enjoy).
    Language is tricky. Even if we substitute another word, swearing is swearing. It has immediacy. To compare it with sex and violence, it’s like a flasher or beign stabbed in the back. No buildup, no arc, just a hit. That is why swearing from someone we already expect to swear doesn’t bother us as much; it gives us time to prepare.
    It’s a natural reaction to want to protect others from also experiencing that hit, but would the character you are creating be as true to you without the occasional damn? Is the problem not so much a character swearing, but you, as the author who controlls every aspect of your writing, being the one doing the swearing?

  2. Every time I write a blog post with swearing in it (and w’er not talking about serious swears, just the occasional dammit to hell for comedic effect), I cringe a little after I hit post. Sometimes I even include a “(SORRY MOM)” after the swear word. Because I’m twelve, apparently.

  3. How did swearing get elevated to the third greatest sin–right after denying the Holy Ghost and adultery?

  4. Diane says:

    People are “always” surprised when I let out a cuss word. And that’s generally because I really don’t make it a part of my everyday vernacular.

    I don’t understand people who refuse to listen to you when you plainly state that “XYZ” bothers me, and yet they continue to do”XYZ”. so how many times do people think they can say something and your not going to get upset by it. This is generally when I will say,”Shut the F876k up .” And its funny because then they always act like they didn’t know that what they were saying was bothering me. Its really odd. I mean I know I do have a slight speech impediment, but, when I clearly state not to say something, how do people really come back and say the same thing and claim not to know and then get “offended because I cuss their butts out.”

    Can someone please explain that to me.

  5. Annie B. says:

    That second to last sentence made me chuckle. I’ve totally wondered why that is. I think the level of offensiveness of swearing is very cultural. I grew up learning that swear words were extremely offensive. Now that I’m out in the world I barely notice when movies or books swear, even though I never swear myself or hear anyone in my household swearing. I find most of the time it’s used for emphasis, to illustrate a character’s “rough-around-the-edges” personality, or just another descriptive word. When swearing is used specifically to insult, it’s slightly more eyebrow raising for me, but not much more than when words like “stupid” or “poop-head” are used.

  6. EM says:

    I never ever swore until 3 major and horrible events occurred in my life, and then the expletives just rolled off my tongue. I was horrified, it was as if I couldn’t control what came out of my mouth. I told my therapist about it, and the explanation she gave me was that I had “lost” everything up to that point and couldn’t give a rat’s rump what people thought of me anymore. While I don’t like to hear or read the “F’ word; for the most part I couldn’t careless. Although the way some people say the “F” word is quite amusing to me. Someone once said to me that saying swears (would apply to writing them too I guess) doesn’t make you a bad person, just one that sometimes has a potty mouth and I’m okay with that. And having said all that, I can hear my father’s words in my head saying “You have a better command of the English language so why swear”. Sigh.

    • Amelia says:

      I hate that argument–that swearing is by definition indicative of low intelligence or imagination. Curse words are part of the language, too, and can be used to very good, and very intelligent or creative, effect. They’re just one more tool of communication.

  7. DefyGravity says:

    As a theatre person, I get really annoyed when people get so hung up on swearing they miss what a performance is trying to do. Instead of engaging with the material, they dismiss the whole thing because it swore. Never mind that it was thought-provoking, inspiring or powerful, it’s bad because someone swore. Is that really more important then the inspiring or profound nature of the whole? To some it is, but I don’t understand that mentality, and hate having my work or the work of others dismissed for something that seems so trivial.

    Granted, I also get annoyed at lazy writing that swears every other word because they don’t want to figure out a different way to express themselves. But I’ve only encountered a couple of plays where the swearing felt overkill and lazy to me. I’m just a snob. But it is interesting that swearing has risen to the level of inappriateness it has in some circles. Of all the things to object to in books, theatre, music, etc., why swearing? I wonder if it’s because it’s easy to define. You can count swear words, where other things might be harder to quantify. Just a thought.

  8. Diane says:

    So, I was walking my “Baby” this morning and I was thinking about this post. And since no one has brought this topic up(which I see as extension) I will. I guess that’s just part of my personality(insert tongue and check and eye roll here)

    Why do people get so hung up on cuss words on one hand, yet won’t bat the proverbial eye when someone says something totally rude and nasty. This is almost always done when the person uses just the right language too.

  9. Eric says:

    Here’s an interesting coincidence: A few minutes after reading this blog post, I ran across a movie review in Meridian, which normally refuses to review R-rated films. But they made an exception for For the Greater Glory, noting that it doesn’t have bad language or sex. The implication: Somehow it’s OK to see a film that realistically portrays lynchings but not OK to see a film that realistically portrays the way (unfortunately, I might add) people talk every day.

  10. EmilyCC says:

    I want to be one of the friends who gets to read it 🙂

  11. Libby says:

    Years ago, on the other side of the country, I lived in a stake where they organized a big cultural/artistic event of some sort (which I couldn’t attend), and even printed up a booklet of poetry and essays and stories submitted by the women in the stake. The stake RS president knew I was a creative writing major and kept asking me to submit something, so I gave her a copy of a story I’d written that year — completely forgetting that the word “damn” appears in, like, the second paragraph. I was totally embarrassed about it when the booklet came out, but no one else seemed to bat an eyelash. (Or they did, and just talked about me behind my back?)

  12. jks says:

    The violence is always fake in a movie. The blood is fake.
    The nudity and sexual is pretty close to real.
    Obviously, the swearing is real.
    There is a difference between violence that has a moral to it (good vs. evil). I don’t think Star Wars violence is bad. Pulp Fiction amoral violence is more harmful where the main “heros” are the bad guys, it leaves us without morality.
    There is also a difference between on screen and off screen violence. An Agatha Christie murder where it happens without description feels different than graphic depiction from the murderer’s point of view.

  13. Bradley says:

    You could take the Johnny Dangerously approach.

  14. Suzette Smith says:

    I did appreciate the joys of swearing until I was well into my adulthood – and like a previous commenter mentioned – after several hard things happened in life. Now I really have fun with swearing – verbally. I think swearing is a “verbal thing” because comes voice inflection, facial expressions, etc. It can be used to be funny or expressive or to “roll your eyes” at something. It can also be mean – and I don’t like meanness in any form.

    But, I admit, that I do cringe a little when I see swear words written down. I wonder why that is.

    And I definitely wonder why we worry about our mothers so much around swearing. Maybe it’s because no one (including our mothers) believe we’ll become murders …. but swearing is a sign that we’re slipping and that earns us disapproval.

    Who knows ???

  15. Diane says:

    I was talking to a friend of mine this morning and she reminded me of two JG Kimball stories about swearing that I just need to share.

    Jg Kimball was doing an interview and was asked about his propensity for swearing. He stated.” I won’t go to hell for swearing because I repent to dam fast.”

    the second story was it was a rainy day and he was going back to the office when some one nearly ran him down in their car. He was heard shouting,” You SOn of B don’t you have any respect for priesthood authority.’

    This gives me a chuckle. I hope it does for all of you.

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