In the past few years as I have tried to expand my writing opportunities, and in doing so I have often encountered the dilemma of profanity. The naughty word, the swear word, expletives, obscenities. Should I use bad words if I am trying to appeal to the masses or get a certain job and need to have a certain image? I’m still trying to figure it out. I keep going back and forth.
One thing I have ruled out is profanity just for profanity’s sake. I’m beyond the whole “shock value” thing and I really don’t have that filthy of a mouth. I have been known to go a little heavier on the obscenity-peppering in the past but that was when I was writing for a different crowd. And the subject matter was a little more on the raunch side. Now I like to be the fabulous proper lady who shoots a zinger here and there.
^ That’s me.
In several reviews for my book people mentioned the profanity but they said they enjoyed it. However, the fact that they mentioned it makes me a little squeamish. Maybe there was too much?
And then I had an extremely self-righteous ex-friend… huh I won’t even give him the privilege of calling him a friend, he never was. Anyway he’s one of those assholes (whoops there I go again, but this is warranted) that feels it is far better to be “brutally honest” (emphasis on brutal) in what he is thinking rather than be kind. As if his opinion is somehow the be-all, end-all and he is giving you the honor of a critique. What a douche. Now I welcome criticism but when you do it in a mean way, well you’re just being mean. Criticism should be in the form of suggestion, not in a “you are wrong” manner.
So this person who I have known for almost 10 years finally reads my blog and the first thing he says is “Only people who are not smart enough to have something to say use profanity. I tune out the minute I hear or see fuck.” Oh really, Joe Righteous? I’ve heard you use that word a few times, along with calling your ex-wife a c*nt. He’s just incapable of giving a compliment and must always remain superior to everyone, thus the real reason for criticism, not because he’s so unabashedly honest. I’ve accepted that and just decided it’s not worth dealing with his negativity anymore.
Ok, so maybe I should tone down the profanity, he has a valid point. But to insinuate I’m stupid or low brow so I have to use it is just insulting. And if I wasn’t so refined and intellectual, I’d give him a gigantic, “Go fuck yourself”.
Now here are my examples of use. If you are one of these street types or low-lifes that all of your sentences are constructed in the exact same manner of every other word being profanity, then yes I’ll give you the “doesn’t have anything more intelligent to say” theory.
Example: “Bitch-ass motherfucker comes up to me and fucking asks for a motherfucking cigarette. I’m like get your own fucking cigarettes, cocksucking bitch.”
Sorry if I offended anyone. That greatly offended me, I don’t like that at all, but that’s what I hear out on the street a lot. Or in an interview with a rapper. That type of swearing has no merit whatsoever. It makes me cringe and weep for our youth.
However, I believe a well-placed profanity can be funny and creative and serve to drive home a point. It’s all about context. I love “out of character” moments. You know, like a tap dancing monk, or something.
For instance… if I’m telling a story about sitting in a business meeting where everyone is proper and business-like and a co-worker is rambling on about some office procedure or a problem therewith and I say that I think in my head “What the fuck are you talking about?”, I think that’s funny. Because it’s a direct contrast to what’s going on… proper – improper.
Or sometimes I enjoy the randomly placed expletive within syllables to prove an emphatic point. “Absofuckinglutely” has always been one of my favorite words. I don’t go around saying it all the time, I don’t say it to children or nuns. We’re all adults here. It’s like I would say it if someone asked me “Would you like to go to Europe, all expenses paid?”… “Absofuckinglutely!”.
However, I was just approached about a job. It would be a high profile job working for a non-profit that deals with a serious social issue. Will these writings with this language usage somehow discredit me? Or paint me in a bad light? They can’t take me seriously? Well, I look into some high profile people and there causes and how do they jive? Pamela Anderson is campaigning to ban pro bullfighting. She likes the animals apparently… does her kind of bimbo appearance cause people to not take her cause seriously?
So what do you think? Should you just be authentic at all costs? Or should you try to compromise and use decorum most of the time? Or should you try to please the masses and be totally G rated? I’m guessing that I’ll eventually find my way by losing out on jobs or becoming famous for my salty language. 🙂