Think of the F word.
Yep, the one that ends with U-C-K.
Yeah, that one. Firetruck.
Tune into the news tonight and you'll probably see people dead, dying or both. No one complains. But use a profanity in print, on TV or the radio, and watch the complaints roll in.
Why are people so quick to pounce when a few of the 26 letters in our alphabet are arranged in a certain order?
There may be the occasional nun or some pious soul with a dodgy heart who feels their blood pressure rise when faced with a "bad word," but for most people, it's all an act.
People pretend to be offended by cursing because they think they are meant to be outraged. They hear a particular word, and instead of imagining what that word actually means, they take it as a trigger to act the role of the offended person. Some deserve an Oscar for their carrying on.
Case in point: if I write S#@&, are you offended? If I write feces or excrement, does that go too far? When you read each of those words, you knew exactly what I was referring to, but only if I type all four letters of the slang word will some people feel the urge to be upset.
Vulgarity is in the ear or eye of the receiver. You can choose to ignore the word or you can choose to be offended.
There's further proof that cursing is a figment of our imaginations: if a word is bad, isn't it bad forever? Apparently not, because society's standards change with the calendar. Damn was a hell of a word for newspapers a generation or two ago, but can be used freely today without complaint.
This week, a French newspaper in Montreal used a bit of Anglo slang in a headline to describe possible falsehoods spoken by the Quebec Transport minister. Let's play the written version of charades: eight letters, starts with bull and ends with a word meaning excrement.
Should the editors have allowed it to be printed? People will land on both sides of the issue, but there's no doubt bull*&%! can now gleefully appear in Quebec newspapers without attracting many complaints. Society's standards have changed yet again.
When the media gets on board with common usage of language, it's good news for readers – even the ones who pretend to be offended. People who read the news expect to be presented with facts, not fairy stories.
If a media company took out the potentially upsetting bits of a story – maybe turning starving people into well-fed ones – the news outlet would be slammed and then spurned by readers, viewers or listeners. No one would trust them to deliver the truth.
Why should it be any different in situations when profanity has news value: when a political candidate calls an opponent a fornicator, or a famous actor attacks someone else's religion by equating them to rodent feces?
You can choose for yourself: there's no reason to ask the media to decide which words are OK for your eyes or ears.
Should the media print or air profanity when it's intrinsic to the story? Or should they bleep them out or use *%# symbols in their place?
I don't like it in movies or the news.
To me it takes away from the whole story or plot and merely focuses on the word.
...too much cursing becomes ineffective and can sound ugly. Often it's unnecessary and doesn't do anything for the story. Well-placed curses, however, can be extremely effective.