General Question

Johnny_Rambo's avatar

Does strong language ( cursing ) strengthen or weaken an argument/discussion ?

Asked by Johnny_Rambo (888points) February 14th, 2009

Ive noticed some folks use ” shit and fuck ” alot ( excuse me ) and I wonder if fellow Fluther-ites feel that it is a strength or weakness to use such language ?

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47 Answers

LKidKyle1985's avatar

it always takes away from an argument. using words like that in an argument distracts you from the logic you should be using to prove your point. Strong and offensive language does nothing.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

It always fucking takes away from your shitty argument, using bullshit words like that in a fuckin argument distracts you twats from the real god damn logic that you would use if you were smart and wanted to prove a god damn point! strong and offensive language never got anyone jack shit!

Just wanted to illustrate the difference.

queenzboulevard's avatar

A well placed F bomb can be really hilarious!

With respect to arguments, you can use curse words to really hurt the person’s feelings, which is a strength (depending on what kind of argument it is lol)

In a discussion, cursing takes away because it makes the person seem unintelligent.

It really depends on timing and placement.

Jeruba's avatar

It weakens an argument, without doubt. It muddies and obscures the sense of what you want to say and makes it sound like you don’t have a case. You’re just angry and completely inarticulate. In fact, it can make you sound like a moron.

But—if you are not at all in the habit of using such language, a single well-placed fuck can really impress ‘em.

Johnny_Rambo's avatar

Well said, LILKid, thats a great closing argument.

Johnny_Rambo's avatar

Jeruba: A well-placed fuck is a whole other discussion. LOL

Bluefreedom's avatar

I’ve never seen the need to string a bunch of profanities together when having a debate or argument or discussion with someone. I don’t think it says alot about someone’s vocabulary or their talent for being articulate when they curse a lot.

I’m certainly no saint myself and I have uttered some really choice words in the heat of the moment but as a rule, I try to cuss as little as possible.

Jeruba's avatar

Ha ha, @Johnny_Rambo. I think I already put one of those into my answer on the rain question. It’s late and the end of a long week. If I’d been awaker, you wouldn’t have caught me like that! :D

Aethelwine's avatar

It weakens it, WTF? Don’t you know this? ;)

augustlan's avatar

Hmmm. I see a difference between a debate and an argument. In a debate, during which I want to be taken seriously and perhaps sway someone to my point of view, foul language has no useful role. During an argument, I’m usually angry and not in the mood for niceties. Cursing may get the point across in that case. Whether it does or not, I’m prone to do it ;)

I will say again though, I cuss like a sailor in everyday life. I don’t think it has any bearing on my intelligence or shows a lack of vocabulary. Sometimes ‘fuck’ is the perfect word!

onesecondregrets's avatar

I think the answer to this one is pretty obvious. It’s said that when people use profanities during an argument that it is a replacement for the words they’re not intelligent enough to conjur up. It weakens a person’s argument I think. Sometimes it can be purely out of emotion, but if there’s nothing else substantial in what’s being said then thumbs down, man.

aprilsimnel's avatar

If someone’s reduced to using vulgar language in an argument, it’s clear that they have nothing of value to back up their position, never mind ‘strengthening’ or ‘weakening’ it.

Kiev749's avatar

it really depends on who your talking to in my opinion. Like suporvisor or parental unit for some of you flutherites, or even the Girl/Boy friend. I wouldn’t use strong language. But friends, yeah. i would. I mean, I am a young man in college and when i get some “liquid courage” in me, i speak whats on my mind. And my friends know that when i waste gas i dont care, but when they don’t fucking recycle it pisses me off. :)

Jack79's avatar

doesn’t really affect the argument, but I try to avoid strong language. Then again, I sometimes do swear if I am really mad. Words are tools, and sometimes you need specific tools to express specific feelings.

fireside's avatar

In this type of online forum setting, name-calling is the schoolyard equivalent of “So’s your Mom!”

LindaDT's avatar

It weakens the arguement becasue it shows either frustration or a lack of ability to articulate oneself very well.

Vinifera7's avatar

It’s fine with me if it helps to articulate the point. I can’t understand the mentality in which the use of impolite language automatically invalidates the point a person is trying to argue. There are situations where ad hominem is justified.

janbb's avatar

Rarely. I see the value of curse words to express strong feeling, but not usually in a discussion. I do recognize that different people use them in different ways so it does not automatically invalidate an opinion for me.

Harp's avatar

Classical rhetoric, the art that the Greeks valued so highly but which we largely ignore, taught that persuasive speech is based on three essential tools: logos or logical reasoning; ethos, the credibility that derives from the speaker’s good character, and pathos, appeals to the emotions and sentiments of the listener.

We tend to think that logos, logic, is the most important of these, but the Greeks weren’t so sure. They thought that each had a valid role in persuasion and that which one the speaker should stress depends on both the listener and the situation. To them, the goal was not to be right, the goal was to persuade.

Cursing definitely falls into the category of pathos, an appeal to emotion. It has its place. Think of a cop trying to get control of a precarious situation. Here logos, logic, won’t be of much use. Ethos may help, which is why the cop may shout “POLICE!” when he arrives, hoping that his position of authority will carry persuasive weight. But his main tool will be pathos: “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR NOW!” Cops don’t hesitate to swear, because they know that pathos can work wonders in the right situations.

In the wrong situation, however, swearing can do immense damage to one’s ethos, the projection of one’s character. If one uses this kind of pathos when logos is really called for, the listener will assume that you don’t know how to reason well, and so everything you say will be undermined. Inappropriate swearing casts doubt on one’s judgment (which is also a factor in one’s ethos): it demonstrates that one can’t read situations well and may not be able to gauge the appropriateness of his actions. Again, credibility is lost.

marinelife's avatar

^^Bows to such a perfect answer there is nothing left to say.

gailcalled's avatar

Harp gets the blue ribbon. But he explained the listener’s reaction.

I appreciate this question because I have noticed that a few people need to curse almost reflexively in most of their answers. I have been wondering why I found it so off-putting.

Now I wonder why some people find it so necessary to use Carlin’s seven tabu words so often. Repetition may show hostility, insecurity, narcissism, boredom.

Bri_L's avatar

I was taught by my father that in both a debate and an argument, you will at least sound more intelligent if you don’t swear than if you do. And, by developing a decent vocabulary, you can eliminate the need to swear.

Now on here we all can take the time to find the words we want to use, and, hopefully, spell them correctly. So the pressure of needing to have a broad vocabulary at the tip of your tongue isn’t necessarily there.

This always led me to believe that those who do swear frequently are trying to elicit an emotional response from others, are doing so out of emotion or just plain use it as a part of their own vocabulary in the absence other options and the desire to find them.

Jack79's avatar

but now I have a secondary question for you Harp:

I am right, and I am telling the truth. Which by definition also gives me ethos points. And I say all that with great passion and conviction, even shouting (though not swearing). Yet people refuse to believe me and are convinced I am an evil liar.

What am I doing wrong? What element is missing, or what other (external factor) weakens my argument, which is strong in all 3 areas of rhetoric?

marinelife's avatar

@Jack79 One cannot get another person to do something. That includes listen to reason, see the truth, and understand what they are being told. Knowing you are right needs to be enough in those cases.

Jack79's avatar

It was a rhetorical question (both literally and metaphorically) ;)

fireside's avatar

It’s a question that can’t be answered without defining the audience and the argument.

Jeruba's avatar

The idea that other people must agree with you (or else what?) is a delusion.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i think it weakens it, but i understand when people curse a lot in strong debates, because it’s usually something that they’re really passionate about, and it’s usually kind of difficult to come off as completely eloquent and well-spoken in the heat of the moment.

Harp's avatar


Ethos is something the listener attributes to the speaker. It’s their opinion of your trustworthiness, based on your reputation, evidence from their past dealings with you, how you present yourself, etc. If you don’t have the listener’s trust, as in your example, then your ethos is at exactly zero. Being right and truthful doesn’t in itself confer ethos; you don’t have ethos until your listener perceives you as truthful.

So in your example, you still have a severe ethos problem.

janbb's avatar

@ gailcalled – I believe you may be in error, Madam. Surely the word is spelled “taboo” not “tabu” (that was the perfume.)

Trance24's avatar

I have actually had this conversation before, with my last years English teacher. He says he never uses bad language when engaged in conversation, he feels it takes away from his intelligence. I happen to agree. I do not know it just seems that when you include harsh language in your arguments or even general conversation at times, it just gives it an off kind of feeling. It never really fits right. And more often then not you sound more unruly, and unable to back up your argument of statement. It just sounds better when you are able to use more practical, and sometimes more advanced language. It proves your intelligence more than just shouting random words that express more anger than anything.

gailcalled's avatar

@janbb: I am having a disgraphic night, it seems. You are right, but (whine), why do so many people take a microscope to my writing?

wundayatta's avatar

I think swearing is best used to emphasize or intimidate. Emphasis shows how important something is. Intimidation shows how crazy you are about the thing you are talking about.

These things generally don’t play much role in polite conversation or formal debate. However, in daily life, they play a much bigger role.

Of course, in daily life, profanity is often used as a kind of meaningless infiller. “The motherfuckin cop stopped my motherfuckin car, and busted my motherfuckin ass.” “That motherfucker sure fucked up my shit!” Well, not exactly meaningless; more an expression of permanent second-classdom, getting the short end of the stick.

Jack79's avatar

Thanks Harp, you actually answered an important question. So perhaps I should give ITN that interview after all…

janbb's avatar

@ gailcalled – Do you seriously not know? Because you are our Grammar Mama and it’s fun when the queen slips up!

Jack79's avatar

gail made a typo? Where? I have to take a picture of this and use it as my screensaver!

janbb's avatar

@ jack – scroll up and read.

gailcalled's avatar

I thought I could weasel out of the typo by checking the french. Unfortunately, it is “tabou.”

Guys, you need a more interesting hobby. And keep in mind that the Amish women always made one deliberate mistake on each of their quilts. Their creed was that only God is perfect.

Grammarrama ring ding.

Bri_L's avatar

@gailcalled – lurve for “Grammarrama ring ding”

fireside's avatar

@gailcalled – I think you made a mistake; it is supposed to be G-A-L-E : )

wundayatta's avatar

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Only God is perfect. I need to make one mistake per sentence. Wouldn’t want to have a perfect sentence would I? Phew. Spelling and grammatic errors have a free ride from now on!

gailcalled's avatar

—@dal: I said one mistake per quilt. That would translate into one mistake per essay, I think. I am not advocating total linguistic chaos.

wundayatta's avatar

Aw darn! Ruin my dreams, eh? Crushed again! :-(

Zen's avatar

It fucking weakens it.

zenele's avatar

Shut the fuck up, Zen.

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