Social Question

Idknown's avatar

Using swear words - why censor?

Asked by Idknown (1118points) March 24th, 2010

So this is a conversation I’ve had with my friends recently. She thinks that we should stop using curse words all together. It’s just not proper.

But my view is this: What’s the point of not using curse words when you make new curse words in its place? If I say Frack!!! (<3 BSG) – do you know what I’m saying? Does it change anything? Are you less offended than you were before?

I think the notion is ridiculous.

Also for the sake of this discussion – I mean curse words as a form as expression. (Something drops on your foot – ‘FRACK ME!’) And not curse words as a means to insult. So please don’t get on the notion that I’m saying using curse words to insult other people is proper – because it’s not. This conversation is more about the everyday uses of curse words such as “Damn I forgot my keys, and my spare is with my girl. I’m fucked aren’t I?”

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33 Answers

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Some people just need to lighten the fuck up.

CMaz's avatar

“I mean curse words as a form as expression.’

Says it all.

mrentropy's avatar

I like to use “Smeg.”

Snarp's avatar

When I became a parent I forced myself to go from basically swearing like a sailor to not swearing at all. What I discovered was that I really don’t need to replace the words at all except in extreme circumstances. I’m going to say something when I burn my finger (but it need not be a rather harsh word for copulation), but most other times I can just drop the word entirely. By dropping the unnecessary words your speech becomes not only less likely to offend, but also more efficient and clearer. Then if you really need to emphasize something, you can do a little work and find a word that actually says something and adds to what you are saying instead of taking the lazy way out and using a word designed to provoke a reaction.

Fyrius's avatar

Oh, I agree. Replacing one swearword with another is only going to have any effect for so long, and then the new word becomes just as bad as the first one.
See also: the Euphemism Treadmill effect.

And in general I think censorship is wrong, pointless and ineffective.
It’s so much easier to grow some tolerance than to outlaw anything that might offend anyone.

”[Censorship is] like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t have steak.” – Robert Heinlein

Idknown's avatar

@mrentropy what is Smeg but another way to say what you are avoiding to say. If everyone picked up on Smeg – We’d have this conversation all over again. What @fryius said.

@Snarp I am doing that for my gf. I currently try my best NOT to use any swear words, but do I sound weird. I have second delays where I’m replacing my words. Mind you, I don’t curse all that much, but some words have gotten to the point where I don’t think they are curses.

Hell, damn, shit – are all pretty damned normal!

And I don’t think one should be offended by words meaning to provoke a reaction. It is a universal reaction that I mean to invoke so that you know how I feel. Its why we use cliches because we all know what it means.

In fact this would help facilitate communications.

mrentropy's avatar

@Idknown I don’t use it as a replacement for anything. I say it so I can spread the word about Red Dwarf.

Idknown's avatar

@mrentropy so in which situations would ‘smeg’ be appropriate? I am not familiar with the associations.

Vunessuh's avatar

I like to replace curse words with other words not because I’m trying to stop cursing, but because they sound cute.
I’ll say feck or puck or fuckles in place of fuck.
Puck you!
What the feck are you talking about?

Giggles. See? Cute.

Snarp's avatar

@Idknown I have no problem with people using strong language, and I have no problem reading it, but I do have a problem with people using it casually and regularly on the street. Prude or not I’m not ready for my son to start saying fuck, shit, damn, hell, etc., nor am I anxious to tell him what they mean. Some people can’t seem to string together a single sentence without punctuating it with curse words, and they do so loudly and in public and I think that’s simply rude. There were always people who are offended by it, and it doesn’t really hurt a bit to moderate your language a bit in public, particularly in place frequented by children. Also my brother in law can’t seem to help saying hell and damn regularly right in front of the three year old. It’s a bit annoying.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I use “Freakin’” a lot. Not because I’m trying to cover up swear words but because I think “Freakin’” sounds funnier! My Grandmother hates swear words and makes up the most random of words/sayings to replace what should be a swear word. For example, she dropped something the other day and all we heard from the kitchen was “OH! FISH POTS AND FIDDLESTICKS”, surely “OH! SHIT!” would have been less time consuming!!!

Snarp's avatar

I burned my finger on a hot dish the other day and said “Oh Mickeymouse!”

mrentropy's avatar

@Idknown Generally, the only time I replace words is when I’m around kids. But if I can think far enough ahead not to curse then I’ll not say anything at all. It’ll be more like my starting to “shit” and changing it to “sugar” before the entire word gets out.

I will say “smeg” in replacement for a curse word if I’m feeling goofy.

CMaz's avatar

If you are going to use swear words then use them properly.
Otherwise they become desensitized. Then we get into debating when to use them properly, and what is “proper”?

Next thing you know, our kids are calling each other MoFo’s. Not/never knowing it means Mother Fucker.

Thank you Austin Powers.

Idknown's avatar

@Snarp I am assuming we are sensible and I am not going to go to extremes about those that have to put an f bomb on every other word.

I’m talking about those who seek to have us censor ourselves when we use these words seldomly. Like in @Leanne1986 ‘s situation where her grandmother hates swear words. I’m sure @Leanne1986 isn’t a excessive curser – but she is still asked to replace words.

My saying its so pointless when the new word is the same as the old word.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Idknown I think the only time my family is careful with our language is when we are around my Grandmother!

Snarp's avatar

@Idknown As I said, I think in most cases the word could just as well be dropped altogether, but there are times when some interjection is going to come out no matter what, and I’ll say that I think that there is a difference depending on the actual meaning of the word. Replacing fuck with frak is kind of silly, but it’s a bit nicer to deal with with children nevertheless. Better would be replacing it with a word that sounded nothing like fuck. Using MoFo instead of mother fucker, as in @ChazMaz‘s example, is just stupid because it carries the same meaning. But mostly my concern with this is around children, if you and your friends are talking at the bar and you’re replacing fuck with frak, you’re absolutely right that you are accomplishing nothing, but if you are about to say fuck and all you can change it to in the heat of the moment is frak, or shit to sugar and you’re around kids, then it’s a change worth making.

For your girlfriend’s sort of experiment, if that’s what it is, I think you have a point and you should tell her if you’re going to do it, replacement words should be banned as well. It kind of makes it fun and challenging not to just change the words, but the way you speak entirely.

Idknown's avatar

@Snarp Yet – what I mean is no different.

Instead of “Fuck, I forgot my keys.” It’s now, “Mmmm I forgot my keys.”

I feel… somewhat neutered.

CMaz's avatar

I had a friend that called her kids MoFo’s thinking it was just a silly word.

Snarp's avatar

@Idknown If you feel that neutered, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. By my approach it would be: “I forgot my keys”, or even ””. That’s not a typo, sometimes we talk when there’s no reason to.

Of course, sometimes I just have to say: “AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!” Is that a replacement word?

Snarp's avatar

I’m not trying to be disagreeable or have an argument, I’m engaging in all this because I’m really interested. As I said, I used to swear like a sailor and no longer do, but then the swear words pour out of me when I’m around one friend of mine. I kind of like not swearing, but I’m not sure I have a good rational reason for it, I’m sort of trying to find it here. And of course there’s the change in feelings toward cursing that comes with parenthood. So i’m still grappling with all this.

Idknown's avatar

@Snarp I don’t put these conversations here to be agreeable :P. Too often my friends don’t debate with me because they think it leads to negative after-feelings. This is simply not true. There is no reason two, (or a whole community) of people cannot have a conversation peacefully.

I welcome your thoughts and thank you for your interest in my discussion.

SundayKittens's avatar

The thing about cursing that is “bad” is the sentiment…that you’re mad or upset and expressing it OR you’re referring to something that is “bad”, like sex or bodily functions.

Those things, to me, are not “bad” so cursing doesn’t bother me. Changing hell to heck is just annoying and defeats the point.
HOWEVER, as a teacher my job is to prep kids for the “real world” where some folks consider curse words rude or disrespectful, so I keep a cap on it in my room.
And I certainly know the appropriate time and place to use them myself, and that’s really the bottom line of a lot of life..

mattbrowne's avatar

What the frak is wrong with the spelling of frack?

Snarp's avatar

I’m also a believer in the notion that if you swear a lot, those words lose their power. Someone who you’ve never heard swear calls you a fucking dipshit, well you know you’re really a fucking dipshit.

Seek's avatar

I <3 “Frak”.

Words are there to be used. I do believe that certain manners of speech are more appropriate to their respective situations.

For example: Not a good idea to tell you boss “Goddamn bus took the wrong fucking detour” upon arriving late to an important conference call. Equally strange to say “Gracious! That granted a rather unpleasant sensation!” when you smash your hand with a hammer.

Snarp's avatar

I especially like “gorram”.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Snarp I enjoyed your first explanationas I too struggle with the notion of swearing being “wrong” I think you may be onto something when you said that it makes the communication more efficient and clearer. Some people use cursing as a crutch to real communication.

I have had to explain to a 3 year old before why he could not say “God Damn” in Mothers Day Out at a Baptist Church, but he hears it all the time at school. Kids will call out the inconsistencies….

I don’t really know why cursing is so offensive, but I can also see that the history of the words themselves often contribute to their offensiveness. Such as fuck- (and the middle finger) It is a threat of sexual violence, or of showing power, historically. The words have been diluted through everyday use….but still some people have very strong reactions to them.

Great Question!

DominicX's avatar

Swear words don’t offend me in the first place. I don’t care what people say. Say the “censored” version if you want. But don’t expect me to do it.

(I will admit that I love saying “freakin’” and “shiznit”, though). :P

CMaz's avatar

“Swear words don’t offend me in the first place.”

So if I called your mother a fucking bitch. It would emote you the same as me saying, “I feel uncomfortable around her”?

Just an example. I am sure your mom is wonderful. :-)

DominicX's avatar


No, that would be an insult. Insults offend me. They are designed to offend. But shouting “fuck!” because you’re angry is different and I wouldn’t feel you had to replace it with “frack” or something so I wouldn’t be offended, because it wouldn’t offend me in the first place.

Idknown's avatar

@DominicX Exactly! It shouldn’t offend you. It was meant to convey a point – one which you get and understand.

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