I must confess: I have a potty mouth. I like profanity–I like the harshness of it, sometimes even the shock of it, if it's a particularly vile word. I even like the history of it; some profane words have been around since the beginnings of human language. How can that kind of staying power be wrong?

Now I read this:

California Legislature Considers Adopting a Cuss-Free Week*

I actually kind of agree with what they're trying to do here, although I'm wondering if, given the state of California's budget woes, this is the best use of the legislature's time. In fact, I am, from time to time, tempted to make an effort to quit cursing, though not for altruistic reasons. There is a part of me that knows using profanity is a cop out for not finding a better word–a more appropriate or imaginative word–to express myself. The writer in me wants to do better.

I'll give you an example. Last week, Mick and I went to visit a friend at his loft in downtown LA. We'd never seen the place, and I was surprised when we walked up to the door to find to find that the building was a pristine art deco–one of the few remaining examples in LA. My first thought was "Wow, this is fucking awesome!"

I immediately admonished myself. Surely I could find a better way to express how I felt about this beautiful building. "Wow, this is so cool!" Nope. Stephen King, in his book On Writing says people who use that phrase should have to stand in the corner. "Wow, it's so beautiful!" Better, perhaps, but certainly lacking personality. I was stuck with "fucking awesome."

Even now, when I've had ample time to reflect, I still don't have a better phrase. But I am certain the writer in me will find one eventually.

What do you think about profanity? Do you use it? Do you consider it a lower form of communication? Do you strive to improve your language by thinking of more appropriate (and more interesting) words? For my part, I will probably continue to curse, because let's face it, old habits die hard, but I will never give up the search for that perfect word.

* Thanks to my sister-in-law for this link

5 Replies to “Confessions of a Potty Mouth”

  1. Michael says: March 5, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Great post!
    I think the best use of profanity is the Season 3 finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

  2. Julie says: March 3, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I am probably different from most of America, but I rarely swear because 1.) I have children at home, and they DO repeat everything I say, and 2.) I’m a teacher, so most of my life is spent with 9 and 10 year olds. Some of them have the language of sailors, because profanity is what their parents use (and scream at them, in some cases). So I probably come off sounding like a very boring person.

  3. Antoinette says: March 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Thanks for the link!
    I love the post.
    I think that like a sneeze or a cough swearing is sometimes just a needed vocal reaction. It’s a primal urge when nothing else will do. What comes out of your mouth when you hurt yourself? I assure you it’s not “My but that felt rather unpleasant! As if a fellow carnivore approached me and left an indentation upon my flesh.” Nope, it’s “FUCK! OW!…” you get the idea.
    Like most “adult” activities it has a time and place. You don’t use it in church, but drinking with friends is ok. Not at a baby shower, but when you’re hurt or given a big bill, is fine. And no, I don’t need my legislature telling me WHEN it is appropriate for me to unleash my torrent of curses thank you!

  4. Becky Levine says: March 3, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Well, I have to admit I’m pretty mild–mostly it’s in a temper fit, and I’m not thrilled that that’s what I fall back on, but… 🙂 I do use it more in my writing, because–frankly, there are moments where nothing else has the impact. Now that I’m writing a historical, I’m stuck–my 15-year-old “nice girl” in 1913 is not going to swear when she’s shocked or scared–what IS she going to say? More research!

  5. Sue Ann Jaffarian says: March 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I loved this post!
    I use profanity almost every fucking chance I get, EXCEPT in my writing (used only when appropriate), speaking engagements (no need to let my reading public know what a skank I am), or in front of children (that’s the job of public education.) Oh, and in front of most of my bosses (I need my job). But in my personal life my favorite phrase is “fuck a duck.”

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