Why is Cursing Bad?

From One Frank to Another

Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix about Frank Zappa. This was a treat as Zappa’s music has always been a big influence on my own musical output. I also respect Zappa’s candour and how he used his own music, media appearances and writing to espouse the ills, stupidity and absurdity of our world. Even though it’s been over 23 years since his passing, this documentary effectively revealed how relevant he still is, both musically and philosophically, to these present times.

The interview clips within the doc shared a number of different Zappa rants on a variety of subjects. But for some reason, this one particularly caught my attention…

Yes, that’s right, swearing, cursing, speaking with vulgar language. It made me think, why is cursing considered such a nasty, dirty thing to do? Why are certain words beeped out on television at particular times of day? Why does the well-read, intellectual and moralistic facet of society look down upon those that include swearing in their speech? Zappa, a devout libertarian, would argue that by limiting our vocabulary, it’s the way that government and religious institutions control us and dumb us down in order to control how we think. There’s much to this that makes sense to me.

Zappa was always a staunch defender of free speech and absolutely abhorred any form of censorship. So it’s no surprise he didn’t care if the word “f-c-” entered his or anyone else’s vocabulary.

I have a long and eclectic history of using foul language. I started on the playground of elementary school (which was a Catholic school BTW!). All the other kids spoke that way, so why wouldn’t I? It seems the more teachers told us not to or punished us for it, the more we wanted to swear!

Into my adulthood, I continued the trend of cursing quite regularly, right up to the present. It’s such a natural thing as a way of emphasizing my point or expressing frustration or shock. Zappa would say that this is fine – I’m just being me and expressing myself.

Yet, I also tend to puritanically follow society’s attitudes about such things. I only swear in the privacy of my own home or in the presence of people I know quite well and that I know also partake in such talk. I never swear in front of kids, when speaking publicly, on social media or even in my own blog posts (notice the “f-c-” 3 paragraphs ago?).

Zappa would say that this is wrong – I’m being a different person when I’m in private vs. public. Again, I agree with him!

Yet, I can’t change my ways. Why? Is it because I’m afraid how it might impact my career? That I would be ostracized from my social circles? I guess this must be why I don’t pull the trigger on more f-bombs more regularly.

But what if I didn’t care what people thought of me and I started talking like a drunken sailor anywhere and anytime? Would I be more true to myself and be more happy rather than living behind a facade?

If I ever did decide to alleviate myself from the symbolic muzzle around my mouth, I think that I would only use swear words as adjectives, not verbs. If I felt the need to criticize someone, it feels like a low blow to include “nasty” words as part of a direct critique. But again, what makes them nasty? I probably also wouldn’t let an expletive barrage fly against someone directly out of fear that I make them so upset that they might physically attack me…did I mention I’m a pacifist?

Okay, now I’m just meandering! I love the way Zappa thought but I’m on the fence on this one. I don’t think I have it in me to be such a free spirit, and maybe that’s a bad thing.



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