Friday, 18 April 2008

Language Considerations

I've made an observation, which I am quite proud of because I am usually notoriously unobservant. Although, the object of the observation itself isn't something of which to be particularly proud.

I don't swear. But I have noticed that people who, as far as I can tell, don't generally swear (and would probably tell kids not to) feel quite fine about swearing when it's in writing. In particular, on Facebook and like places.

Perhaps it's just because I know a lot of these people from church. Everyone knows you aren't supposed to swear in church. Maybe I am wrong to assume that the young men and ladies with me who are teaching Sunday School to the youngsters aren't the type to swear about trivial matters. It just seems odd to me.

Now, before I come off as too judgemental, I don't really understand the concept of bad language myself. Bad grammar, yes, but bad language? What is it that makes a word inherently bad? Actually, can anything become inherently bad, because surely these words weren't considered totally inappropriate when they first appeared.

Shouldn't it be the context, or the intent of the word that renders it "bad"? Or if you're quite conservative, perhaps even the topic? Why does one word get labeled unacceptable while others like it aren't? I don't see why someone can say "shoot", but not "shit", unless it's the meaning that counts. But if it's meaning that counts, why may we still say "crap"?

I cringe when I hear people throwing the f word around, because I dislike the meaning. And since damn is an actual curse, rather than just coarse, I would really prefer that expression to disappear, except in context when something actually is or deserves to be cursed. But I don't see why some language, in and of itself, is considered bad.

But it is considered bad, and so I find it odd that so many "Christians", while denouncing it publicly in church, use it without a second thought elsewhere. Maybe they're like me, and just don't really consider the language to be bad. They just restrain themselves in church to avoid shocking any children or parents. Sadly, however, I doubt it.

Speaking of bad language in context:

"Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, 'If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.' The Christian replies, 'Don't talk damned nonsense.'" C. S. Lewis


CavDawg said...

This is something I thought about quite a bit as well, especially back when I studied linguistics.

I'm afraid I don't have a satisfactory answer, though, so I can only join you in your bafflement at the nature of swearing.

Janelle said...

Well, it does say in Colossians 3:8 "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth." And also, in Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." So to me, this quite clearly instructs believers to watch the words they speak, to ensure that what they say will be wholesome and uplifting. It is a very interesting thing to ponder, I'll agree with you, about what makes a word or phrase unacceptable or not. Often it is the context and use of the word, not just the word itself that makes it bad in my opinion. Often it seems that swear words are used as an expression of anger, or of insult to another person. Anyway, thought I'd share my two bits on the topic! :-) Keep writing Carla, even though I don't read your blog often enough, I really enjoy catching up on what you've been writing when I do get the chance.

Art said...

baad langwich. I think that is worse than bad spelling. I have noticed something too that is interesting. The more money a person makes, the less likely it is you will hear him swear. I suppose swearing is considered language for the uneducated.

I make a distinction between bad language/words and swearing. If someone stubs their toe and says "Jesus Christ" - I would consider that a swear. If they said they "shit their pants", I would call that bad language. I don't like listening to either but I find swearing the most offensive.

Can euphemisms be considered just as bad as bad language? If I say "Darn him to heck", is that really any different then saying what everyone thinks I meant: "Damn him to hell"? Really, I think the phrases are equivalent.