To @#$% or not to @#$%
A while back, Devlin O’Neill blogged about cursing and how he does not use it (or allow it in comments) on his blog. Despite my yanking his chain sometimes, I understand his viewpoint that he wants everyone to feel comfortable and safe. But his post gave me food for thought. What are people’s thoughts on swearing? Yes? No? What’s too much?
Before I continue, allow me to state two points up front: 1) I do not condone hurling ugly names in anger, and 2) the “c” word is off the table, in any circumstance. That word should be banned from the lexicon, as far as I’m concerned.
Moving on… obviously, as you’ve noted in my own blogs, I do cuss. As with most things in my life, I employ moderation. Of course, moderation is relative. To one who is offended by relatively mild epithets such as “damn” and “hell,” my swearing is beyond moderate. But on average, I’d say I use it for emphasis, rather than allowing it to usurp my vocabulary.
Can we all agree that a well-placed swear word can be hilarious? Granted, spewing them right and left makes them redundant (and obnoxious), but with the right timing and placement, an unexpected cuss word can make me laugh until my stomach hurts.
Take spanking videos, for one example. On the extreme side, I once watched a video from a company whose product is not to my liking (won’t mention the name, but it’s not anyone I’ve worked for!), and it featured two girls getting spanked who blurted the f word and the s word every other sentence, which I found distasteful. However, an example for the plus side is one of my favorite adlibs of all time. (And no, I wasn’t the one who said it.) In Shadow Lane’s Sting Operation 2, Samantha Woodley is confronted by her teacher (Lance Del Toro) for cheating on an exam. After wheedling and flirting doesn’t budge him, she gets petulant and snaps, “I said I was sorry! Now forgive and forget, and fuck off!” Hearing that come out of her sweet little face, and her timing, made me double over.
My thoughts on the ever-controversial word in the spanko scene: ass. Some people mistakenly think I disapprove of the word, but I don’t. Where I don’t like it is within a spanking scene. The phrase “You’re getting a bare-bottom spanking, young lady” causes my stomach to flip-flop and my nether regions to react the way nether regions react; whereas “I’m going to beat your bare ass, bitch,” makes me recoil in disgust. However, outside of scene conversation, there are times when only the word “ass” will do. I mean, calling someone a “dumb-bottom” or hurling off a snappy, “Oh, kiss my behind” just doesn’t cut it.
When I was growing up, I didn’t hear much swearing in my house. Sometimes I’d overhear cuss words when my older brother was in his room with his buddies, but my mother never swore in front of me. As I grew into adolescence, I thought she was quite the prig, using words like “golly” and “gee.” Little did I know.
One summer day when I was 16, I was in her house, which had no air-conditioning. It was miserably hot and she had gone into her bedroom to attempt a nap, pulling down the shades and running a fan. But I guess it was simply too hot for her to sleep. Suddenly, she came bursting out of the bedroom in her underwear and yelled, “Aaaaaaaagh, it’s so FUCKING HOT in here!” I was shocked! Who was this woman?? “Maaaaaa!” I said, laughing. “Well, it is!” she snapped. I guess she figured I was old enough to hear how she really talked! LOL
For many of you, cussing has always been around on TV, and certainly in movies. I’m old enough to remember the opposite, when you not only couldn’t say “damn” or “hell,” but you couldn’t say “pregnant,” you couldn’t show a married couple in one bed, toilets didn’t exist, etc. Of course, now on premium cable, they say everything, and even on network TV, several cuss words and references to bodily parts pass the censors.
Which brings me back to the moderation thing. No, I really don’t want to return to the era of dialogue like “Honestly, Father,” “Geeee, Wally,” and “Well, gollllllllyyyy!” Wholesome, they called it. Another show comes to mind, a more current one — Big Love. Because it depicts a Mormon family, there is no swearing. And I have to admit, sometimes the lack of swearing is jarring to my ears. They fight a lot, and somehow, hearing a heated “Darn you, Nicki!” or “Margene, what the H do you think you’re doing?” doesn’t ring true for me.
BUT — when it’s nonstop filthy mouth like on The Sopranos? Too much for me. I don’t find South Park all that funny.
Returning to the humor aspect, there is one thing I do miss from bygone days of television — innuendo. Nowadays, humor is so in-your-face dirty, spelling everything out, and so few people know the art of subtlety and suggestion anymore. The late, great Groucho Marx, on his show You Bet Your Life, could imply a world of ribaldry by simply looking into the camera and raising his eyebrows. In that era, it wasn’t what was said — it was what wasn’t said that could bring on the side-splitting laughter.
One of my favorite examples of this is a classic clip from the Tonight Show, circa 1965, with the wonderful Johnny Carson. Actor Ed Ames, who played Mingo on the TV western Daniel Boone, was demonstrating how to throw a tomahawk, hurling one at a crude drawing of a cowboy figure. The tomahawk landed squarely in a most unfortunate area, and the audience exploded in laughter, as did Ames. Carson, however, didn’t laugh, and didn’t speak. He merely stood there, a very naughty smile twitching on his lips, looking at the tomahawk, then at Ames, then the audience, his face speaking volumes, while the laughter went on and on. And finally when it started to die down, with his perfect comedic timing, he uttered a line that made the howling erupt anew. It was one of the longest sustained laughs in television history.
If you haven’t seen this clip, do watch: it’s priceless.
So where am I going with all this? I guess I wanted to open the floor and see how people feel about cussing in general. Does it bother you? Are there circumstances where you think it works well? Do you think there’s too much of it in the overall media nowadays?
And just so you know, I do appreciate moderation in comment cussing as well. 😉