Why I Love Cuss Words
I try to keep it clean, but sometimes a good fuck! or shit! provides just the release I need. Say you drop something heavy on your foot. "Gosh darn it!" doesn't cut it. And why should it? Language Hitlers say anyone who swears doesn't have sufficient mastery of the language. Bullshit. Invoke Shakespeare when someone cuts you off in traffic and see how fast you get through town.
Some folks can remember when they first heard the word "fuck" or "shit." I only remember being convinced that saying fuck would send me straight to hell, where you can cuss to your heart's content as demons stick red-hot pokers up your ass. At one point I was such a twisted goody-too shoes that I blackened out the single instance of the word fuck in a book of monologues by Steve Martin. I've been fucking overcompensating every since.
Swearing, cussing, taking the Lord's name in vain — all have been frowned on for centuries. George Washington told his troops to refrain from "the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing." OK, George. You get butchered by better equipped Brits and watch your fingers and toes fall off in the cold. Can you hear those poor troops mumbling after the general rode off? "Fuck you, ya wigtop, and the horse you rode in on."
As part of his research on cursing, professor Tim Jay (author of Cursing in America and What To Do When Your Kids Talk Dirty) assigned his students to count "bad" words in the movies. The findings are not surprising: Movies during the Eighties contained an average of 81 cuss words, up from 24 during the Sixties and 1.5 in films before that. Is that an indication of a decline in our society, or is Hollywood making better movies? War is not some goddamned action-adventure movie. Even in classics like Gone With the Wind, do you think Scarlett O'Hara was shaking her fist at the sky saying, "Goshdarnit, I've lost everything and might die here of starvation?" Hell no. She was spitting, "Fuck them Yankees." But nobody gave a damn.
What galls me most is how hypocritical the media is when it comes to swear words. Richard Nixon swore like a bat out of hell on the Watergate tapes. But no newspaper had the guts to print the transcripts with the expletives not deleted. (Not only was Nixon an asshole, he had no talent using cuss words.) Reinhold Aman, a former university professor and editor of Maledicta Press, calls it "newspaper censorshit" so publications that quote him have to print it as "newspaper censorsh—." He wonders, as I do, why so many publications spell fuck as f—-. What is that? Find? Food? Fork? The newsweeklies will show its prissy readers graphic photos of mutilated Rwandans, but if someone says, "This is bullshit," it causes a ruckus. If you are going to disguise words that might offend some readers, what about h—-s—ual, ab—tion or s-x?
Once you start looking for censorship, it pops up everywhere. Entertainment Weekly once printed an interview with Howard Stern and used dashes to disguise words like asshole and fuck. But in the same article, the magazine included a graphic description of a Stern writer sticking his finger up someone's butt. When a Republican congressman called Bill Clinton a "scumbag," the New York Times didn't print the word. Instead, they called it a "vulgarity for a condom" (?) and later "a euphemism for a despicable person." That narrows it down.
More recently, the journalism review Brill's Content began censoring "naughty" words. In one issue, it quotes a court document: "Hotseattle also asked if I had seen a picture of his naked c--k." Is that how the affidavit printed the word? Probably not. So the quote isn't accurate. In past issues, this hardhitting magazine has also censored fuck and bullshit (the latter in an essay by investigative journalist Bob Woodward). I wrote editor in chief Steve Brill to ask about the policy. He told me that these words be blocked out because, "My kids read my magazine." Maybe he should call it Brill's Children's Content.
My favorite example of prudery has to be when Men's Health — a magazine read entirely by people with penises — quoted Robin Williams explaining how to save a stand-up routine. If all else fails, he said, "go for the d—- joke." Can you believe that? A men's magazine afraid of the word dick.
All of this is why, to get to the point, I have launched the Society to Highlight Ingrate Terms (SHIT). Just as the National Rifle Association believes that a good gun owner is an educated gun owner, SHIT reminds its members that cuss words relieve a tremendous amount of tension, but only if used with respect for their power. SHIT will educate people to use swear words properly. For instance, shit is an all-purpose word; cussers should use it when failing an exam or watching a favorite team cost you $20 by blowing a huge lead. However, if you use lose more than $20, that's a fuck. If you're dealing with the IRS, that might be a shit or a fuck, depending on who did your taxes; if you're dealing with the FBI or ATF, that's always a fuck.
Among other cuss words, asshole is good for the boss or moron coworkers or in-laws, but motherfucker should be reserved for more weighty situations, such as when a mugger who shoots you even after you give him your wallet, or you realize you're slipping off the edge of the Grand Canyon as you back up for a family photo. I hear motherfucker invoked for the simplest of transgressions, such as a foul during a basketball game. No, no, no! "Fuck you" will suffice, or maybe "What the hell?" Motherfucker is a fairly serious accusation.
Membership in SHIT is free, but we do expect members to uphold certain standards. Children must be encouraged to use cuss words properly, or not at all (if a toddler wants to say shit when he falls on his face, he'll say it. Give him time). We do not swear at police officers, because they have guns. And although swear words exist in all languages, SHIT uses the English standard. Members are, however, permitted to say "Pardon my French."
Should you lack the control to use cuss words only when warranted, you may suspend your membership by saying aloud in front of two witnesses, "Fuck SHIT." Remember to burn your membership card.