Some words are just too dang dramatic.
Though as a human it can be difficult, with enough effort, it is possible for me to examine a word of the English language that is shrouded in controversy, taboo, and offensiveness and see past its reputation. Because at the end of the day, cuss words, vain religious exclamations, and even ethnic/sexist slurs are simply just words. With a whole lot of emotion attached to them.
And that changes everything.
People can refer to themselves or their friends as an ethnic or sexist slur if they themselves are the specific ethnicity or gender that the slur refers to. But it’s a different story when it comes from someone outside the circle. Why? Because whatever word that comes to mind right now that I may be referring to has a lot of emotion behind it. Not just years of emotion, or even decades, but often centuries.
Emotions born out of unfair judgment, preconceived ideas, assumed inequality, and disrespect. Everything that is not Christian. Everything that is instead demonic and hellish.
But on a much lesser scale are the everyday PG rated words. Ones that have become so common they’ve lost their edge. The first time the word “sucks” was used as a degrading adjective (instead of a common verb) on cable TV and not censored was in 1983 on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. That was quite a big deal back then.
Now it’s 27 years later and I personally know a Christian author who is using that word in the title of his book. A book that will be sold in Lifeway Christian stores. People aren’t offended by the word anymore. Not even Baptists. But if this were 1977, that book would be having a different title.
Some emotionally charged words lose their emotion. While others don’t. But to ignore the current status of their offensiveness is a foolish thing to do.
I’m not good at gray areas. Everything to me has to be formulated in black and white, cut and dry. Otherwise, I stay out of it. That’s part of the reason that #4 of my writing code (as revealed in Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground ) is “avoid profanity”. Which words do I say, which words do I not say?… I’d rather just not play in that sandbox altogether.
However, in November 2009 back before I had materialized my writing code, I wrote a series called You Just Cussed that explored the history and social acceptance boundaries of profanity. Something I’m very intrigued by.
To avoid seeming corny, I didn’t censor any of the profanities; which in the process of quoting and explaining them all, there were more than I bothered to count. I wanted to help strip these words down to better understand why we find them at all offensive.
But I never advertised the series. It never showed up on a facebook link. No one was notified through e-mail when it was published. I was just testing it out. So only everyday readers who happened to look at the “recent posts” panel would have even seen it.
It just never felt right, somehow. So after about a week, I removed the series from my site.
The battle in my head: Coming across as cheesy by censoring the profanity vs. coming across as offensive by leaving all the words as they were in an effort to explain.
But now that I’ve got my writing code established, I feel at ease. I shall officially publish the series. Mostly censored.
Because I would rather stay true to my writing code than try to be as specific and literal as I have to be.
In the likeness of the way that Growing Pains created a springboard for Just the Ten of Us and how Perfect Strangers yielded Family Matters, I shall now use this post about emotionally charged words to officially introduce my new 6 part series, You Just Cussed. Back from the archives and all cleaned up.