Indecency vs. free speech (no Who)

Scott Schrade schrade at
Tue Apr 20 19:30:31 CDT 2004

> Surely we can find equally descriptive words among the ones we 
> know than a swear word for public use?

I agree.  I'm not defending Bono's actions.  I'm just amused at society's
continuing attempts to come to terms with swearing & define its legitimacy,
or lack thereof, within the community.  Like I said, it's been going on for 
quite some time.

> What were his conclusions?

That attempts to stifle swearing amongst classes of people is almost
always doomed to failure.  That swear words, like all words, have a
life of their own & fall in & out of use over periods of time.  That swear
words, again like other words, fluctuate in their meaning & potency,
if you will, over time, too.

That swearing can be a legitimate function of language, even a necessary
one, as it acts as a release of tension & anger within the user.  That
there is good swearing & bad swearing.  Well-crafted, imaginative forms
of swearing as opposed to cheaply employed, unimaginative forms, as
well.  (Think Bono!)

That there are many distinct types of swearing:  There's swearing, cursing, 
profanity, blasphemy, obscenity, vulgarity, & euphemistic swearing (gosh

The author provides many examples of swearing throughout literature
(both published literature & private letters) & looks at opinions on
swearing over time, as well.  And of course the words employed in
swearing are considered, too.

> The C word has been, as far as I know, and still is, for that 400 years
> probably the most taboo word, but in Shakespeare's day (I think I'm 
> right) it was used without much inhibition.

Here's some of what Montagu says about that particular word.  Please
don't be offended if I type it out fully.  This is a scholarly discussion!

As a swearword "cunt" does not appear to have an origin more ancient
than the 19th century, although as a Standard English word for the 
female pudenda it is of considerable antiquity, dating from Middle
English times.

Chaucer, in 1387, spelled the word "queynte" or "queinte," as in The 
Miller's Tale.  Nicholas wooed Alison

     And prively he caughte hire by the queynte.

Our interest here is not in the permissible but in the nonpermissable
use of the word.  From the 15th century to the present day the word
was avoided in written & polite spoken English.  From the beginning
of the 18th century to 1960, except in the reprinting of old classics,
the word was held to be obscene when printed in full.

As a pejorative description of a fool, a stupid person, the word was
widely used during the first decade of the 20th century & enjoyed
considerable popularity among the fighting forces during WWI.  While
retaining this sense it also shifted in meaning to be applied pejorative-
ly to material objects, and in yet a third sense came to be applied
in a spirit of amiability to old friends, as in, "How are you, you old

Does a term that continues to be used as a swearword cease to be 
a swearword when it is used as an honorific?  It does not.  The swear-
word's intensity, its energy charge, is borrowed for the occasion to 
convey to the other the depth as well as the kind of feeling one has for 
him.  The other usually gets the message without the slightest misunder-

The book is full of fascinating insights such as this.

> Scatological or etymological??

Definitely etymological.  And historical.

- SCHRADE in Akron

The Council For Secular Humanism

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