Posted by: Jacqui | 2007/07/25

Swearing as a means of expression?

Dear CS,

I would like your opinion on why people swear. Often I go out to public places and am offended by the poor use of language by people. I have noted that it does not matter whether I am in Dullstroom, Durban, Johannesburg or Cape Town. There seems to be no boundries. It happens amongst work colleagues (when men and women co-workers are eating out - and even children of mothers are present and mothers use bad language not minding if their children are exposed to it). I mean these are adults in their 40's. Young adults (men and women) seem to think there message is more effective by inserting many swear words. The other evening I was out with my boyfriend and at the table behind me were two men (in their early thirties) who looked pretty respectable but were making much use of the F word. I smoke and my smoke kept drifting to their direction even though I kept on moving my ashtray away from their presence. At a stage the one guy asked me to please move my ashtray as the smoke was drifting in their area. I willingly obliged and even moved to another table further away. Then I thought to myself, what about my rights? I should have told them that if they stop swearing then I will stop smoking.... I can just not comprehend the desire or need to swear. What are your thoughts on this? Recently I went on holiday to Scotland and my friend told me that they have 'clean bars' where fowl language is not allowed - else they boot you out.

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Our expert says:
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I suppose any of us might and probably would swear if we dropped a brick on our toe. What you seem to be referring to, though is the social use of swear words with very little provocation if any, as part of regular speech. And this is responsive to societal norms, which seem to have almost disappeared as regards what language is considered unacceptable for public use. And of course this sort of swearing is generally a marker for the dim and inarticulate ( otherwise they could express themselves just as vehemently but more clearly and less offensively. And there's a desensitization effect, so that such words have less and less impact, losing even their shock value.
And you'll have noticed that in recent years, women swear as much, sometimes even more than the men.
I rather like the idea of "clean bars" --- I wonder whether that idea would work here ?

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Our users say:
Posted by: Me too | 2007/07/25

I hate hate that languange or whatever it is.
smoking too

Reply to Me too
Posted by: Deubel | 2007/07/25

It is just plain bad manners and a fine example of disrespect for others.

Some people do not have a strong "presence" and thus has to enforce it by swearing......i.e. low self esteem.

Reply to Deubel
Posted by: Hope | 2007/07/25

I also don't know why people have to swear. I work in a very male dominated environment and the F word is very popular. I must also say tho that I dont like smoking either.

Reply to Hope

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