X is for X-rated

X is for X-rated

Not so long ago, I shared a very interesting post about writing to a Facebook group for Christian writers; the post contained some strong language and I put up a content note so that people could avoid if they chose or to read it later as it was something one would call NSFW (not suitable for work). I’ve never had much of a beef with strong language; the use of so-called swear words is for a writer a fine line between realism and personal sensibilities. For someone of faith, it would seem it’s the biggest, most heinous of crimes, judging by the reactions I saw then and at other times. I’m not going to go into the theology of it; that’s not my bag and despite what people say, the evidence that the use of strong or even foul language is forbidden in the Bible, is weak, flawed and based on simplistic thinking, poor understanding of the texts and ambiguous translations.

Words are just words. The use of culturally taboo words in our society serves a very valuable function, when used wisely. If you are not someone who peppers their speech with “rude” words, there is a powerful endorphine boost if they are used in moments of extreme need (pain, grief, shock etc) that is diluted if you are habituated to using them; it’s the breaking of taboo that gives that rush that will relieve pain, give sometimes a rush of energy (to lift the car off your foot) and allow feelings that have become blocked and frozen to flow again.

What are truly obscenities in this world are not the f-word or the c-word, but rather the abuses of war, rape, famine, cruelty, political greed, alienation and a hundred other things that in my book are far more to be recoiled from than the occasional ripe phrase ripped from an honest, hurting heart.

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12 thoughts on “X is for X-rated

  1. Well said Vivienne: and how impossible it is to put this sensible view to those who have had their minds closed by, as you say, being taught wrong information regarding texts which are from ancient cultures, using ‘swear words’ in, actually, ‘swearing’ as in a court etc – not as an exclamation or emphasising word. You are quite right about what is truly awful in the world …

  2. You’re telling only part of the account, Vivienne. I believe there were just two members (from the many who posted on that thread) who objected to the ‘bad language’ – several members backed you up for having placed a warning beforehand, and the link to the article you gave actually led to a thoughtful discussion. As for the members who objected, nowhere did they imply that cursing was more ‘heinous’ than any other crime in the world. For the benefit of those who didn’t see the original thread, it concerned self-publishing.

    • Since the FB group is open only to members, and the discussions there have been ongoing on this topic and related ones for some years, I was referring to that discussion and to others on the same topic, there, and elsewhere as a general thing and had conflated the fairly extensive examples into a more potted account. Various folks did indeed back me up, but on occasions where the topic has reared its ugly head there’s a very strong sense that people feel far more strongly about it than about almost anything else.

  3. How right you are, Vivienne.
    I have just read and enjoyed The Book Thief. Before I read it someone told me that there was a lot of profanity in it. I am not sure whether he thought I would avoid books with strong language or whether that had been what was most memorable for him. It is there for a reason. Swearing just for the sake of it does not add anything to a novel. Sue

    • Few writers tend to put in stuff *just for the sake of it*. There’s a limited number of words in which to get across your message, so we tend to choose them carefully.

    • Normally, once a person has had a comment approved on a WordPress blog, their comments go through automatically. Otherwise it would be a real chore to approve every single comment for each post.

  4. Each time I’ve commented on your blog, Vivienne, it’s had to wait to be approved. No matter, I’m glad to see my replies there now.

  5. Viv, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Tony Campolo. He’s a sociology prof and a Christian author here in the States. This quote often comes up in discussions like this. It’s from a speech at least 25 years ago.

    I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.

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