The Power of Profanity

I don’t use profanity a lot, but I’m not averse to it. It has its place. Like any use of words it can make a statement or idea more impactful.

Unfortunately it can also detract, either when used inappropriately, or when taken so.

Profanity, in and of itself, does not offend me. But it does offend some.

And, to be honest, I think that’s pretty sad.

I occasionally get complaints on Ask Leo! about my use of language. Now, to be clear, there’s no way I consider profanity appropriate for that audience. I avoid it, I never use it there on purpose, and I’ll censor it out of the comments that people leave if they use it.

That leads to an interesting conundrum: what’s “profane”?

I’ve had people complain because I said something “sucks” – believing that phrase to have pornographic origins. I’ve had people react to my use of “OMG”, because they considered it blasphemous.

I consider those kinds of complaints silly. Needless to say I ignore them. Perhaps I’ll respond with something snarky like “What’s wrong with Oh My Gosh?” 🙂

Consider how much power these people have given me. I can offend them with a single word! The context is irrelevant.

More the point, look at how much control of their own emotions they have placed directly in the hands of others. When they read a word someone else, anyone else, has written, they get offended. Done.

That’s sad. That so many people give such simple words so much power without regard to the ideas or intent behind them. They’ve given someone a button that says “Push Here!”. And you know they’re going to push it. Often. Any message behind the words will be instantly lost in a cloud of self-righteous offense.

Get offended by my ideas. Get offended by my intent. Get offended by my message. But if you’re going to get offended by a simple choice of words, you’ll likely be ignoring what I have to say.

There are writers and thought leaders out there who aren’t afraid of using language to make their point. If that includes profanity – more than just “sucks” or “OMG” – then that’s what they’ll use. I regularly read authors whose use of profanity is a part of their well-honed craft, creating messages that are memorable, inspirational, and educational.

If you choose to be offended (and have no doubt, it is your choice) by the use of a particular word or two, you’ll be that much the poorer for it.

Get over it.

(And yes, I was sorely tempted to add some gratuitous profanity to this post. It might have added humor, for some, but ultimately didn’t serve my message.)