I would like to lay out an argument.
- If curse words are intrinsically harmful then they should not be allowed to be said in certain situations.
- Nothing can be intrinsically harmful because of arbitrary reasons.
- If curse words are intrinsically harmful then it is because of arbitrary reasons.
- So, curse words are not intrinsically harmful.
- So, it is not the case curse words should not be allowed to be said in certain situations.
Let’s make a few distinctions. Curse words regards words that have many synonyms that are not curse words, but mean the same thing. Shit is a great example, it has many, many synonyms that are not curse words, poop, doo-doo, kaka, crap, etc. Are they impolite words? Sure, but they are not considered intrinsically harmful the way the word ‘shit’ is.
Curse words are not slurs. Slurs are words that are intrinsically harmful, as they denigrate entire groups of people as if those groups are not composed of individuals. Therefore, the allowability of curse words is distinct from the allowability of slurs.
My third premise is that if curse words are intrinsically harmful then it is because of arbitrary reasons, and as that cannot be the case, curse words cannot be intrinsically harmful.
In less academic terms, cursing is a stupid concept designed to distract people from actual problems. Even the adjective ‘curse’ reveals the idiocy of this concept, it literally suggest a word like ‘fuck’ has magical properties. It does not, it’s just a goofy word. Should everyone say ‘fuck’ all the time? Of course not, just like no one should say ‘splendiferous’ all the time, because that would be terrible.
Consider what is allowed on network television, the incredible violence, sexual aggression, the prioritization of money over human beings, the wanton disregard for suffering around the world. Not the word ‘asshole’ though! Gotta have standards! Should radio stations have to make a beeping noise instead of the word ‘fuck’ though? No, goddammit, of course not! That’s insane!
It also teaches us that the words we use are more important than the content of our speech. If little Johnny calls Sally dumb we barely bat an eye, but if he calls he fucking dumb then it’s straight to principal’s office. There is no qualitative difference, in each case Johnny is using words hurtfully, but the lesson Johnny learns is he can harass people all he wants as long as he doesn’t use certain words.
We have picked a stupid battle to fight, and it is time to recognize it. If we abandon this childish obsession with naughty words, those words stop being naughty, and we can all focus on actual problems. The fact of the matter is that Johnny needs to learn that what he intends to cause with his words is what matters, and if it is meanness and pain, then that’s a problem, regardless of the actual words used. In truth, it’s a lesson we all need to learn, myself included.