To hell with false dichotomies

PR flack James V. O'Connor wants people to stop swearing (via memepool).What bothers me is that he distinguishes between casual and causal swearing and then doesn't use his own distinction. Causal, of course, being swearing when have a reason, as when you're mad or have hurt yourself. O'Connor makes no allowances for swearing with a purpose, instead preaching a saccharine power-of-positive-thinking outlook of avoiding all swearing.

I avoid casual swearing on Zen Haiku as a conscious stylistic decision. But it's like cutting verbiage like "really" or "I think" (what else is a web log?).

Nor does swearing reflect a limited vocabulary. This false dichotomy implies you either have a big vocabulary and don't swear, or you swear and have a limited vocabulary, which, like many black-or-white dichotomies is simply not true.

A friend with a large vocabulary and a trenchant wit swears whenever she feels like it—which isn't often, but is just as trenchant as when she doesn't swear. A more accurate statement would be: people with limited vocabularies reuse more words in general, including (relatively) innocuous ones such as "like" or "you know".

Swearing is not inherently hostile either. Some of the most hostile situations (a tax audit, a day in court) typically involve no swearing, and hanging out with good friends, one of life's true pleasures, can involve lots of swearing.

Of course swearing isn't always appropriate, but I'd rather hear four letter words at a hardware store than details of a medical procedure or someone screaming into a cell phone (often without swearing, because that would annoy people.)

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, January 23, 2003 (Link)


Posted by jazz Friday, January 24, 2003 at 03:05 PM

I think I might write him and tell him
I just don't give a fuck

Posted by Vincenr Monday, January 27, 2003 at 01:59 AM

yes i saw that link thought it was a bit limited and facist think. PC bullshit pc is the bastred stepchild of facistm yes i spelled that wrong :-)

Posted by Karen Monday, January 27, 2003 at 04:46 PM

I agree that the dichotomy mentioned is a false one, but it seems that so many people today are so oblivious to common ettiquette that they need hard and fast rules such as "Never use expletives." Such a rule might be the only feasible way of convincing most people that excessive vulgarity detracts from one's message.

Posted by Chad Lundgren Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 11:14 PM

Maybe those deaf to social nuance do need an iron-clad rule, since a more situational one would just confuse them. I know I usually enjoy implying more: I'm pretty free in my use of "explicit" in its original meaning of a "direct reference" and pretend to be deaf to the other more raunchy meaning. The way I look at it, explicit is about half way there to "intercourse" which used to just mean social interaction of a general and not a sexual nature. I guess you could say I like explicit implication.

I have noticed that Bay Area and New York web sites tend to use swearing more. I'm not talking about personal sites, I'm talking about sites with a more general orientation like Zen Haiku. This fits in with the comment a former co-worker of mine, who said the F word is considered normal business parlance in New York, while it isn't here in Albuquerque.