Casanova Frankenstein: It’s so easy to get the best of people when they care about each other. Which is why evil will always have the edge. You good guys are always so bound by the rules.
Swearing, while not its only function, has a lot to do with offending people. Swearing is a necessary social sanction that does a lot of good in the world. There will always be people in this world that deserve to be told off. (Like my neighbor for example.) But in the process of telling each other where to shove it, we also reaffirm and establish who in the world is desirable and who is unwanted. So if I call you dumb, stupid, lame, gay, retarded, or even a girl, I’m not only saying that women, non-cis gendered people, or the differently abled are inherently bad, I’m also invoking all of the power of ableism, homophobia, and patriarchy to make you feel bad. Too many curse words strengthen the kind of social structures that we should be dismantling. I want to quickly and easily compare people to the parts of society that I find gross and unseemly. I want words that compare people to those with ill begotten wealth or obscene power but, so far, calling someone the President of the United States of America doesn’t have the sticking power it should.
Lord, what a div.
The shift in taboos away from sacrilege and gross-out topics toward more personal and, well, flat-out mean epithets appears to be a move in the right direction. The increasingly offensive nature of these words—and the visceral, emotional responses they trigger within us when spoken or heard—just might amount to a signifier of social progress. “There’s got to be something that people take seriously” and see as out of bounds these days, says Allan. “And right now, it’s human frailties.”
Progress? More like the fickle nature of fashion, aimlessly wandering around in circles. There will always be people who want to shock and push boundaries for the sake of doing it, and there will always be uptight prigs who want to mother-hen everyone else into line with their ideals. The battleground will change, yet the battle will remain the same. In the meantime, our overly-neurotic friend above should relax: calling someone a “fucking moron” does not increase, in some quantifiable way, the likelihood that the U.S. will re-introduce eugenics legislation to overwhelming public approval. The epithet does not seep into the cultural groundwater to accumulate with other social toxins, thus contaminating us all just that little bit more with a desire to sterilize the unfit. Language expresses so much more than simple binary logical propositions.