We have a cursing problem. Cursing is constant and never ending. Almost every conversation contains curses. The one exception is when we’re around kids. Although refraining from cursing in front of kids doesn’t seem to stop the kids from swearing themselves. I’m not personally offended every time I hear a curse, which is good. Otherwise, I’d be offended nearly every waking moment. But I do think this constant swearing is a problem.
First of all, curses used to serve a purpose. They were powerful words. They could be used as really intense intensifiers. They could be used to severely insult someone. Or they could be used as a deadly serious exclamation. They don’t work in any of those ways anymore. Swears are so ubiquitous that they don’t intensify anything. They are no more insulting than any other words. They don’t even warrant an exclamation point anymore.
In fact, the constant use of curses has basically stripped them of all meaning. Saying the F-word or the S-word doesn’t add anything to a sentence. It’s as meaningful as saying “like” every other word. They are little more than vocal ticks. Um is more interesting at this point.
Another problem with swearing is it impoverishes our vocabulary. People use the same half dozen words over and over and over and over again. Back when the words were powerful, they were saved for important situations. For minor intensifiers, insults, and exclamations, people needed to go to other words. It leant a certain flexibility to our language that we’ve lost.
It’s a little confusing why, in the last 40-50 years, expletives have become so popular. It could be because people get a little thrill when they say something they know they shouldn’t say. Although that’s being rebellious in the most conformist way possible. It could be as simple as the fact that people no longer appreciate the language that they speak. I don’t know. What I do know, as someone who does appreciate words and language, is that curses are making our language dull. That makes me sad.