By now the "F" word has become so commonplace throughout the English-speaking world that one does not even notice it. Children use it in the street. Novelists make the most of it. It has become, in the lexicon of scurrility, a word without meaning.Read the whole thing. Morris is certainly correct in saying that profanity has lost some of its pop in recent years, although I doubt it's to the degree in which she would like us to believe. (Note her telling use of "the 'F' word" to signify, well, the "F" word.) Also, can one really argue that obscenity's edge has dulled solely because of the blunting of underlying taboos? Isn't it rather the case that the connection between ungracious syllables and the subject itself gets sliced through repetition of the former? I mean, taboos against incest are still pretty darn strong, and I can think of one popular obscenity that refers to it. (You are all bright people, dear readers, so I trust you can figure out said expression on your own.) Do those who employ fully comprehend what they're referencing when they open their mouths? Doubtful.
And it is in this way, I fear, that the whole repertoire of bad language is losing its true function and its style -- the function of shock, the style of effect. "Bugger off!" really meant something when Churchill used it half a century ago. Today it is milk-sop stuff.
Time has overtaken the vocabulary because it was based upon now unfashionable conceptions -- the mystery of religion, the exciting taboos of sex.
Why belabor the point? Well, whether or not you approve of profanity in personal speech (for the record, I don't), you can probably still concede that it serves a purpose in creative writing. A foul word can establish a negative character or drive home a rhetorical point. But if repetition is what robs profanity of its punch, if it turns it into just another string of sounds, then we ought to use it sparingly. Carefulness is key.
(Picture: CC 2005 by sabine01)