A short article about the current trend of including swear words in the titles of books.
I have trouble approaching swears with the awe that is apparently their due. They are everywhere - movies, television shows, songs, books, not to mention everyday conversation. When you grow up constantly hearing these words, they are of course going to become a part of your own lexicon. And since we often fit them into our sentences the same way we slip in “like” and “um”, they become fairly meaningless. Filler words. The only thing that makes us think they are “bad” is that everyone says they are.
I don’t mean swears that are derogatory terms - those, on top of having their own derogatory meanings, are specifically used to exhibit a higher level of anger/hatred/cruelty than the tamer words that express similar sentiments.
But words only have as much power as we give them. Why do the dictionary entries for swear words evolve so much slower than those of other words? Are we afraid that society would devolve into debauchery if these words didn’t seem like the villains of the dictionary?
Every definition of “shit (noun)” in Merriam-Webster starts with “usually vulgar.” Would it be so terrible if additional entries said:
- object, thing, stuff - usually something particularly good or bad: This shit is amazing.
- the best, something amazing - usually preceded by “the”: This band is the shit!
I know it looks silly, but the point is that we pick up swear words from our culture. To label every usage of every swear word as profane ignores how words evolve over time, and the reality of how we use these words to express ourselves.