I used a very bad word at work today. I used it with a coworker who has also been known to use bad words (and yes, he has a higher-ranking job title). But my bad word was very bad. And he didn't like it. I felt ashamed when he went "Hey, come on now." I berated myself for using the bad word all day. In fact, I'm blushing now. Not because I used it, but because he was offended.
But apart from feeling bad for offending someone, I wondered if I should feel bad for swearing. Yes, the word was atrocious. But nobody likes it when a woman swears. Men can drop f-bombs all day but the second a woman does, particularly that one, she's vulgar. I find that double-standard to be disgusting.
So this week's Word Up is expletive. Because although I love swearing, I won't print the words here on the blog for a variety of reasons that I'll have to examine in detail later. Some of you use the f word on your blogs, and I salute you for that freedom. But those of you who do, apart from one, also don't use your real names. Does that have anything to do with it?
Expletives are interesting. Wikipedia says they are "a term in linguistics for a meaningless word filling a syntactic vacancy." I've always thought that expletives are a lazy way of expressing emotion. A clever person should come up with a less common way -- a more creative way -- to describe the emotion. But expletives are interesting because there's a whole morality tied up in them, too. We don't want our children using expletives. I called something a "frickin'" something today and the whippersnapper starting saying "frickin.'" We were not pleased (although secretly I was a bit). Women are vulgar when we use expletives. Expletives don't belong in polite society.
I'll give you that if people are offended by expletives, then we should be sensitive to that, but I don't know that I buy any of the other above points (although I still don't want my whippersnapper using expletives, but probably because he can't judge for himself whether it's appropriate).
So maybe I shouldn't have used the expletive today that I did. (It's the worst one). I'll certainly try (harder) to watch my mouth, especially at work. But I defy myself to feel bad about it, because I don't agree on a fundamental level that it's really wrong. Just a lazy word for expressing passion. (In my case, a passionate anger over an evil and stupid person. Okay, that sounds horrible. But that's how I felt at the time.)
What do you think about women using expletives, about the fact that they're taboo, and about using them in your writing?
And the word? Check the picture, liberated with compliments to Failblog.org. Last night I teased some of you on Twitter about it. There. Now you know. Does that change things?