Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe cuss words are bad. They are considered rude language, vulgar, low-rent. And with good reason; they are only used when you run out of ideas, want to vent at someone or something or want to look tough in the eyes of someone even dumber than you. Cuss words are often used as the default adverb or adjective for any ocassion, and they replace words which have actual meaning1. So your language starts meaning less and less, when you use cuss words.
There’s even a club in Pasadena, CA that promotes the eradication of cuss words, and their membership is growing. And folks are taking to making up fake words that *sound* like cuss words so that they can avoid doing the nasty2.
But don’t judge them too harshly. There’s a reason ‘bad’ words are used today and were in use in Shakespeare’s time (although I don’t think he ever put anything too harsh in his works). They are a great substitute for *actually* punching someone/something out because you are mad/frustrated at some perceived slight. Think about it: primitive peoples chose some random sound and assigned it a ‘bad’ meaning, and agreed that using that sound would connote anger and pseudo-violence. So instead of fighting it out with the guy who cuts you off in the freeway, you can let a few cuss words fly and it has the same effect3
And sometimes, cuss words are just poetic, bringing me back to my main point. I remember the first time that I encountered my favorite cuss word. I was reading the works of Harlan Ellison; it was one of his short stories that was later turned into the Terminator movies. As the humans are fighting SkyNet, they rally to the cry “Smash those Metal Motherf***rs!!” and I believe that this actually made it into the script of the first Terminator movie4. Is there a more perfect matchup of two words?? Think about how much anger and hatred that simple statement conveys. And yet it is perfectly clear that a robot will NEVER be able to carry out the action in that statement. A robot has no mother, and as an emotionless entity, does not want to copulate with his mother. And since they replicate by assembling themselves in automated factories, there is no reason on Earth why a robot would copulate with another robot !!
But forget reason and logical argument. Just sit back and enjoy the melodious sound of the perfect cuss word. Better yet, use it yourself. But always tie it to a noun to which it could never apply; this makes it the perfect matchup. I have been using it of late, after watching the media coddling Democratic politicians in interviews. I rally to the cry “Motherf***ing Fourth Estate Wannabes!!” There, doesn’t that feel better already?
Disclaimer: I have been and always will be a displaced New Yorker. We know the value of a good cuss word. Any New Yorker worth his salt will appreciate what I say.
- Remember how awful it was when people started using “Smurfy” instead of a real word? [↩]
- My favorite comes from Dahl’s move “The Amazing Mr. Fox” where the word “cuss” actually takes the place of a cuss word. Brilliant !! [↩]
- Well, sometimes words escalate into violence, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work. [↩]
- Fear not, gentle Reader. Harlan Ellison successfully sued them to include his name in the credits [↩]