Okay, we all know those cretins who seem to know the swear words in every language, but don't know how to say hello, please, or thank you in even one foreign langauge. And we probably also know those judgmental prudes who refuse to ever learn any swear words because they don't want to seem untame, uncultured, unintelligent in their foreign language. I'm neither. But I do have an opinion...
I understand the "uncultured" argument. Without a doubt, there are endless situations in which the use of a swear word is like the use of a blunt instrument. When someone tells me they "don't give a crap", it's an empty, meaningless phrase which actually has a much smaller impact on me than if they had said, "I'm sorry, but I really don't care". The psychological and emotional impact of the latter can actually be quite severe and hurtful, whereas the former just sounds crass and yes, uneducated.
There can also be no doubt that an excessive use of swear words gives off a very abbrasive vibe. A friend who swears all the time might be fine to hang out with, but you'll have second thoughts about introducing them to an investor or a client. Or your parents.
I draw the line, though, when people tell me swearing is offensive. No person, act, or word has the power to offend. The only power anyone has over you is the power that you give them.
You see, when people are offended by swearing, they are really only offended by their own lack of control over what you say. They have an idea of how they think you should talk, and they are offended by your refusal to follow their plan.
But who are you to tell me what I'm allowed to say?
A word is only considered a "swear" word when a significant enough number of people agree that they do not want to hear it. But each group of people is subjective. In different company, that word holds absolutely no power to offend.
In fact, often, in the right company, a "swear" word has the power to amuse, to entertain, occasionally even to enlighten.
To swear or not to swear?
I believe that the best option is to choose the words that best reach the audience with whom you want to communicate. If you are talking to people who don't like "swear" words, your message will be better heard if you avoid suchs words. Once someone is offended, they stop listening to anything else you're saying.
But if your audience does not respond negatively — or indeed, responds favorably to such language — by all means, I'm in favor of their use. Effective communication means choosing the best word for the situation. And yes, sometimes, that's a "swear" word.
I'll end with an interesting video on the subject.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.
One of the most popular and comprehensive online language courses is currently running a massive Back To School sale on all their language courses and levels.
60% OFF - 4 DAYS ONLY
(they have gift certificates too)LEARN MORE