In previous posts, I’ve cussed a bit here and there, even sworn about my religious experience, AKA Mormon mission to Pennsylvania. My first blog was about my soccer playing daughter. I encouraged her in a youth conference letter to: GO FORTH AND KICK … (insert the last part of Harass.) She giggled when she read it. Her mother and I were leaders at the conference and it was fun to see her smile at her father’s loose tongue. Too loose, some would claim, and I don’t disagree. I wasn’t born with a foul mouth. It’s learned behavior that started on a dairy when I was thirteen. The owner, a man named Oscar, claimed anyone who didn’t cuss “never owned a hay baler.”
I’ve buggered my knuckles while wrenching machinery, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures, been kicked by horses, slipped on ice, stubbed my toes in the dark, been burned, scraped, lacerated and sworn every time. My dad, whose swearing has diminished over the years, has asked, “Does that make it feel any better?”
I read a study a few years ago claiming that because swear words were connected in our brains as emotional language, the act of cussing in a tense situation actually relieved stress. Some would argue swearing increases our pain when the wrench slips from the baler, but I agree with Oscar and can honestly answer “yes” to dad’s question.
In those moments, cussing makes me feel a heck of a lot better.
So here’s the problem. While it makes me feel better, it makes others uncomfortable. When it comes to literature, I don’t mind it any more than Oscar did, but I’m sensitive to those who do— to a degree.
An author whose writing I admire, Andrew Smith, cusses up a hurricane in The Marbury Lens and its sequel Passenger. In addition to a great story, Andrew puts on a writing clinic as the rough edged teenage boys talk like teenage boys do. To write it any other way wouldn’t do the story or characters justice in my mind. In Richard Paul Evans books he’ll allude to a cussing character, which has worked for me.
The far end of striking profanity in literature comes from a friend and fellow author whose story included a direct quote from Mormon Prophet Brigham Young. The quote was pertinent to my friend’s story and it was quoted precisely as it came from Brigham’s mouth (over the pulpit I might add.) Sensitive to their audience, the publisher scrubbed the swear word.
To this I said “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me! That’s taking it just too darn far!”
I’m guessing the editor at the publisher (which is named after a sweet smelling tree that’s used for fence posts, and a place where Daniel Boone hid from the Indians) has ever owned a hay baler.
I’ve gone on long enough. What the heck do you think?
The idea for this profanity free blog post was inspired by friend and fellow author Teri Harman’s post on clean romance which I encourage reading. http://www.teriharman.com/2013/01/none-at-allor-just-little-question-of.html