A great number of good writers use a variety of swear words to express a realistic situation or a conversation which illustrates more fully the dramatic scenes they are trying to convey to their readers. In fact, many consider words that some find repulsive as poetic, expressive, building trust and offer crucial linguistic tools. However, they are also maligned as the words can only be written in most newspapers and magazines with the use of asterisks.
A US academic has called for the rehabilitation of swear words. ‘Profanity is poetic,’ says Michael Adams of Indiana University. ‘Poetic, because it’s a surplus of expressiveness and also poetic because there is something poetic in an extremely frustrated person finding no other word suitable for the level of frustration they feel.’
Professor Adams, who has written the book In Praise of Profanity, says that ‘the versatility of swearing and its power makes it a much underappreciated linguistic device. They are words that punctuate experience. Profanity is artful speech. It is also socially useful – research has shown that swearing is a way of cementing bonds in groups. You can use it to foster intimacy and friendship; it creates solidarity between members of a group,’ he maintains. There is though, he admits, a paradox here: You cannot praise profanity without to some extent legitimizing it, at which point it ceases to be swearing.
A failure to preserve the profane he believes would mean letting down future generations. There should be less casual swearing: ‘We should restrain ourselves, hoping our restraint gives more power to the profanity when it is useful to kids.‘
What I find unacceptable, however, is when profanity is tediously repeated which in my view robs it of the impact it is meant to have. It will become self-defeating and rather shoddy.
It is then that its poetic side effect vanishes as a result of its multitudinous repetition. Like everything else, indulgence at times can have its drawbacks.