Profanity amuses me
Really, it does. And I don’t mean in the sniggering internal 12 year old sort of way. (OK, I don’t mean just in the sniggering internal 12 year old way.) I mean the very concept of profanity amuses me at a profound level.
Picture, if you will, a party full of ordinary, middle-class people. Boring, isn’t it? And I think that dip is from a can. But I digress…
Got that picture in your head? Good. Now picture what happens if, in one of those sudden lulls in conversation that happens on occasion, your voice is heard loudly and clearly saying, “I heard that John had vigorous sexual intercourse with Mary last night.” What would the reaction be? There might be some nervous tittering. A bit of the old “Ew! TMI!” reaction perhaps. What you wouldn’t get much of, however, is raw shock.
Now let’s rewind to that lull, but this time instead you say, “I heard that John fucked Mary last night.” What’s the reaction this time as the tape moves forward? My prediction is that you’d get a rippling ring of shock spreading through the room with you at its epicentre. The shock would be utterly visceral and it would be focused purely on the specifics of your word choice, not on what you chose to communicate. Despite, you know, you having just said exactly the same thing!
It is this which amuses me. It amuses me when others react with such stark negativity to certain key words and it amuses me even more when I catch myself reacting that way. I have a pet crackpot theory to explain this, too: I believe that the notion of profanity—the notion that words have intrinsic properties, divorced from the meaning communicated, that are somehow directly harmful—is the last vestiges of magical thinking left to a culture that claims to be rational.
Sometimes it’s just fun to believe in magic.