WILL UNWOUND #562: “Librarians and Swearing – the Pros and Cons”September 23, 2011
Swearing has become a regular topic in the Unwinders Tavern lately. It’s time to address the issue head on.
- It is the idiom of the day – Let’s face it. Times change and language changes. I can remember a time – the 1950s – when language was a part of morality. Bad words, dirty words, and swear words were considered not just crude but also immoral. In fact the “f” word was banned from publication because of a variety of obscenity laws. That all changed in the 1960s when because of VietNam, young people lost respect for authority. Now our societal moral code is basically “anything goes.” As a result, swear words are an integral part of our everyday idiom. Rare is the movie, cable television show, or Sirius radio program that is not peppered with words that were once deemed obscene by law.
- Verbal Forcefulness requires a full arsenal of swear words – Ever visit a construction site? You don’t get your point across if you don’t drop the “f” bomb, take a pot shot at someone with the “a” word, or backstab a man with the “p” word or a woman with the “c” word. For better or worse, the work world is becoming one big construction site, and so even in the most polite venues of employment (including libraries), swear words constitute an aresenal of weapons to be unsheathed and deployed if you want to be taken seriously as an alpha male or female.
- The library profession is all about freedom of expression and intellectual freedom – Banned Books week is upon us. Yes, many books have been banned in libraries across the land, but for many decades publishers, fearing retribution from obscenity laws, censored the f word in their publications. Therefore, by using obscenities we are upholding our rights to freedom of expression.
- Swearing is good for our uptight image – Is there a better way to be a Marian buster than to swear like a sailor?
- Swear words are still very offensive to many people – You may feel that using the f word as a noun, verb, participle, and gerund is cool for our image, but many people are still offended by the word. Why alienate a good chunk of your user base?
- The librarian stereotype is actually quite positive and distinctive in this day and age – What’s wrong with serious, structured, staid, and silent? These four qualities are as rare as gold in today’s out of control culture. Cherish them.
- Why tempt fate – The word “blasphemy” is as out of style as the word “morality.” But using the Lord’s name in vain is a violation of the 3rd Commandment. You’re putting your mojo in jeopardy when you put God in the gutter. Very bad karma. For a good confessor I highly recommend Father Bob at St. Michael’s.
- Swearing is a manifestation of a limited vocabulary – We librarians are well educated, smart, and quite inquisitive. Why surrender our smart card by limiting our vocabulary to the lowest common denominator?
- Swearing no longer shocks – The biggest value of the well positioned swear word has always been that it grabs the attention of your audience. Not any more. Not swearing is actually more captivating today especially if you can come up with colorful phrases that have that special ring to them.
- Personally, I think not swearing is more effective today than swearing for the last reason given above. Swearing has become boring and hackneyed. Much more effective is the turn of phrase that sparkles and stuns without the assistance of obscenities.
Question of the Day
- My favorite phrase is one that my old high school English teacher, Mrs. Wells, used to use to great effect. To show displeasure she would say: “Oh, for cracking ice!” I’ve never forgotten it and I’ve never heard it from anyone else. So I use it all the time.
- What is your favorite way to voice displeasure without resorting to the alphabet soup of obscenities?