Are you cussin’ with me?
If not, you should be!
Tonight, local indie bookstore Warwick’s is hosting Benjamin Bergen, who will be reading from his book What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves. In honor of this momentous occasion (and a book I immediately added to my To Read pile upon discovering its existence), I’ve decided to share with you the top three reasons I personally have for swearing, as well as allowing my fictional characters to indulge in curse words.
As you may have guessed, this particular post is full of naughty words, so brace yourself or gird your loins or whatever it is you do when prepping for an onslaught of fantastically foul language.
Ready? Set? SWEAR!
3 – Swearing is smart
A recent study in the Language Sciences journal indicates that those who swear are not, in fact, deficient in the language arts. Indeed, their vocabularies tend to be better than the average non-swearer, despite the fact that many swear words are monosyllabic. (And listen to Bergen ponder this very conundrum over at Slate, if you’re into audio.)
So who the fuck’s laughing now, smartass?
2 – Cursing connotes creativity
Indeed, swearing need not be formal or rigid. Some of the most creative use of language I know of comes from Chuck Wendig, who loves making up his own curse words like Fuck-Missile, Jizz-Archer, Douche Blizzard, Turd-Magnet (or Turd Magnate?); Butt-Dongled, Elf-Pecked Jizz-Wizard and Pube-Shellacked, Jelly-Sucking Fuck-Turnip, courtesy of his own Random Compound Vulgarity Generator.
If inventing your own curse-word generator isn’t cool AF, I don’t know what is.
There’s also the Foul-o-Matic™, in case you need something a bit more point and click. It called me a “slapping bogle lover,” which I don’t entirely understand, but there you go. Creativity for the win!
1 – Expletives for easy authenticity
Cursing is, simply, authentic speech. If a character (or a real-life human!) drops a bowling ball on their big toe, they’re not going to calmly mutter, “Well, fudge!” They’re going to start blasting out the curse words in a blue streak, and I guarantee you the F-bombs will be about as fast and as furious as Vin Diesel in the aptly named Chevy “F-Bomb” Camaro.
Of course, all things in moderation…
If you still don’t care for curse words, I highly recommend taking a Wes Andersonian approach when ridding your manuscript of foul language: just insert the word “cuss” where every swear word might have been, as demonstrated in The Fantastic Mr. Fox:
You might also want to take a look at Jenny Hansen’s 10 Creative Ways To Express Your “Inner F-Bomb.” I particularly enjoyed her clever acronym for the word focus.
What say you?
Is cussing creative, or just a sign of an addled mind? And will you be adding Benjamin Bergen’s book to your reading list?