My ears are hurting (sometimes) 4

Cuss words are best when they are used rarely.   When they are sprinkled repeatedly throughout a conversation, when they are used as a ornament of style or cool like smoking a cigarette used to indicate a certain cache, they become banal and ineffective.   There are exceptions to this. (See below.)

My ears are hurting from the barrage of swearing I hear on my daily commute falling from the lips of teens and adults talking to each other or on their blasted cell phones. 

Cuss words used indiscriminately signal a laziness of vocabulary in my opinion.

I know comics use swearing a lot but frequency doesn’t make it right or even effective.  If one swears all the time, how does one show righteous anger, angst, indignation or cool?   When Comedy Central airs a Katt Williams performance, they have to bleep his cursing so much that it becomes almost impossible to understand what he‘s saying.  It would be better to only air his performances late at night uncensored.  Don’t get me wrong.  Katt Williams makes me laugh.  His profanity is often effective but it could be halved or quartered and he would still be as funny because his routines are funny, provacative and often wise without the profanity. Profanity is a crutch he leans on too heavily.

My son curses in his conversation, some of his Facebook posts and in his comedy routines. He is funny but I find myself wincing – especially when I read his FB posts, which I do infrequently. Perhaps it is because my son that I cannot be easy about  his use of profanity.  It is one of the characteristics he inherited from his father who swore so much that I learned to cuss back to hold my own.  He cursed as part of his offense – railing against the world or just me who hadn’t done what I should when I should in the way that he wanted me to.  For this reason, curses often feel assaultive to me.  They make me withdraw, retreat, fall silent and barricade my emotions OR want to go toe-to-toe.

Some years back, I realized my conversation had become too punctuated with profanity and began to consciously monitor myself and reduce the frequency of use.

Cursing can be an effective use of language to make a point or make a statement that needs to be heard instantly as in stop effing with me!  If you say that and it’s not a phrase you use frequently, your listener will take notice and will stop.

One of the most effective uses of cursing I’ve ever read was written by the late poet Carolyn M. Rodgers, co-founder of Third World Press, ardent feminist and pioneer of the Black Arts movement.  Check out her poem, The Last MF. I can’t find the full poem but here’s part of it: 

The Last MF
By Carolyn M. Rodgers (1945-2010)
they say,that i should not use the word
muthafucka anymo
in my poetry or in any speech i give.
they say,
that i must and can only say it to myself
as the new Black Womanhood suggests
a softer self
a more reserved speaking self. they say,
that respect is hard won by a woman
who throws a word like muthafucka around
and so they say because we love you
throw that word away, Black Woman …
i say,
that i only call muthafuckas, muthafuckas
so no one should be insulted.

The late, great comedian Bernie Mac delivered an inspired and funny routine about the word on the film, The Original Kings Of Comedy.  The video has been blocked on YouTube but I’m sure you can find it.  He starts out:

I had a white guy tell me… he said, “Bern, why do black folks use the word ‘mother-fucker?'” Let me break it down, what the word “mother-fucker” actually means. “Mother-fucker” is a word that black folks have been using for years. It’s about expression. Don’t be ashamed of the word “mother-fucker.” Because “mother-fucker” is a noun: It describes a person, place or thing.

The important thing about the swearing of this poet and this comedian/actor/writer was that they had other material that didn’t have cursing at all.  They were versatile, talented, prolific and had a larger vocabulary than those seven dirty words another great (and late) comedian George Carlin riffed about.


The Blackbird Flies: Remembering Carolyn M. Rodgers by Angela Jackson 
Bernie Mac Foundation – dedicated to improving care for sarcoidosis patients. 


About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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4 thoughts on “My ears are hurting (sometimes)

  • Peggy

    Excellent post Candelaria and I love Carolyn Rodgers poem.

    The more we swear, the less emotionally potent the words become and without emotion, all that is left of a swearword is the word itself, unlikely to soothe anyone’s pain.

  • Candelaria

    Wince.  That’s the right word to describe my feeling.  It’s the casualness that bothers me.
    Glad that you understand.  Thanks for leaving a comment.