Casual Expletives

Once, my brother came to visit Berkeley with a few friends. I remember one specifically for his casual use of expletives. He wasn’t prolific in his use of such words, but he would pepper his speech at times with “that’s f***ing awesome” and such. 

I’m not sure why he thought it was appropriate to use such words. They added nothing to the conversation and struck me as careless. It was as if he was trying to talk older than his age, as if someone had told him that to be an adult is to use such language. Every time he threw out such a word, I imagined him as a little boy wearing his daddy’s clothes and saying “Look! I’m an adult!”

Truth is, when I hear people use such words so casually, I still get that same image. I don’t have a problem with the word itself. Every word has its place and its appropriate use. Yet to brandish profanity in such a cavalier way seems tactless. Profanity uses the shock of taboo to imbue language with emotional impact. As someone who cares about words, it is akin to using a scalpel like a butcher knife. Precision, economy, and elegance are lost to brute velocity.

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