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Are Curse Words Culturally Harmful? Great Sample Essay on Profanity!

The word “profanity” is generally a reference to curse words and it is a word that has many meanings. It means using the type of words or language that can be construed as inappropriate, vulgar, insulting, foul, bad or dirty – essentially it is the act of cursing or swearing. Profanity is the type of language considered to be offensive or illicit. Additionally, it comes in different forms, e.g., it can be an expression, gesture or part of speech. It is also connected to how one behaves in a social context. In some societies, certain types of speech and/or gestures are associated with vulgarity, desecration, obnoxiousness or are taken as insults. For as long as people can remember, cursing and swearing has been an integral part of human discourse; certainly it is not a new phenomenon. But is profanity in human discourse good or bad? This essay on profanity says that, in fact, it is bad and extremely harmful.

Many curse words often have a sexual connotation and some are considered to show a racial bias. Clearly, words like these or where one finds parents or teachers cursing is not appropriate and is fundamentally wrong. Indeed, a lot of curse words are considered so offensive they are punishable by law. There are certain countries that have legislation in place to monitor profanity, particularly in public places. Swearing or cursing in public, for example, can constitute an offence under the 1986 Public Order Act (Section 5(1) and (6)) if it is deemed to alarm, distress or harass the recipient.   

The fact that people curse so much has caused much concern, not least in the area of parenting. How should children be advised about swearing? With rapid advances in technology, the rate at which very young people are exposed to profanity is alarming. It comes through the Internet, television, and through other areas of the mass media. These have all contributed to the view that swearing is no different to other everyday words. So, what advice can parents give children about using swear words?  

These days, virtually every child is exposed to profanities from an extremely young age. There is no doubt that children should learn the difference between an offensive word and one that is bad.  Any words that are intended to offend or insult a group or race of people cannot be accepted. In the home, there should be clear guidance about swearing and using profane terms. Parents should teach their children that these words are unacceptable and can cause offence. Anyone with a parenting role should do their utmost to eradicate or at least curb profanity in the home. Some ways to achieve this may be to limit or monitor the television programs and music children have access to. To be effective, these measures would require that parents lead by example, which means not swearing themselves and being selective about the type of television programs and music they themselves watch and listen to. It is worth re-emphasizing that children are exposed to curse words every day via their school, neighborhood and through television. This makes it very difficult to protect youngsters from profanity. It also makes it prudent and even expedient to advise children about swear words but not make the practice a taboo. Rather it should be forgiven when it comes from a source outside the child’s or parent’s control. 

The need to shield children from listening to profanities is great because many of these words can be harmful to them. How? Some experts say that profanity has the potential to make our culture coarser. Let us have a look at one the quotes regarding profanity. In his book Please Change Your Mind Because You Are What You Think, author Steve White (138) suggests that foul or bad language has caused more abortions, more teenage pregnancies, more children to be born out of marriage, more fatherless children, an increase in sexual activity among the very young, and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. Profanity, even mild profanity, can be harmful too in terms of spreading racial abuse and generating hate-related speech. Indeed, the psychological development of children who have been racially abused has been impacted.    

Over time, the harm caused by cursing has grown at a tremendous rate. White suggests that, over the past 50 years, the trend has been especially prevalent. Should we now consider a no profanity law? 

As many as 70% of US citizens admit to hearing English swear words every day in a public place. As many as two-thirds of these believe that there is more cursing today than was the case two decades ago. And a surprising 32% of the male population and 23% females confessed that they used the F-word every week, at least a few times.  

What profanity means should not be underestimated. Television, the Internet (especially social media) and the mass media in general can be blamed for contributing to the evolution of this harmful practice.

In the modern age, swear word usage has accelerated due to the pop (or popular) culture. This refers to the prevailing attitudes, images and ideas within the broader culture of a society. Some would argue that swear words have grown more ineffective or less offensive despite a propagation in popular culture. In the book, Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives, the author Marcel Danesi says that there has been an enucleating in the meaning of some words. Nowadays, for example, it is commonplace to use the word “slut” in a complimentary sense rather than an insulting one when referring to an attractive woman. Another argument that Danesi puts forward is that profanity is now an integral part of the popular culture language in Internet hangout or chat sites such as YouTube and MySpace. This suggests the transgressive characteristics have been lost.

The definition of profanity and its widespread integration then requires a restriction on cursing in pop culture language. Some might well argue that the impact of profanity has diminished, but the effects continue. The need to contain this is urgent. TV programs that are thought profane, for example, should not be broadcast when the young can watch them. Programs of a foul and profane nature should not be aired until night time - not before eleven o’clock. Curse words are now commonplace in theatrical productions. According to Danesi, the F-word appeared more than 100 times in one 2-hour recording of a particular popular series. Hence, pop culture needs to consider restricting the use of profanities so that the trend does not continue to spiral and expedite coarseness.

That curse word usage has escalated in modern times does not lessen its impact. These words do offend a lot of people. It is because of this that legislation has been implemented by certain governments to keep check on swearing in public. Great Britain, the birthplace of the famous Shakespearean works, is a prime example with its implementation of the 1986 Public Order Act. A lot of parents wish to bring their children up in a religious and moral way and protect them from profanity. Hence, many of these are offended by swearing particularly in front of children.   

Nonetheless, some contradiction exists. While there are parents who want to protect their children from profanity language and do not want them to curse, some of these are the precise people who make speeches peppered with such words. Therefore, parents should be careful not to act in a contradictory manner. These parents should choose language carefully so their children are not affected. It is acceptable for adults to watch profane programs because their maturity enables them to put any profanities into context. Children are different. Their judgment is not sufficiently well-developed and they may well grow up in a morally misguided way and/or inadvertently find themselves abusing certain laws.

The issues surrounding profanity are very diverse. They range from the manner in which parents advise their children on the inappropriateness of swear words to the way they should set an example by avoiding such words themselves. Everything considered, there is an urgent need to control profanity. Anyone with a stake in popular culture and the consumers of pop culture products (those who produce television and theatrical shows) need to take action because society, and particularly its younger members, is harmed by profanity. There is a danger that new generations will be born into a culture of even greater coarseness. Do we really want more teenage pregnancies, abortions and the other effects alluded to in this article?