I think about a lot of weird things. I don’t usually share them because they might offend someone or make someone not want to be my friend or make someone think badly of me . They might reflect poorly on Jesus. They might be a stumbling block to someone. They might alienate me from people I’d like to be a part of. But I am beginning to feel slightly like a fraud. So.
I’ve been thinking about “curses” or cuss words or swear words or whatever you call them where you are. I generally try not to use them but they do occasionally slip out and frankly, there are times when a curse word is the most apt in a given situation. I realize that probably makes me a vulgar person and a bad Christian. Consider this my confession and a statement of my resolve to do better. But I think I might be in good company.
I’ve counted five different kinds of curses. In order of offensiveness from least offensive to most:
- a vulgar word that describes something literal such as a body part or excrement
- an interjection, usually given in a moment of surprise
- an expression of dismay
- an oath or swearing
- an insult – a vulgar word describing someone or something figuratively as a body part or excrement or some other bad thing
I think the figurative curse words are far more offensive and more powerful than literal ones. Using a slang word for actual fecal matter is not nearly as potent as Isaiah comparing our righteousness to used feminine hygiene products* or Paul saying this. Or John Piper saying that sometimes God kicks our ass or what he said about the prosperity “gospel.”
‘Suck’ is a weird one because it’s all about context. Saying that I’m sucking on a cough drop to soothe my sore throat isn’t a curse, but saying that this sore throat sucks is considered a mild expletive. If it means what I think it means then it’s a lot raunchier than many supposedly “harder” words. I mean, sucks what exactly? Don’t answer that.
And what about the ‘F word’? I had a global studies teacher in high school who told us it was an acronym. A few years later someone else also told me it was an acronym but of a different sort. Both sources were likely wrong. Or does it come from the German? More importantly, what does it mean? I know that literally it describes sexual intercourse, but what does “F you” mean? Is it a suggestion that the person should go and do that for a while? Or is it a request from the speaker to engage in that activity?
Foreign curses are interesting too. I know a woman who can say “kiss my butt” in at least three different languages. I grew up in a neighborhood with a large Italian population so I know a few of those. There’s one, usually considered to be the equivalent of the American F word, but which is in my opinion much more graphic. Add the Italian slang for heiny to the imperative form of the verb “fare” and you’ve got something truly gross.
Y’know what’s even better than outright cursing, though? The things people say to avoid it. “For crying out loud.” “That stinks.” “Up your nose with a rubber hose.” I have a friend who actually says “Sugar Honey Iced Tea.”
Alrighty then. I don’t really have a point to all this so I guess I don’t have a nice way to end it either.
*Yes, that’s what it means.