the profane appears
in words with(out) meaning
even in relief
words should carry weight
not religious chains
nor worldly carelessness
coarse language becomes weak
sentimental language becomes destructive
my failings come
in diluted speech
developing heart (bridle tongue)
maturing tongue (releasing heart)
pierces in order to heal
…a string of (un)connected thoughts…
It was a frightening moment to my junior high, adolescent mind. It just naturally came out. It wasn’t overly expressive or angered in its tone, just matter-of-factly, but it was in front of my Mom. I sat in her car shuffling through a trapper keeper, remembering that I forgot an assignment at school. “Oh, shit”, I said out loud. This was the first time Mom heard my potty mouth. Eyes widened as I realized the context I was in, fear formed condensation on my forehead instantaneously. I turned to Mom who had a quizzical look on top of a furrowed brow that thankfully gave way to her bursting out in laughter at an insanely awkward moment between parent and teenager.
* * *
The core definition of an “expletive” is that it serves as a filler word. Some of my neighbors use their words in this way… often. “Get the hell outside and pick up your mother fucking shit before I fucking throw it in the damn trashcan myself.” The problem is that using expletives (filler words) both says something and nothing at the same time. In the broader spectrum, it’s saying that my neighbors are typically in an angry place of unrest. Consequently, their words in the immediate context are saying nothing because they are so common, which is the core definition of the word vulgar. If they did want to use their language to say something strong in an appropriate situation, it would be very difficult for the meaning to get through because there would be nothing distinct in their phraseology.
* * *
“But it was not your fault but mine // And it was your heart on the line // I really fucked it up this time // Didn’t I, my dear?” Confession is strong language. Rather than wailing in shame or simply turning a blind eye, we need pictures (if not in-the-flesh examples) of men experientially working through their wrong-doings.
* * *
Scripture has much to say about the words that come out of my mouth, especially in their connection to heart. What comes out shouldn’t be filthy, careless/foolish/corrupt/obscene talk… nor crude joking, slander, or irreverent babble. It shouldn’t be language that is dishonoring, lazy, worthless, full of shame, abusive, empty, false. Rather… blessing, thanksgiving, and only that which is used to build up should speak meaning into being.
The “liberal” side of me needs to take the face value of this more seriously, making sure I’m not using my freedom as a cover-up for evil (whether consciously or not), for one who lives in such things has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
The “conservative” side of me needs to watch out for hollow rules that end up having no connection to the heart. I could end up not using “profanity” in my speech, yet have what I’m saying be completely destructive and godless. Conversely, consider the possibility of “cursing” that actually blesses, of words that strip down false foundations (skybalon), of strong language filled with truth and grace.
* * *
“This ol’ world’s too fucked up for any firstborn son.” The dark ethereal gospel tones of Over the Rhine’s vocals and instrumentation in this song show both a heart of hurt and eyes of hope. It is in the severity of darkness that light most gloriously pierces.
* * *
My wife, Naomi, never kissed a guy before me… in fact she only had 1 or maybe 2 pseudo-boyfriends before we met. She was home schooled and grew up fairly conservative… with the big no-no’s being don’t have sex before marriage, don’t listen to worldly music, and don’t cuss. One day we will write a book about what happens when a home schooled girl and a public school guy fall in love and get married.
Even though her record was spotless physically when it came to guys, I had jealousy issues our first year of marriage. There was an anti-trust issue that would come out weekly when she would mention something about a guy in her past or present and I would jokingly (aka passive aggressively) make a stupid voice and say, “Oh, did you make out with him?!” I blame my high school years when my girlfriend cheated on me by making out with “my friend” on the bus… the band bus… puke in a tuba and blow it out your horn, you know… but I digress.
So this anti-trust thing kept grating on Naomi who did nothing wrong, nor even hinting at anything wrong. One evening we were walking out the door, she said some generic comment that had a guy in it and I replied with my typical reaction. She stopped and got her game-face on, looked me in the eye and said, “What the fuck are you talking about!”
Ooooohhhhh shit I thought. The home school tongue just uttered the mother (pun) of all curse words… whatever jealousy junk I was putting on her wasn’t something to be laughed off any more, I needed to deal with it and get over it. And I did… because of that moment… because of the moment that Naomi used strong language and opened my spirit up to the severity of my hurt and accusations. She did not sin in the use of her language, in fact, if anything, it was life giving and freeing.
* * *
We were just being kids for the most part, running around in the green grass of our babysitter’s back yard on a late spring day. We were all around the age of 10. Somehow we got into the competition of quietly letting each other know what swear words we knew even if we didn’t know the proper way or definitions of them. Laughter ensued and adrenaline rushed in our secret meeting. Little did we know that the warm breeze carried our lyrics to the babysitter’s ears. Once inside, she sat us down, told us what she heard and gave us some options. Either we would tell our parents what we were saying or she would wash our mouth out with soap. The choice was ours. I attempted to convince her that I would tell my dad when I got home… no need to make a big deal out of it in front of others. My friend one-upped my bull-crap negotiation saying that he himself would be sure to wash his own mouth out with soap.
The sad thing is that we still try to wash our own mouth out with soap, but it doesn’t work… we need something much deeper than that.
In what context can “obscene” language be used in a jovial way
or as a social jab for entertainment? How about with gourds?
Consider how language, words and their meaning change throughout time.
Should words always retain originally thought
or always be interpreted in their cultural context?
Are there certain words that should be above cultural change and redefinition?