Are We Getting Too Comfortable With Public Profanity?


Are you offended by public profanity? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve been offended more and more of the time lately.

When it comes to public profanity, there’s a fine line when it comes to what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

I had lunch at a restaurant the other day and I couldn’t help but hear part of the conversation coming from the next table. I wasn’t trying to listen; some voices, unfortunately, just carry. And these particular voices, unfortunately, carried quite well.

It seemed every other sentence contained profanity. Most sentences contained the F-bomb. Again and again.

I recently saw a promo on one of the broadcast networks that used the initials “AF,” which intensify the word that precedes it and stands for “as f###.” If it had been cable, I’d understand. But this was one of the major networks.

And a series of commercials for a popular hot sauce bleeps a word in its slogan: “I put that #### on everything!”

The phrase “WTF” — “What the f###?” — has become so commonplace that it doesn’t raise an eyebrow anymore.

Recently I wrote about a Christian podcast and some Christians who like to label themselves as “Progressive” who drop profanity, including the F-bomb with enthusiastic abandon.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine shared on social media a thoughtful post written by an emergency room doctor that talked about dealing with death, particularly of younger people, on a daily basis. He talks about how such deaths — for which he mostly blames the victims — and how he always checks out their social media before breaking the horrible news of their deaths to their parents. It’s a poignant piece…until the very end, at which point he reiterates his need to be reminded that these victims and those they have to inform of their passing are humans. He says that helps him forget at that moment how much he “f###ing hates” the victims.

I’ll admit…when I read that last part, the piece lost something. He may well have been expressing genuine feelings all the way through. But the F-bomb in so well articulated a piece damaged it for this reader.

I would have shared it on my own social networks. If that word hadn’t been present.

I’ve said before that I’m no prude.

But maybe, at least a little, I am.

Years ago, it was believed by some that the use of profanity indicated a limited vocabulary; people, they said, would swear when their vocabulary failed them. More recently, research seems to have disproven the idea, suggesting those who use profanity may actually have a better vocabulary and have a better ability to effectively express themselves.

This, naturally, only gave those who choose to use profanity more often a sense of permission to do so at least as much going forward.

When I Love Lucy hit the airwaves in 1951, characters on television couldn’t say the word pregnant. Instead, they had to say things like expecting. What was so offensive about the word pregnant?

We’re quickly reaching the point, if we haven’t already reached it, when people will ask the same question about the F-bomb. It’s been around a long time, certainly. But its age doesn’t make it appropriate.

And its constant use these days, I wish more would realize, doesn’t make the communication more effective.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.