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since 06-10-99
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0 posted 03-16-2001 12:59 AM       View Profile for Ryan   Email Ryan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ryan

Okay, initial question: Are cuss words bad? (this has nothing to do with the policy on cuss words here, by the way) Actually, this was from a debate I had with a friend. It ended up getting to a more specific question (and one I find more interesting):

Can words possess qualities of good or bad?

I'll post my thoughts later.


"ah, little girls make shadows on the sidewalk shorter than the shadow of death in this town--" - Jack Kerouac
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1 posted 03-16-2001 05:14 AM       View Profile for Dee   Email Dee   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Dee

My two cents worth, Ryan. I am known to use the "occasional" expletive, but never in front of those who don't. I don't see them as either good or bad. What I do see is that some people are offended by them, and so I watch what I say in front of those people.
Don't know if that is what you were asking or not but that's my thoughts.

I wish you every happiness and may you always have the best of the good things in life. a brand
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2 posted 03-16-2001 08:12 AM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

I think the terms “good” and “bad” are a little too generic to offer a simple yes/no answer to your question. In and of themselves, I don’t think any one combination of letters or sounds is intrinsically good or bad. But I don’t think it is possible to practically separate language and verbal behavior from a social context. In other words, words and language do not have meaning unless there are others in the social environment who can understand the thoughts and ideas that are verbally expressed one to another.

In some social circles, certain words are offensive or even harmful. In others, some words may be considered blasphemous or traitorous. Some words and labels, when applied to a person, tend to dehumanize that person by identifying them with certain, individual characteristics, rather than by their humanity. In some social environments, the use of a word within that environment is socially acceptable but, if used by someone outside of that social environment, the word may be extremely offensive. For example, the use of the “N” word by young, urban African-Americans in some contexts is acceptable, but if the same word is used, even if it is used in the same manner, by a Caucasian toward an African-American person, that word may become excessively inflammatory.

The law actually considers the possibility that some language may cause a person harm and, as a result, a ruling finding slander (spoken defamation) and libel (printed or electronically recorded defamation) in a given slate of facts may award monetary damages to the injured party.

Summing things up, we cannot escape our social environment and, consequently, cannot escape our responsibility to do our part to help our social environment function in a way that protects the liberty of every person living in that verbal community. Words that divide or dehumanize have no part in a culture that values individual human rights and should be used with restraint. Our right to free speech does not, in my opinion, relieve us of this responsibility.

Just an opinion.

Moon Dust
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3 posted 03-16-2001 09:32 PM       View Profile for Moon Dust   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Moon Dust

Depends what you mean by saying cuss words, For instance to use to offend seriously, Id say they were bad. To joke or laugh, to some people bad or good. To use them just to express yourself (No offensive intended) like so many people I know do this, I wouldn't really say good but not bad either. I think it really depends on the person's perception and experiance to them being good or bad.

Don't ever give in, if you do you've lost everything you've ever had and everything you hope to gain, but if you carry on your already winning.

[This message has been edited by Moon Dust (edited 03-16-2001).]
Poet deVine
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4 posted 03-16-2001 10:04 PM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

I rarely 'cuss'. I think words can be bad..but the words of hate are the ones that are the worst. I once kicked a man out of my house for using the 'n' word in front of my kids. THOSE words are bad..the ones that are mean and hurtful.

Cuss words? I hear them too much to think they are bad...and a word cannot be bad.. because it has different meanings for different people.
Paula Finn
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5 posted 03-17-2001 01:43 PM       View Profile for Paula Finn   Email Paula Finn   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Paula Finn

I think it just depends on how they are used...I very seldom use "cuss" words...and lol some of the "cuss" words I used to get in trouble for were simple things like GOSH and grandmother percieved those as "cuss" words and I would get in trouble for using far as actual words being good and bad...a lot of that is society and ethnic perceptions...words that years ago were acceptable no longer are...words that denote colour for instance...we all know words can be sharp as knives and just as deadly...or they can create images so lovely that they bring tears to your eyes...good and bad? They are after all...only words...
White Wolf
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6 posted 03-19-2001 02:52 AM       View Profile for White Wolf   Email White Wolf   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for White Wolf

Words are a type of power. The power of expression. Words can heal and words can destroy. It is the same with all types of power, it's all in how you use them. I have left some would be bullies without a single shred of dignity. I tore into them like a starved wolverine or wolf, taking their worst fears and made them feel less than human. I was cruel, but like a dragon I had to be provoked first. I have also healed some of the broken hearted and the emotionally disturbed. I have also restored some people's faith in the human race and in males in general. I have used them to comfort someone in need. Needless to say there are many ways to use words. Words in and of themselves are not good or bad. It is all in how those words are used. As for cuss words, well they are just words, the same rules apply.

The White Wolf
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7 posted 03-22-2001 10:15 AM       View Profile for Just A Woman   Email Just A Woman   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Just A Woman

I think cuss words are lame, unoriginal, and overused. My children and I make up our own.

"When people show you who they are, believe them"

~Maya Angelou~

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8 posted 03-22-2001 10:54 AM       View Profile for Ryan   Email Ryan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ryan

Sorry it's taken me awhile to get back to this. It's been spring break though, so I've been otherwise engaged. Thanks everybody for your responses. Jim, you had some interesting comments that I wanted to touch on. The way I'm reading your comments, you are saying that the social conditions a person exists in when he speaks a word determines the "goodness or badness" of the word. I do think that this is partially a correct response (just my opinions), but I can't convince myself that it is the root of the answer. There are certain social conditions where a word can be considered good or bad. As an example, I could be with my friends and say the word "cheater" (I would like to work with more than cuss words right now to broaden the base of the discussion). In this scenario, the word could be taken in many ways. The social conditions don't affect the word at all. But there must be something that does. I'll touch on what does in a minute.

I do like your suggestion that we cannot separate the social conditions from the word itself. I'm not sure if I agree with it though, but it's interesting. I'll try to come back to that thought later.

And now, since I did promise my thoughts. If we take my example earlier, in which I use the word cheater around some friends, what is it that determines how the word is received? I put forward that it is the intentions which the word is used that determine it's goodness or badness. I can use the exact same word in the exact same social circumstances, but with different intentions and it will be received in different ways. I think it's very similar to the idea of don't crucify the messenger. A messenger is told that his king's army has just been defeated. He is told to relay this message to the king. The king hears this message and suddenly is in a very bad mood. The messenger is not the one who caused this bad mood though, it is the message. Similarly, if a person is insulted by the words of another person, it isn't the words that do the insulting, but the intentions behind the words. The words are merely a "messenger" for the intentions. Of course, the words are often the ones blamed, much like the messenger is often blamed for the bad news, but that's a different topic. That is all from me for now. Hopefully I'll be back later with some more ideas. Thanks everybody for the thought provoking discussion.


"ah, little girls make shadows on the sidewalk shorter than the shadow of death in this town--" - Jack Kerouac

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9 posted 03-22-2001 12:52 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder


In what way does the social context not have an effect on your friend's reception of the word "cheater"? I think you are thinking of "social" on too grand a scale. You are right that intent often determines how a word such as "cheater" will be received by your friend but there is always the possibility that your friend will misunderstand your intent and, depending on the circumstances, either think you are joking when you are not or visa-versa. Your friend may have been cheating and his reaction could be defensive or insulted or apologetic. The social contexts contributes a great deal to the understanding of the language.

Speech-language pathologists often think of language as being (1) expressive and (2) receptive. In a very general sense, they are right but they fall short of capturing the complexity of language. Take the word "bread" for example.

(1) If I want bread, I could point to a loaf and say, "Bread" to you and you may give me the bread. I've used the word as a mand.

(2) You might point to the loaf and say, "What is this" and I will say "Bread". I would be tacting.

(3) You may ask, "What baked food is made from flour, water and yeast," and I may answer "Bread". I have drawn my conclusion based on the function, feature and class of "bread".

(4) You may ask, "What do you want to eat" and I could answer "Bread". We are communicating intraverbally.

(5) Intraverbal communication becomes more complex when we consider the use of slang or sarcasm. "Bread" could mean money. If my wife asks me question #4 above, and I answered "Bread and water", I would probably end up sleeping on the couch that night.

In all of these examples, the social context plays a large role in determining how the word "Bread" is received. How is the use of the word "cheater" different? How is the use of profanity or racial slurs different?


P.S. White Wolf ... is hyperbole good or bad?

[This message has been edited by jbouder (edited 03-22-2001).]

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