When you look at this picture, do you think of that pet as shitting or pooping? (Also, is it a dog or a cat?) Seriously, I want to know (both) in the comments. And why do you think you associate that particular word with the picture? Does it have anything to do with context? Like that animal (and presumably the owner) are being disgraceful so therefore it’s shitting. Or, maybe you see this and your manners kick in. This is what we must NOT do: defecate on the sidewalk, sweet princess. (Seriously though, that pet’s name isn’t princess. [It’s probably Uncle Xenic]) Or maybe the word you think of has nothing to do with context. Is it just how you’ve been taught to describe the act? Or does your mood dictate what word comes to mind?
I don’t usually go to Twitter chats because I have a hard time keeping up and usually don’t know anyone there, which is maybe a strange reason not to participate, but whatever. Well, last night at the #kidlit chat, the topic was Grammar…and (usage?) I forget, and so did everyone else because it became this talk about swearing and derogatory terms.”Penis Wrinkle” kept showing up in posts–totally mature we YA writers are. Also a bunch of this sort of thing: #$@&!
Anyway, something that has always confused me is how writers cuss, or sort of don’t cuss, especially on blogs and in settings that are not published books, etc. I have no problem swearing (in books or in my day-to-day language), which you probably have picked up on from my posts regarding treadmills and talent shows. Here’s why: I’m a little bit dramatic. Cursing suits my style. And I get it that some people just aren’t cussers. But those of you caught in the middle, what gives? I just don’t get why “sh!t” is somehow less offensive than “shit.” Seriously, when you see “sh!t,” don’t you still read it “shit?” It’s like farting: the quiet ones are still offensive. And, “#$@&!” just makes me pause and run through every swear with four letters until I find the one I hope the author the intends. (Or make a weird sound effect in my head that’s more goofy than cuss-y) I guess I just find it strange that writers are at odds with expressing themselves in this way.
And I can’t resist, so here it is. Summation: Shit or get off the pot.
9 thoughts on “Spoiler Alert: I’m Going To Swear”
Totally audience-based to me. Funny you should mention this because I was JUST thinking about this very subject concerning blogging and facebook. It’s the public forum thing — trying not to offend people right up front because then they might not stick around and hear the really cool thing I was about to say! I’d be SO much more comfortable if I could just say it how I mean it, and I commend you for being that way. I dislike censoring what I say and how I want to say it, but on the other hand, I don’t want to alienate people just because I feel the need to speak uncensored. We censor ourselves at work, with our parents or older people, with young children (who aren’t ours, lol) — is that wrong or just getting along? Are we catering to others’ sensibilities or are we just being sensitive to them? I dont’ know!!!
I’m interested to know how others feel — especially the people who “prefer” not to see/hear it. How offended ARE you, really?
I think we offended them so much that they have stopped talking to us. My stats show there are readers lurking. They are being polite and not saying, Jody, this post is shit. Thank you silent readers. But also, thank you Tammara, for not being silent. I commend you, too.
The trouble is, there is always someone who is going to be offended by something. A woman who has a mentally handicapped child is going to hate the word “retard”, even though teenagers use it–frequently. Someone who is homosexual is going to hate it if your character says something is “gay”, even though teenagers use it–frequently. Someone who doesn’t swear is going to be offended if your character does, even though I’ve sat at a kitchen table with a group of 18-year-old boys who’ve dropped the f-bomb every other word.
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that you have to be true to the character and the story. If it calls for swearing, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.
Nice touch there with the ending, Trish. For sure about being true to character–within the story. It’s the author on the outside of the story where I think it becomes more of a gray area. I’m comfortable in that gray area, probably because I’m writing for teens. If I weren’t though…hm, not so comfy.
I don’t know if this is weird or not — but I have NO problem with my characters swearing in the book — they’re talking, after all. Teenagers curse. Hell, I curse right and left when I’m speaking. On my blog or FB though I get a little cringey thinking about all those people who may (okay, will) gasp if I write something so benign as “This day is ASS” let alone if I add the f-word in there. So I tend (read: sometimes this effort goes to hell) to censor myself in those venues, like I do at work.
As for the terms retard and gay — yes, teens certainly do use these, but that doesn’t mean they should. I have an ethical problem with the terms, personally, having worked in a university’s disability office, and having had two gay brothers, one of whom attempted suicide because of how society was/still is towards gays. So I tend not to have my characters use those terms derogatorily because I don’t agree with them being used that way — the same way I jump on my kids for using these (actually non-cursing) terms as an insult, yet I don’t care if one of them says someone is a fuckhead, lol.
I think some of this comse down to a “it takes a village” mentality — when you’re writing for children, mid-level kids or young adults, you’re helping shape how they think. Now, I do believe that you’ll only influence them if they’re open to it, and you can’t shove it at them if they don’t want it — they’ll shove it right back at you. But there’s nothing wrong with leaving something out if you, personally, feel it’s wrong — or putting it in, if you’re going for complete authenticity. It’s our perogative as authors, after all.
I missed chat last night – ack! And it looks like it was a good one.
My book doesn’t have a lot of swearing, but the only word I was asked to reconsider was “Christ” as a swear word which was interesting to me.
My WIP has the “F” word and the “N” word twice (used in context – yes, I can’t even write them on a blog post 🙂 and it is a consideration when you’re talking about awards and school lists sad to say.
BTW, that dog is dooking, because that’s why I carry those little baggies on my walk.
Dooking???? That is fascinating! And thank you for taking the baggie, dear citizen.
My book has lots of F-words–hello military thy name is Swear. It would be a dumb book without the cussing. My WIP is not set for that kind of language and I’m having a hard time deciding when and if. I hadn’t put much thought into how it would affect school visits and or awards. I do remember a time during my student teaching (ninth grade classroom) where we were reading Walter Dean Meyer’s book Fallen Angels aloud in class. I felt soooooooo weird. F bombs all over the place. My mentor teacher just kept saying, it’s okay, the book is approved by the school board. I soldiered through. It was a non-issue for the students. I realize this is the exception to the rule, but it made me happy for a day.
Did I ever tell you I had an Uncle Xenic? That is so weird…
I definitely don’t swear on my blog, and I’m not even sure why exactly I say things like “dumb-arse” and stuff like that instead of the real thing. You know I have no problem swearing, and occasionally I have been known to be a little crass. I have no problems with swearing in books (Unless it’s 90% the f-word or something) and I have swear words in my books.
But I also know a lot of my blog readers don’t swear, and for some reason swearing in type seems harsher than swearing in person. More staying power or something.
I have no problem with people who swear in type, and I often leave comments with swear words in them. I guess that makes me a hypocrite.
Shit! I hate being a hypocrite!
Dumb-arse is funny and artsy. artsy-arsey? fartsy-arsey? You got your wit and charm from Uncle Xenic! And because you are witty and charming and hilarious, I think that more than compensates for hypocrisy. Which, I don’t think it actually is. I think you work the situation. And you know your audience. You’re good! Shit, yeah, you are!