Every language in the world has swear words. And there are as many excuses given to use swear words as there are languages in the world. Some say they swear because they don’t find a better word, some say it feels good to say them and some say it’s just cool and swearing can make you an in-group member of a gang.
Steven Pinker, in The Stuff of Thought, lists five different ways we can swear: descriptively, idiomatically, abusively, emphatically and cathartically. I am sure you can think of an example for each of these. However, none of these functions require swearwords.
I know a lot of parents who causally use swear words when among adults or friends but become very conscious of them when around their children. They somehow find it inappropriate to swear in the presence of kids and convenient among adults. It is not hard to see element of hypocrisy or double standards here.
If we see value in our children not using swear words or gestures, I think we must model that behaviour for them. Let’s erase them from our diction first. It’s not easy as it has years of conditioning behind it and as any good habit will take its time to build by conscious and deliberate practice.
The words and gestures we use reveal Our culture, character and maturity. In fact, in India there is a language by the name Samskrit, which also means ‘cultured’. I believe that any language is generous enough to gives us a wide variety of words to grade and express our feelings, emotions and intentions. Let our dialogue, conversation, conduct reflect the values we have drawn from our rich culture and tradition.
I believe there is another very important role language plays in our lives- it helps us process emotions. Yielding words appropriately can help them process emotions appropriately. When we are subjects extreme emotions like passion, embarrassment, anger or anxiety, how we talk to ourselves is as critical as how to respond to others. Both require use of words. All proven powerful motivation techniques like gratitude journalling, affirmations, goal setting and future-self exercise all really about how we use language to uplift us. Our senses connect us to the external world but our words help us relate to it. And that’s why our choice of words for expressing anger and disappointment are as important as it is for expressing love, devotion and wonder. Our words are a reflection of own minds. Hence the expression ‘mind your language’. So, if the cultural argument doesn’t help, use this one to work on your language.
So let’s mind our language, kick swear words and gestures out of our diction and body language and let our next generation inherit a rich lexicon of emotions.