de Vos: #!@%$&( IT
The Friday Report
Martin Scorsese’s 2013 movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, holds the dubious distinction of dropping more f-bombs than any Hollywood movie ever – over 500 of ‘em between title and credits. The characters swear when they’re mad, when they’re happy, excited, depressed, surprised, drunk, thrilled and sober. It’s a wonder they squeezed in any other dialogue.
Psycholinguistics is the study of language and how it affects behavior. Psycholinguists say cursing has a valid and sometimes valuable impact upon our lives. Among other things, it allows us to blow off steam without resorting to violence. They’ve also found that cursing reduces pain. Subjects who cursed a blue streak could endure significantly longer periods of immersion in ice water and reported less pain than the milquetoasts who didn’t swear.
Unfortunately, they’ve also found that frequent cursers experience less relief from over-the-counter pain relief.
Factory workers use swearing to lower stress, bond with co-workers, and cultivate solidarity over shared frustrations like that #&@%ing boss. But watch out! If you’re eyeing the VP corner office, cursing at the executive level comes across as incompetence.
Testimony on the witness stand sounds more truthful when sprinkled with profanity. Politicians using mild curses are more convincing to their base than those who did not.
Psycholinguist Timothy Jay tells us, “Swearing is like using the horn on your car.” He says it relieves pressure and people actually feel better after cursing. Swearing may be bad but somehow good for you.
Mark Twain learned to swear from river boat captains. He claimed that when he swore, his breath smelled of brimstone.
General George Patton said, “You can’t run an army without eloquent profanity . . . Sometimes I just, by God, get carried away with my own eloquence.”
Swearing could get you arrested. Dawn Herb of Scranton, Pennsylvania was vividly cursing her overflowing toilet, yelling for the (expletive) mop. A nearby neighbor, an off-duty cop, overheard the ruckus and shouted back, “Shut the (expletive) up!” Dawn dug deep and tossed back some exquisitely tailored, pansy-wilting profanity. The off-duty cop apparently had never heard such a thing and called the on-duty cops and Dawn was charged with disorderly conduct, fined $300 and tossed in jail for 90 days. The ACLU intervened saying this is America and nobody should be jailed for potty-mouthing their toilet. Dawn sued Scranton for violating her God-given right to cuss out her commode and won a judgement of $19,000 for her obvious pain and suffering.
Whether you like it or not, the First Amendment, adopted in 1791, states that “. . . Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . .” Subsequent courts have held that cursing is a meme that includes offensive speech.
Norfolk, Virginia banned public profanity. During an outdoor concert at Town Point Park the cops arrested a bewildered California rapper who dropped the f-bomb during his performance. In the ensuing publicity, the city became a laughingstock across the nation, eventually dropping both the charges and the law.
But slide on over to Virginia Beach where the city council enjoys being mocked. Every block of Atlantic Avenue sports a sign with a red circle and slash through cursing. Swearing in Virginia Beach is treated on a par with public drunkenness.
It’s just a lot healthier than drinking.
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