I love words. Long and short, serious and ridiculous, (with the exception of chortle–it’s a stupid word and I refuse to use it) and even the words I’ve never been able to pronounce correctly. (Like earsling. It always comes out ear sling, even though I know better.) I love the written word the best. It’s a means to communicate without even being there. As a writer, I can take words and paint a setting, create a life, tell a story and introduce my reader to a world they’ve never seen before. All words have their place. Even the bad ones.
My best friend, Gia, loves the bad ones. There isn’t a whole lot in her vocabulary that’s off-limit. She drops the F-bomb with the ease and expertise of an Airforce bombardier. Initially, it took some getting used to, but years ago I reached the conclusion that if you’re going to use profanity you might as well be creative about it. And she is. It’s impressive.
Last year, she went with me to visit my brother and his family in Austin, Texas. I wasn’t certain how they would take her less than conservative manner of speaking, so I told her to use her Sunday school language. Either we went to a different kind of Sunday school or she just couldn’t help herself, because it wasn’t more than a few hours before the F-bombs were dropped. Fortunately, my family didn’t have a coronary every time she let go of a string of colorful curses. I think they were astonished and maybe a little bit in awe. Like I said, she’s incredibly inventive and, after a while, my nephew coined the phrase, Creative uses of words that begin with the letter F. We had a great time while we were there. We ate, played board games into the early hours of the morning, talked and enjoyed one another’s company. When Gia slipped up and the air turned a little (okay, more than a little) blue, it didn’t seem to matter. They accepted that it was just who she was.
There’s a certain power in profanity. It forces us to look at the things that make us uncomfortable such as race, religion, our sexuality and, of course, the all-important bodily functions. Profanity has impact. As a writer, I try to take advantage of that. But only when it works. It has to fit the character’s personality and give us an insight to their thoughts and emotions. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of perfectly good letters.
Since my own language is comparatively benign, it was difficult at first. My fingertips didn’t want to go there and once the words appeared on my monitor, I would wonder what my parents, who have both passed, would think about it. Were they looking down on me with disapproval? I think I actually looked over my shoulder a couple of times. Talk about paranoia. I’m pretty sure that those who reside in the great beyond, don’t care about such trivial matters. Anyway, I got over it.
This is a fairly short blog, but I’ve said my piece. What do you think? Can profanity be profound? Or is it just an excuse to shock the reader? And even if it is, is that a bad thing? Where do you draw the line? And if you write YA, how do you handle that? So many things to consider. Let me hear from you. For now, I’ll just sign off with… WTF???????????