Friday, December 15, 2006

Profanity Waning?

For those who wonder whether our culture's adolescent fascination with forbidden words will ever end, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has some interesting observations today. Per Henninger, some comedians are declaring excessive profanity and obscenity (which trend in comedy Henninger traces to Eddy Murphy's 1987 filmed standup act Raw) to be absolute in entertainment.

Henninger points out that not long ago, HBO's dramatic series were averaging well over one f-bomb per minute.* That may have pushed even the most calloused cursers over their point of tolerance.

Or maybe the question is utility. Once profanity is used that often, it loses its power to shock. Once it no longer shocks, it becomes superfluous. And no, gentle readers, that doesn't mean that everyone will find something even more shocking. No social pattern moves consistently in a straight line, not least this one.

At any rate, we welcome any trend toward less of it.

*We'd estimate that rate at roughly 1/3 that of the Scottish teenagers who stood outside the SWNID bathroom, adjacent to the local fish-and-chips emporium, when the SWNIDs lived in the Auld Country.


Nick the Eloquent said...

You could actually understand Scots trying to speak English?

Calus The Great said...

Omit unnecessary words.

The abundance of foul language in everyday discourse is irritating not simply because of the vulgarity, but because sentences containing 50% more words than necessary are unpleasant to hear. The f-word is replacing "like" in adolescent vernacular. People drop it into their sentences to pause because they do not think before they speak.

I would estimate that less than 10% of modern swearing is the spontaneous expression of anger or pain.

Anonymous said...

yeah, but i have to admit.....its funny man. it can add just the right touch of emphasis when it needs to.

disclaimer: dont read too much into this, i am not trying to say its cool, just adding a thought.