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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Profanity and Coarse Language

I read an interesting post by Stephanie on profanity recently. It got me thinking as I had not appreciated that the term "profane" specifically means treating that which is holy with irreverence. (Having said that, I've just found that the OED does include "obscene language" in it's definition of profane language but that is probably a change caused by usage rather than the original meaning.)

If profane language specifically means language which treats that which is holy with irreverence then what about other swear words?

We live in a culture which views certain words as being "wrong". Most people use at least some of these words and there is a variation in how "bad" a given word is perceived to be. However, we are not supposed to just blindly follow the rules of our culture but to seek what is right in God's eyes.

Personally I do not swear. This is mainly because I was raised not to. I have only known each of my parents swear once - my mum one time when she missed a turn off on a dual carriageway and my dad stuck his fingers up at a speeding cement mixer which had just nearly run me and my brother over. Because I did not hear them swearing, swear words did not enter my spoken vocabulary and therefore I did not swear.

However, even though it is not a pressing practical issue (I wouldn't start swearing if I found it wasn't wrong), I wanted to know whether what had been ingrained into me all my life ("swearing is wrong") was really correct. It is important that we have our thinking right and I did not want to be thinking that something was wrong if it wasn't.

The verses I found were:
"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth."
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

"Filthy communication" is also rendered as obscene speech, abusive speech, obscene language, shameful speaking, unclean talk, filthy speech, vile language and foul mouthed abuse. The Greek word used is αισχρολογιαν which according to this online translator means "obscenity" in modern Greek.

"Corrupt communication" is also rendered as filthy talk, unwholesome word, corrupt speech, evil talk, evil speech and corrupt word. The Greek word used is
σαπρος which my online translator could not find however, this page defines "σαπρός" as "rotten" and this translator gives the meaning as "putrid" or "putrescent".

My own personal conclusion from these verses is therefore that swearing (or "coarse"/"bad" language) is wrong. The difficulty which follows is defining what actually is bad language as this is man made and culture specific. There is also the issue of using "alternatives" to swear words where a distorted version of a swear word is used in place of the swear word. If we don't use swear words but we use the "alternatives" in exactly the same way as those who are swearing then surely we are doing the same thing and therefore being hypocritical?

An area which I have had to make an effort not to use certain words is with words which have become acceptable as non swear words or alternatives to swearwords but they have undesirable origins. These include words such as "cor" which comes from "cor blimey" which is a corruption of "God blind me" and "gosh" which is a corruption of "God".

In conclusion, I would have to say that "swearing" is wrong but it is hard to define what exactly is a swear word so it is up to each individual to judge for themselves whether the words they are using is good and right. (Although of course just because the actual words we are using aren't bad doesn't necessarily mean we are saying things which are good and right but that's a whole separate issue.)

(I am happy for this to be a discussion so please feel free to comment regardless of whether you agree or not.)


Anonymous said...

Hey I know this is off topic but I wanted to say thanks for dropping by and leaving some encouragement and support! It helps to hear that the GD isn't my fault so thank you :)

Buffy said...

Good post. It's far too easy to use bad language when you are surrounded by other people who do, hear it regularly on the TV or radio or just read it in books, so it becomes normal. Then you have to train yourself out of it! And you hear quite young children swearing at each other now.

His Tender Mercies said...

I personally don't agree with swearing. For me swearing is an issue. Although I never did like swearing nor did I do it growing up. I found that has changed for me as an adult/parent. When I'm stressed, angry, overwhelmed, scared......the swear words slip out of my mouth, when they normally wouldn't. I don't like it and feel it really is something that displeases the Lord. So I don't take it lightly.
Also I just don't find it very attractive or becoming when I hear people swearing. So I can just imagine what I must sound like when I swear.

Anonymous said...

I think that coarse language can be used without any offensive words. We are to be gentle and kind in actions and with our words. I don't think it is reasonable to assume that we can fully overcome this, at least the most of us, but we can strive to a higher goal. There are women who from outward appearances appear to be godly women but still they offend with coarse language while never uttering a "swear" word. Gentleness and kindness are the key here. A gentle spirit is slow to anger and would in turn think before speaking.

Anonymous said...

Eileen: thank you for your comment. I partly agree and partly disagree with what you had to say. However, as it included some criticism of someone else, I felt it would be wrong of me to publish it so have not done so.

Toni said...

Thanks for writing this post. I often wondered about this issue. I do not swear, but used to on occassion before The Lord saved me. After I ws saved I felt a strong conviction not to do certain things one of them being swearing.There are many passages in Gods Word that direct us on speach,so we do need to be very careful,because any kind of harsh language is wrong. One of the things that`s been helping me woth certain issues was an artical I read on the way in wich believers should dress.The woman that wrote it brought up a very good point.We represent Christ, just as an ambassidor, or head of a country would represent the country. So we need to act the part, dess the part, keep our homes, do all things unto the Lord because our lives represent and should be a reflection of Him. this way of thinking has particularly helped me with trying to keep my home cleaner.I`m really rambling here,sorry about that. I think I may do a post about this today:) Anyway I hope you are having a beautiful day today and thanks for all the encouraging words on my blog!!!
Love and blessings,

Anonymous said...

Thanks Toni, I've heard that thing about being ambassadors before but had forgotten it. I agree it is a useful way of looking at things.

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