Mark Nichol: What the Hell Do You Do About Profanity?


fun with profanity filters

fun with profanity filters (Photo credit: skampy)

 

What place, if any, does profanity have in writing? There are as many different answers as there are types of writing.

 

Fiction

 

Novels that purport to reflect real life must include profanity if the life they reflect includes use of profanity. This is difficult to accept for many people of a certain age, dismayed by the ubiquity of swearwords in modern literature, who have the disadvantage of having grown up during an era when books and movies were censored. (But let’s get real: In the Old West, cantankerous cowboys did not refer to each other as “You no-good so-and-so,” and in combat, to paraphrase a well-known expression, there are no decorous speakers in foxholes.) Popular entertainment often admittedly goes overboard in drenching dialogue in profanity, but that is merely an exaggeration, not a fabrication, of reality.

 

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