In both my creative writing and chatting or posting on Facebook, I tend to avoid swearing. That’s not to say I don’t swear because anyone who’s a friend of mine on Facebook will know I swear. I’m especially potty-mouthed in person, depending on my mood. But I feel swearing should be held off for special occasions. Otherwise, the impact that swearing should have is lost.
A friend of mine recently sent me a video of someone playing a video game and swearing throughout the entire thing. I couldn’t even last a minute watching it because of the excessive swearing. The same applies to just about anything written by Mark Millar. In many of his projects like Wanted or Kick-Ass, nearly every second word is a swear word.
My problem, I’ve realized, isn’t in the content itself. I have no problem with swearing. People swear. I swear. I’m not offended when I hear someone swear. No, what bothers me is excessive swearing. Which again, isn’t about the content. My problem is that it’s creatively devoid. A common complaint from writing editors is the overuse of certain words or phrases. If a writer uses particular descriptive words or specific verbs too often in a short period – usually in the same sentence or paragraph – then it’s suggested they change it. This is usually to help with the writing’s flow. The English language is filled with a plethora of depictive words that to use the same ones over and over only hampers creativity.
So when I see or hear someone swearing constantly, I think of them as creatively devoid. Why not think of different ways to say something? Spruce it up. Change things instead of relying on the same four or five words (or seven, according to George Carlin) to vent your frustrations. One creative writing teacher told me about writers relying too much on the “Fuck Crutch” and she was right. It’s falling back on the same old manure rather than coming up with something new.
I tend to have the same issue when I hear the words “gay” or “faggot” used in a derogatory sense. It’s not just the content that bothers me, but the meaning behind the words. When I ask someone to tell me what they mean by either word, they can’t. Because the idea is that homosexuality is supposed to be bad. When someone says, “Oh, that’s so gay,” I ask them what they mean. They reply with other, better descriptors like “silly” or “stupid” or “ridiculous” to which I ask why they didn’t just use one of those words instead. Not to mention that either word is so overused – most especially in the online gaming community – that they’ve lost any meaning or impact.
So when I come across a video or a piece of writing where someone swears excessively, I find I have little patience. In the video I mentioned above, I couldn’t even stand to listen to forty seconds of what was only a 3-minute video. Swearing (and being loud) does not equal comedy.
One of my favourite weekly internet excursions is Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw. He does certainly swear, but it’s minimized compared to the rest of his critiques. He doesn’t rely on swearing to get his point across.
If only more people would follow his fucking example.