The Use of Bad Words (Two F**king Links)

October 29, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

I’m not a huge fan of curse words, though I know some people swear by them.  Repeat them, and they quickly lose whatever effect they might have had,* and then what do you use for emphasis or surprise.

There are exceptions, like Ian Frazier’s “Cursing Mommy” (here  for example).   And then there’s Colin Nissan’s recent essay  in McSweeny’s on decorative gourds for autumn.  I laughed out loud when I read it.  Then I went back and mentally removed the curse words, and it was just not funny.  Try it.

* Sometimes draining the word of its impact is the goal of such repetition, as when David Bradley (you mean you haven’t read The Chaneysville Incident?) teaches Huckleberry Finn to high school students.
“One of the first things I do is I make everybody say it out loud about six or seven times,” Bradley said.
“The N-word?” Pitts [the “60 Minutes” inteviewer] asked.
“Yeah, ‘nigger.’ Get over it,” Bradley replied, laughing. “You know. Now let's talk about the book.”

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