Profanity and Vulgar Expressions

Profanity and Vulgar Expressions

Appropriate language does not include profanity or vulgar expressions. There was a time when uttering “hell” or “damn” would have resulted in severe punishment for children and social isolation for adults. Today we tend to tolerate commonplace profanities and vulgarities, and there are many subcultures where the use of profanity and vulgarity are commonplace. Under the influence of film and television writers who aim to scintillate and entertain, we have become inoculated to these expressions, In fact, it is common to hear elementary schoolchildren utter strings of “four letter” words in school hallways, lunchrooms, and on playgrounds.

Why do people swear and engage in coarse language? Deckle (1991, p. 165) suggests that swearing is one way of asserting independence by breaking adult taboos. In a society that prizes adulthood and independence, the movement to increase vulgar and profane use of language at younger and younger ages is not surprising. Despite this trend in our society, we believe profane and vulgar language continues to be inappropriate in most settings (especially public speaking). Even; in informal conversation, it is offensive to many people, although our current social conventions would preclude them from stating this. Unfortunately, profanity and vulgarity are habits that are easily acquired and hard to extinguish. In fact, an alarming number of people use such language as filler expressions, which add little or no meaning to the content of the message. These expression are liberally peppered into the verbal message out of habit. Thus for some folks the ubiquitous has one 0 serve theme purpose as like and you know.

• What does the use of profanity communicate? well when used  infrequently, profanity and vulgar expressions communicate s.,  Vernon which there may be no other appropriate words. Profanity and vulgarity are meant to shock and to communicant one’s deep disgust or contempt. When profanity and vulgarity are used frequently, others assume that the person using these expressions intends them to threaten or intimidate. Unfortunately, for far too many people, profanity and vulgarity have lost all meaning and have become nothing more than symbols that the individual is unable to express his or her thoughts or feelings at any but the basest and most ignorant level. Competent communicators avoid using profanity and vulgarity because their use is more likely to damage than to strengthen relationships.


Language is appropriate when it is sensitive to usages that others perceive as offensive. Some of the mistakes in language that we make result from using expressions that are perceived to be sexist, racist, or otherwise biased that is any language that is perceived as belittling any person or group of people by virtue of their sex, race, age, handicap, or other identifying characteristic. Two of the most prevalent linguistic uses that communicate an insensitivity are generic language and nonparallel language.

Generic language Generic language uses words that may apply only to one sex, race, or gender as through they represent both sexes, races, or genders. Such use is a problem because It linguistically excludes part of the group of people it ostensibly includes. Let’s consider some examples.

Traditionally, English grammar called for the use of the masculine pronoun he to stand for the entire class of humans regardless of sex. So, in the past, standard English called for such usage as, When a person shops, he should have a clear idea of what he wants:to buy. Even though these statements are grammatically correct, they are now considered sexist because they inherently exclude females. Despite traditional usage, it would be hard to maintain that we picture people of both sexes when we hear the masculine word he.

One way to avoid this problem is to recast the sentence using plurals. Instead of Because a doctor has high status, his views may be believed regardless of topic, you could say Because doctors have high status, their views may be believed regardless of topic. Alternatively, you can use both male and female pronouns. Because a doctor has high status, his or her views may be believed regardless of topic. These changes may seem small, but they may mean the difference between alienating and not alienating the people with whom you are speaking. Stewart, Cooper, Stewart, and Friendly (1998) cite research to show that using he and she; and to a lesser extent they, gives rise to listeners including women in their mental afterimages easterner gender balance in their petitions.

When considering such words as policeman, postman, and chairman, you can substitute police officer, mail carrier, and chairperson. When considering such word as mankind and man made, substitute humankind and made by hand.

Nonparallel language Nonparallel language occurs when terms are changed because of the sex, race, or other characteristic of the individual. Because it treats groups of people differently, nonparallel language is also belittling. Two common forms of nonparallel are marking and unnecessary association.

Marking means adding sex, race, age, or other designations unnecessarily to a general word. For instance, saying female doctor or black lawyer would be marking. Marking is offensive to some people because the speaker appears to be trivializing the person’s role by emphasizing an irrelevant characteristic.  For instance, this usage seems to imply that Jones is a good doctor for a woman or Smith is a good lawyer for a black person. Because you would be very unlikely to ever say Jones is a good male doctor and Smith is a good white lawyer, leave sex, race, age, and other markers out of your labeling.

Very few people can escape all unfair language. By monitoring your usage, however, you can guard against frustrating your attempts to communicate by  assuming that others will react to your language the same way you do, and you can guard against saying or doing things that offend others and perpetuate outdated sex roles, racial stereotypes, and other biased language.

How can you speak more appropriately? (1) Assess whether the word or phrase used is less appropriate than it should be; (2) pause to mentally brainstorm alternatives; and (3) select a more appropriate word.

Causes and Effects of Insensitive Language

You’ve heard children shout, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. This rhyme may be popular among children because they know it is a lie, but it gives them a defense against cruel name-calling. Whether we admit it or not, words do hurt, sometimes permanently. Insensitive language is often a sign of prejudice that results in efforts to discriminate and as a result may be considered unethical as well. Think of the great personal damage done to individuals throughout history as a result of being called hillbilly,nigger, fag, or yid. Think of the fights started by one person calling another’s sister or girlfriend a whore.Of course, we all know that it is not the words alone that are so powerful; it is the context of the words-the situation, the feelings of the participants, the time, the place, or the tone of voice. You may recall circumstances in which a friend called you a name or used a four-letter word to describe you and you did not even flinch; you :may also recall other circumstances in which someone else made you furious by calling you something far less offensive.

Where does offensive racist language come from? According to Molehill As ante (1998), an internationally known scholar, racist language has its roots in our personal beliefs and attitudes. To a great extent, these have been conditioned by the knowledge system to which we have been exposed. Until recently, this knowledge system has had a Afrocentric bias (1998, pp. 95-96). Thus the contributions to the development of humankind by cultures other than European have been ignored or minimized.

We’should always be aware that our language has repercussions. When we do not understand or are not sensitive to listeners frame of reference, we may state our ideas in language that distorts the intended communication. Many times a single inappropriate sentence may be enough to ruin an entire interaction. For instance, if you say. And we all know the problem originates downtown, you  may be alluding to the city government. However, if the listeners associate downtown not with the seat of government but with the residential area of an ethnic or social group, the sentence will have an entirely different meaning to them. Being specific will help you avoid such problems; recognizing that some words communicate far more than their dictionary meanings will help even more.

Summary Verbal Communication

Language is a system of symbols used for communicating. Through language, we designate, label, and define; evaluate; talk about things outside our immediate experience; and talk about language itself.

You will be a more effective communicator if you recognize that language symbols are arbitrary, that language is learned and is creative, and that language and perception are interrelated.

The denotation of a word is its dictionary meaning. Despite the ease with which we can check a dictionary meaning, word denotation can still present problems because most words have more than one dictionary meaning. Changes in meanings occur faster than dictionaries are revised, words take on different meaning  they arc used in different contexts, and meanings can obscured as words become more  abstract.

You can improve your clarity of language by selecting the most specific, concrete, and precise word possible and by dating and indexing generalizations.

Cultural differences in language result from similarities and differences in behavior between low-context and high context cultures. Gender differences in language are less than previously noted, although in usage, women tend to use more intensifiers and hedges than men do, and women tend to add tag questions to sentences more than men do.

Speaking appropriately means using language that adapts to the needs, interests, knowledge, and attitudes of the listener and avoiding language that alienates. Inappropriate language can be minimized by avoiding such exclusionary usages as generic he and generic man and by eliminating such nonparallel usages as marking and unnecessary association.