Yesterday, I wrote about the new words into the dictionary. One of the words added is “F-bomb.” People tend to have pretty intense opinions on cursing. Some people see it as a first amendment issue, while others feel that using offensive language should be carefully monitored (around adults only) or banned altogether.
The subject fascinates me because the words are just that– words. The only reason they have meaning is that we’ve assigned them meaning. Let’s look at the first stanza of the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
What if, tomorrow, someone decided that brillig meant something offensive, or slithy toves? The words themselves have no meaning until we, the people, say they do. Not only are curse words “bad,” but there are degrees of “bad.” “F**k” and certain words for female body parts are offensive to many people who do curse, while “a**” and s**t” tend to be more widely accepted. I also find it interesting that writing the full word in a blog like this would be more offensive than starring them out. You all know what I mean. The word probably echoed in your head, but writing it makes it wrong.
Cursing in stories is something authors debate about. Should an author allow cursing in stories, or leave it out? When I had people edit my stories, I had one person consistently campaign for me to leave cursing out of my stories. My philosophy is this: leave it out of young adult books. It has no place there. In adult novels though, all characters are different, and they don’t all reflect my personality. Some of them will curse, and some won’t. To me, cursing is a personality trait, along with hobbies, profession, whether or not the person has pets. When I submit to magazines, I read guidelines and previous stories. Some magazines find cursing appropriate, so if there are curse words in my story, I leave them in. Other magazines don’t allow for cursing, so I replace with less offensive (and less genuine) words. I mean, who really says “darn it” or “holy cow”?
Speak out: cursing in stories… yay or nay?