Cussing: is it always okay?

(Illustration by Camille Sweeney-Carter)

The second freedom of the First Amendment assures all citizens the right to say what they wish no matter their political or social views. Quite often, people can be heard using their rights to passionately speak freely in a form some may or may not be comfortable with: cursing. For some, using swear words, profanity, offensive language, or “cussing” is second nature. To others, however, it is a rarity to ever utter such a word.

Realistically, there is no need for this type of language in a conversation or to get a point across. In fact, people don’t need extreme language to communicate emotion, even in high-stress situations. Some might believe that people who curse don’t have enough “class” to think of other, less extreme, words to put in a sentence, or that they lack education. These folks just fall back on what they know, and for many, that’s a swear word. However, it has been proven that cursing can signal intelligence. The New York Post says researchers at Marist College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts conducted a study in Jan. 2016 which concluded that people who knew more swear words had a larger vocabulary in general.

It seems the younger generations have adopted more cursing into their vocabulary. After all, curse words echo within all high school walls between, before, and after bells. Although profanity isn’t encouraged in schools, or anywhere for that matter, teens partake in it anyway. There may be a reason for this. The New York Post says some parents encourage profane language at a young age to help them learn how to build relationships with one another, win arguments, give what they’re saying an extra punch, and help them fit in. Richard Stevens, Ph.D., says that swearing can also help to relieve pain. He conducted an experiment in Jan. 2016 in which he had several volunteers stick their hands in a bucket of ice water. It was found that the individuals who spoke a foul word were able to stand the pain longer than those who did not.

The situation someone is in can affect whether or not cursing is appropriate. In a learning environment such as school, cursing should be dialed down because it can be distracting, rude, or offensive. The same goes for places like funerals or amidst a young group of children.

It is also important to think about another’s feelings and comfort level around cursing. Some individuals just don’t like it; people are entitled to experience their own emotions. If someone doesn’t want to hear swearing, don’t swear around that individual. Disregarding this request invalidates people’s feelings. Cursing can be interpreted as hostile, vicious, and negative, which in turn makes some people feel uneasy.

For teens who choose to cuss, more than likely they will eventually have to dial it down as the years go on since many occupations do not tolerate it. Swearing in a job interview won’t create a respectable first impression. Cursing is not considered professional or appropriate for the workplace. In Feb. 2016, Christine Neylon O’Brien, a business law professor at Boston College, said that although cursing at the workplace is a controversial topic, there are many occasions where it can get people fired. Most often, this occurs when the profanity can hurt the company’s reputation, is aimed at higher-ups, or is considered either insubordinate, violent, or overly offensive.

Employers also often look at social media as part of a potential employee’s background check. A study done  by CarreerBuilder in June 2017 says that 70 percent of employers look at social media to determine the hireability of their candidates. It was also found that 54 percent of these employers found content on social media which turned them away from a candidate, including cursing. The lesson here is that people should think before posting on any media platform because it just might cost them their ideal job opportunity.

Face it. Cursing is not going away. For those that use it, it would be a kinder world if they took their surroundings into consideration and were more sensitive to them. For those that don’t, they can always walk away, choosing to let the uncomfortable feelings brush over them and continue on with their day. Ignoring such language is sometimes a better option than confrontation. They will find that taking the high road is a much more gratifying solution. No matter what a person’s stance on cursing is, remember this: words have power and meaning, so choose them wisely.