Vulgarity in all forms leads to anger, disrespect

To the editor:

Many columnists and letters to the editor writers in recent months have commented on "vulgarity". Vulgarity according to the dictionary includes behavior that is boorish, obscene, offensive, coarse and debasing. This may or may not involve words designated as curses, but such behavior generally shows disrespect.

I'd like to share some thoughts on the profanity element in vulgar behavior. Many may not be aware that there is a minimal amount of profanity to choose from and it is virtually limited to a few terms of a religious, sexual or excremental nature. One might consider adding a few ethnic or racial slurs to the mix, but they are not generally considered profanity, though they may be at least as hurtful to the listener.

Profanity has traditionally been used to express anger, frustration, disrespect or feelings of pain, such as when one hits a finger with a hammer upon missing a nail. Reflecting further on profanity and its various uses goes a long way toward seeing these uses as avoidance of better explanations of one's feelings and as an excuse to vent one's emotions without actually pinpointing their nature.


For example, calling another person a "bastard" is usually far removed from the accuracy of the designation. However, instead of a term such as bastard, it would be more to the point to express the source of the anger itself such as saying one was outraged, horribly upset, insulted, wounded, shocked, etc. Following this, instead of cursing, one might point out that the offender was behaving so atrociously, so detestably that his name should not be mentioned in public, so repulsively that even Satan would be offended, etc. That approach, without recourse to swearing, would inform the recipient of your extreme rejection of his/her behavior. It would also give you a good chance to be creative and exercise your vocabulary of put-downs.

Another thing about profanity is that it is potentially most painful in proportion to the vehemence of its delivery. To illustrate, if someone cursed me in a gentle way, with a smile on their face, I would receive it much differently than if they came at me with an angry shout and a clenched fist, This could particularly be the case when travelling in a foreign country. A native language speaker could swear at me as much as they wanted as long as they didn't do it with obvious anger, and not comprehending their language, I might not even know I was being disparaged.

Another sobering thought is that we are only offended when cursed if we agree to accept the definition of the term as designed to be hurtful. Being hurt by words requires acceptance by the recipient of their hurtful intent.

Finally, keep in mind that vulgarity is more than just profanity. What then is the consequence of the public use of vulgarity where listeners experience it as disrespectful? Such behavior promotes anger and grossly interferes with effective communication.

Hence it is hard to imagine any benefit if our country was to become led by a president who openly demonstrated that he did not seriously respect his or her own citizens nor the rest of our fellow planetary citizens with whom we have to one day learn to co-exist, lest we co-destroy ourselves.

Let's earnestly hope that we never elect such a person to lead the United States of America.

Don Lathrop, Canaan, N.Y.