Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Profanity Insanity1996. Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. I'm in for baby #2 when an Israeli midwife asks me in Hebrew:
"G'veret... lama hanashim hadatiyot ainam m'kallelot k'shehaim yoldot?"Which means: Lady, why don't you religious girls curse when you're giving birth?
Which is a question you'll only hear in a delivery room in Israel!!
But it did get my wood burning. People curse for a variety of reasons. For shock value. To express frustration or anger. Out of habit. But there are a wide variety of words that can shock and express frustration that are not considered profane. When pushed, tired, overwhelmed, or mad, your brain will reach for the most satisfying bad word it can find and offer it up to your mouth. Whatever comes out of your mouth will depend on what is stocked in your brain.
If you're not reading it, saying it, listening to it, or thinking it, it's not in your inventory, and your brain will come up with the most satisfying word that IS there (like "idiot," "stupid").
The other thing is: self-control is a huge part of being religious. Think before you eat. Think before you act. And yes, think before you speak. Is it nice? Is it true? Is it kosher? So even the act that seems impulsive of having your brain spontaneously reach for a nice juicy word, is often going to be deferred by that process.
There are lots of reasons why profanity is bad for your soul, and bad for the souls of your listeners. I don't think anyone would argue that it advances one's spirituality. And many people that swear sometimes find that they slip or goof in uncomfortable situations, or in front of their kids (just taught junior a great new vocab word there).
What I don't really understand is why people curse when they're NOT pushed, not overwhelmed, not trying to insult someone in the worst way they know how. Just in calm, casual conversation. What is that about? And, if you've gotten used to profanity, do you just get jaded? Like, do you find yourself reaching for even more incendiary speech when you really need to make a point? Then what?