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Amber Rookstool
Dr. Brimi
AP Language and Composition
16 January 2015
The Day of the Curse
It is midnight on Halloween and you are standing outside under an umbrella with your
neighbor, grumbling about the cold rain and lack of trick-or-treaters. You both stare longingly at
the garage where your parents are talking and laughing with beers in their hands and warmth in
their eyes. You avoid using obscenities as you express the frustration you have because your
parents are making you stand outside.
You begin to feel an odd tingle on the back of your neck. The wind feels cooler, sending
chills up your spine. Your adrenaline starts pumping, heart racing, pupils dilating. Suddenly a
loud Boo! deafens you. You jump back and yell, ---. Your heart slows down; you hear the
laughter of the adults and find that the prankster is your sibling. And then you are glad it is dark
outside because you are blushing. Youre embarrassed. You know theyre not laughing because
you were pranked: theyre laughing because you cursed.
You never curse.
Cursing has become a part of the hoi polloi in this decades social media stream. Foul
language is normal vocabulary for the average student. Despite the common perception, speaking
obscenities is not as blasphemous as many people believe. Those common four-letter words have
been proven to be an expression of emotion, and they are an integral part of American popular
culture.

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Cursing is an expression of emotion. It is like song writing, poem making, or canvas


painting. Each of these actions is a form of expression, an outlet for the artists emotions. Foul
language can be thought of in the same mannerit provides a medium for one to express ones
emotion. Dr. Richard Stephens, a psychology professor at Keele University in England, says,
Swearing gives us release (Radding). In a recent study, he found that volunteers allowed to
curse while one hand submerged in ice-cold water lasted longer on average of 60 seconds than
those only allowed to use benign verbiage. He concluded that cursing helps people tolerate pain
by inducing a natural fight or flight response by increasing adrenaline levels (Taylor). He calls
it a self-induced aggression. Aggression can come about from cursing, or cursing can come
from aggression. Either way, it is an acceptable expressive form. When confronted in a situation
where one feels defenseless, the blue language gets the point across and deflects the adversaries
rebuttal (Lev). Thus, cursing to express emotion, mostly anger, is acceptable because of the
mental stabilities it gives.
Not only is cursing a form of expression, but it is also part of the American popular
culture. Foul language is used often by celebrities, singers, and actors, and because of them, the
new generation speaks profanities as well. The popular use semantically satiates obscenities.
Socially unaccepted words, such as butt, were once censored on prime time TV. Now, some
television shows promote cursing, such as Jimmy Kimmel Live. Jimmy Kimmels Celebrity
Curse Off bit has over 3.7 million hits on YouTube (Jennifer Anniston). Even though the
words are bleepable and censored from the public, they lack meaning because they are used in
a situation not requiring an emotional release (unless Jennifer Anniston and Lisa Kudrow
reuniting is a warranted cause). In this instance, curse words are being used for friendly fire and
therefore rendered insignificant. The hackney use of curse words turns foul language harmless

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and acceptable. Desensitized curse words are a part of American culture, and causes popular
culturists to suggest that fluency in obscenities has become a rite of passage for adolescents
(Lev). Many students are pressured to cuss before high school to gain popularity. Cursing has
become such an integral part of American society, it has transformed into a stereotype. In
Europe, Romans (and other Europeans) believe that all Americans cuss. They hear songs like
Lilly Allens F you and watch Hollywood-produced movies that bleed profanity. Cursing is
an element of American culture because it has become desensitized and a rite of passage; but
most importantly, cursing is a stereotypes, and stereotypes define culture.
Despite curse words acceptability from emotional expression and hackneyed popularity,
profanity is tabooed by religion and the degree of aggression. Religion is a main contributor in
the war against blasphemy by profanity. Many of the world religions have prophets or sacred
texts that tell followers to avoid foul language. For example, the Holy Bible says, Put them all
away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.
(Colossians 3:8). Obscene talk means cursing; therefore, the Bible says not to curse. However,
St. Paul uses the word skubala in a letter to the Philippians, a letter describing the earthly
materials he had given up for Christ. Many scholars today believe that the Latin word is
equivalent to present-day sh (Palmer). If the Apostle Paul curses in the Bible, then people
should be allowed to curse without scrutiny, unless it is directed towards a person. This
stipulation on cursing shows the degree of acceptable expressive aggression and where it is
aimed. If select language is used to insult and bully, then it should be censored. Ephesian 4:29
says, Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up,
as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. The purpose of cursing is to

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express rage about an instance and repudiate ridicules, but not to insult an adversary; therefore,
cursing, although appropriate in most cases, is restricted when people use the words as weapons.
Although cursing is popular in America, many people grimace at the utterance of foul
language. A few studies have shown that cursing is beneficial because it is a manifestation of
emotion. The overuse of profanity has made the words lose their meaning. What harm does
expressing emotion do? What harm comes from hackneyed words? None when qualified by an
exception to violent expression. Cursing is acceptable speech because it expresses emotion, it is a
form of defense, and it is a part of American culture. So next time your sibling surprises you and
a little four-letter word slips out, dont be embarrassed; you are just expressing yourself.

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Works Cited
Jennifer Anniston, Lisa Kudrow play Celebrity Curse Off on Jimmy Kimmel Live. UPI
News Track 29. Nov. 2014. Student Resources in Context. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Lev, Elizabeth. Europeans Are Adopting American Pop Cultures Use of Profanity. Popular
Culture. Ed. David Haugen and Susan Musser. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011.
Opposing Viewpoints, Rpt. From Exporting Expletives: Americas Contribute to Global
Culture. Politics Daily. 2009. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Palmer, Brian. "Thous Shalt Not Have a Potty Mouth." Slate. 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
Radding, Ben. Cursing is useful, we swear. Mens Fitness. Nov. 2014: 21. General OneFile.
Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Taylor, Paul. That Soothing F-Bomb. Globe and Mail [Toronto, Canada] 13 July 2009: L1.
Popular Magazines. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.