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Updated: January 8, 2012 01:40 IST

For heaven's sake, shun expletives — a form of expression!

Sheela Varghese
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Discussing profanity is a taboo and if you are an educationist it is almost sacrilegious. The usual tendency is to brush it under the carpet. Pretend it never existed. Before I develop cold feet let me give vent to my thoughts scaffolding it with a few observations. The Literary Fest at Jaipur grabbed a lot of eyeballs for various reasons .The one that grabbed mine was the debate on ‘Expletives a form of expression'. The spurt of movies hence released genuflected to the idea quite passionately.

When did cuss words become a form of expression? The occasional ‘friendly obscenities' were just that, occasional and friendly. Not worth the salt, very forgettable. They taking a literary hue left me baffled and curious. They almost prison our verbal intercourse rendering us impotent.

The expletives of yesteryear were empty word not obnoxious and maybe, uttered in a state of exasperation, it probably rolled off the tongue of a harangued housewife or a henpecked spouse. A timely solace, nothing more. Originally, it was an element of grammar-attributed as a grammatical intensifier. Words like ‘there is',' they are' were expletive, a mere filler in a sentence.

Fast forward to the present day .They are no more a filler .They are no more a sound expressing an emotional outburst. These “salty expressions” have over the course of time turned ‘colourful' and steamy .Sadly unsavoury vituperations are generously mouthed by our young boys and girls. A walk down the corridors of educational institutions would leave one appalled at the liberal sprinkling of these pejoratives aired without qualm, almost an incantation .The need to appease, to please, to be accepted paramount .The ‘cool' image is donned like a badge of recognition, its ‘sceptred sway,' undeniable. The uninitiated are looked upon with contempt .They too eventually join the bandwagon exploiting the expletives.

Having traversed the country, I can with confidence exclaim that expletives are certainly not the domain of a few. Even Presidents have fallen prey to it. (Remember, the expletive-deleted Watergate tapes of President Nixon). Every region is attuned to it, adding to this long barrage of detestables a unique regional flavour. These abominables are everywhere. Writers argue that expletives in sync with the character make it more realistic. Movies and television blanket the expletives with a beep or a buzz. Both need to be expurgated. They are more offensive than the word, besides they trigger one's imagination! In many ways they can be truly called ‘Expletives,the Leveller'. (James Shirley would be mortified)

On a personal front, I find expletives quite limiting. It stunts creative impulse. Talks of a deteriorating word power .Expletives prevent us rising from the banal. Moreover, they elicit a negative energy. A good indignation makes an excellent speech. It would be a pity to let anger die on the anvil of a few repetitive profanities. Acclimatised to counselling, I can't help but urge youngsters to refrain from scavenging with words.

(The writer's email id is varghesenevergiveup

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I really congratulate the writer who very beautifully brought out the random use of expletives and its acceptance in everyday life as well as its use in print and electronic media. I really do not know whether the freedom and the ease with which one says and the other accepts if good or bad. Being in early twenties I find it liberating...if it is contextual. I really do not want to be a moral police

from:  Anaita Prabhu
Posted on: Jan 16, 2012 at 12:49 IST

Freedom of speech is one thing but the liberal use of profanity in the language is quite another. As a teacher, I cringe at some of the words used by the kids today in and out of the classroom. Children seem to express their anger through the use of foul language.It's perfectly natural to get angry or experience disappointment but we need to teach them to find a more healthy outlet.

from:  Kairali K.K
Posted on: Jan 13, 2012 at 23:10 IST

I do endorse the writer's view. Brevity tests the speaker's command but this does include the....... language. I do marvel the use of these words without any qualm. But what is alarming is the the acceptance of this in today's milieu. Turn your head in any direction in any place; you do not escape it... turn to any form of media again you are exposed to them. I do not want to be a moral police or sit on the judgement chair nevertheless I do think there are other milder, better and non violent ways to substitute the hot and unconstitutional words.

from:  Urmila Prabhu
Posted on: Jan 12, 2012 at 18:40 IST

A contrarian view- I was formerly of the view that expletives had absolutely no place in civilized speech, no matter what the circumstance, and its use was a sign of moral depravity. After reading some linguistics in the past few years, I've changed my mind slightly. I absolutely agree that there are people - women, children, elderly, work colleagues - in the presence of whom any profanity is a strict no-no, a clear social taboo. But the limited use of profanity, when with friends, in literature, cinema does have value. The use of profanity tastefully, in selective social situations, serves as a release, an ice-breaker, a burst of raw, unrestrained emotion. Sure you could do achieve these literary effects with other, perhaps, gentler words, but anyone who is a judicious practitioner of this dark art knows that nothing gives a punch quite like the use of words referring to excrement or copulation. Which is also why profanity is a universal feature found in all languages.

from:  Raamganesh
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 12:33 IST

The ever increasing influence of the media, its heroes and their jargon, has become a benchmark for fashion and modernity.. It has crept into our homes.. It is here we need to apply restrain..

from:  John Thomas
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 21:18 IST

A timely article for today's generation.

from:  George Varghese
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 20:07 IST

I used to observe my nephew watching some of the Hollywood movies which had a beep sound every minute and I used to wonder how so many profanities get uttered. Whenever we learnt other language, it used to be jocularly said, get to know the profane words first! When I was on a panel to interview candidates for a middle-level banking job, the candidate mentioned that one of the reasons he was quitting his current MNC Bank was because he could not stomach the use of expletives. I found it galling when such expletives are uttered carelessly by young girls. In our days, parents used to admonish children for using such language asking them to 'gargle their mouth'. In our childhood, whenever someone got scolding, it was to call the person a 'debtor' and that was enough! It was Thiruvalluvar who said when you have so many fruitive expressions, why pick on unripe ones - meaning use only nice words.

from:  P Sreenivasan
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 13:00 IST

The scavenging the words has become more popular and the young are doing it without any hesitation. The fashion has to cease and the young should be taught how to express anger without taking recourse to expletives. The refinement in expression and etiquette has to be taught consciously by the parents and teachers. The beauty of language and the beauty of character go together.

from:  J.Ravindranath
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 07:27 IST
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