Only 70 Curses Today–Below Average

I was shocked by a recent article that claims that teenagers use curse words 80 to 90 times per day on average (Curse words trendy language among teenagers). I was shocked because I thought it would be more like a thousand.

The need to use so many swear words says something–either about the state of our language or the state of our teenagers–but I choose to focus on the effectiveness of curse words.

The effectiveness of a curse word is in the effect that it has on the speaker or the listener. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure that both are reasons that teenagers use so many. They want to be perceived as tough or cool or trendy, so they use curse words; they also like the shock value that the words have on adults. Swear words and teenagers–it’s a match made it heaven–I mean hell.

While some of us can work five swear words into a sentence about grandma, puppies, and rainbows, it might be good to remember that they lose their effectiveness with overuse just like any other word. Back in the heyday of stand-up comedians in the late 1980s and early 1990s, most stand-up comedians prided themselves on how many swear words they could include in a 15-minute set; in fact, they depended on them for their comedy. At the end of the show, you’d be lucky to remember one f-filled joke. Most of those comedians, I will note, had a shorter shelf life than a carton of milk in a sauna.

That contrasted dramatically with Jerry Seinfeld, who refused to rely on curse words. In the one instance in which Seinfeld decided to use a swear word on his television show, it was done in the context of his being a mentor to a young boy. It was funny and memorable–because it was in context and was the exception to the rule.

I guess I’m not saying that you shouldn’t swear but that you should pick your spots…

–Paul “F-bomb” Yeager

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5 Responses to Only 70 Curses Today–Below Average

  1. Laura Payne says:

    Great post. I can’t wait to show this to my teenage son when he gets home from school.

  2. Laura Payne says:

    I am so glad I found your blog, it truly is one of my favorites. I just gave you an award on my blog so I can share you with my readers.

    • languageandgrammar says:

      We accept the award with great modesty and gratitude.

      Seriously, that was very kind of you. Thanks, Laura.
      Paul and Sherry

  3. Charles Heehler says:

    It’s not just teenagers. It’s also adults who think they’re being cool or macho, and it can destroy a mind. That is to say, it encourages a sort of anti-intellectualism.

    Charles Heehler

  4. It’s not just teenagers. My kids (ages 3 & nearly 6) think “wiener” (as in “you are a wiener!”) is a curse word. And given the effect to which they use it, it kind of is.

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