Everything Language and Grammar

Only 70 Curses Today–Below Average

Posted by languageandgrammar on April 16, 2009

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


5 Responses to “Only 70 Curses Today–Below Average”

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

  2. 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 said

      We accept the award with great modesty and gratitude.

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

  3. Charles Heehler said

    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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