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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Mild" Profanities?

Two and a half months ago I wrote a post where I mentioned a blog I thought was funny due to "mild profanity" and ever since then it's bugged me. In fact, even when I typed the words way back then I knew I would have to revisit the concept. And the day has come.

What makes today the day?

First, I haven't run into anything more pressing to blog about.

Second, Shannon* wrote a great post on the subject. (You can read it here if you missed it in my "Other Posts of Note" ...which you all read all the time, right? <wink>).

My first thought is: What makes a profanity "mild" and what difference does that make? I mean, this goes back to the whole "a sin is a sin" issue, right? But before I can answer my own question, I have to answer a more basic question: What is a profanity, and why is it wrong to use them?

Thankfully, Shannon's husband has already told us that the "thing about bad words isn’t so much the word itself, it’s the motive and heart behind it." With that being the case, even euphemisms can be a problem. And I completely agree: The intent, more than content, determines the morality of something.

But content does matter. That's why some words in our culture are plain old profanities while others are "mild." That is culturally defined, which is why in Europe people say "bum" for the derriere, because they find "butt" offensive; the same is true of households as well: what is okay to say depends on the home.

And, yes, a "sin is a sin," but different sins have different consequences. So while it is equally sinful to hate your brother as to kill him, the consequences of murder are far more tangible and irreversible. So, a mild profanity has less of a negative impact than something more venomous.

I believe that there are three factors to determining the morality of something, and I've given you two: Intent and Content.

You'll have to wait for the third: Response. It couldn't get it to fit well in this post.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

*After much sleuthing, I think her name is Shannon.

But I just gotta say this: Not giving me at least a pseudonym drives me crazy! It's a pet peeve of mine. I hate having to refer to people with: "Why, yes, I-Am-a-Mother-of-Two-and-Own-a-Dog, I agree."

For cryin' out loud! If'n you're paranoid, at least use Elle G or something.

And maybe it's just me, but LAH doesn't cut it either. I guess my brain can't make enough of a distinction between GW and CM to be an effective nomenclature.

Rant over.

Forgive me, Woman-Wanting-What-the-Word-Welcomes; I love you dearly, but please give me something more personable to use in reference to you.

Thank you.

Your Friend and Blogger,


Craig and Heather said...


Just my opinion, but I believe a main reason Christians should not find "mild" profanity acceptable is that it opens the door to developing callous attitudes, which lead to sin of more severe consequences.

For those who use the Bible as the ultimate guide to appropriate behavior, I think Ephesians 4:29 leaves no room to wiggle around the "lesser evil" category.

"Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear."

It sure looks like this is an instruction without an exception (such as "well, its okay in extreme circumstances, you know, to make a point or if you get startled and nearly choke on a mouthful of food").

If that isn't good enough, one could apply the "eating meat offered to idols" scenario that Paul describes. This looks beyond whether it is "okay for *me* to use questionable language and specifically seeks the best for those who might hear and have their own consciences become offended.

1 Corinthians 8:13 "Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall."

It then becomes a matter of love for a brother rather than simply me exercising my own freedom in Christ.

If saying xxxxx is something I am reasonably sure will cause another member of God's family to believe they are witnessing sin, I should be willing to use self control and NOT say it, even if I personally don't see anything wrong with the word.

But perhaps I am leaping ahead of you here.


Luke Holzmann said...


You did jump beyond the scope of my post... but that's great! <smile> You make excellent points, and I'm with you there.

Just to be clear: I was not proposing that I think we should be using profanity ("mild" or otherwise <smile>).

But I would like to point out that even here we see a "contextual morality" based on whom we are around. Not saying words that would offend our weaker brothers is essential, yes. But when we are not around them we need not avoid the "evil meat" <smile>.

But I agree with your statements, and would say that it's a heart issue, so even euphemisms and nonsense words can be wrong.

Great discussion points. Thanks so much for sharing them!


Unknown said...

I'm so glad you left me a comment earlier today! I have been reading your blog for the last half hour and have enjoyed it very much. Thanks for visiting!


Luke Holzmann said...


You are most welcome! I'm glad you came by and I hope to "see" you around these parts again in the near future <smile>.



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