Swearing Off Cussing

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times is at the liberal bloggers’ Netroots Nation convention in Austin, TX and reports that for various reasons, some members of the netroots (the so-called “F*ck Panel”) are easing off their use of profanity… or at least “have scaled back” of late.

Digby Parton, who writes on Hullabaloo.com, said she initially thought of her blog as an ephemeral form of conversation among friends and used vulgarities freely. But now she is read by a substantially wider circle and has cleaned up her language.

“I don’t use the same amount of profanity,” she said. “We’re taken much more seriously as a political force,” and she has a stronger sense that her words are “out there for posterity.”

Still, she said, she does not want to take a restrictive view toward language and doesn’t always hold back.

Next on the panel was Lee Papa, a theater professor at the College of Staten Island (part of the CUNY system) who writes the Rude Pundit, which gives you an idea of where he’s coming from.

He said he started his blog during the buildup to the war in Iraq, when, he said, disagreement with the idea of going to war was suppressed. One example: Shortly before the Iraqi invasion, in 2003, Phil Donahue’s talk show, which was often anti-war, was cancelled by MSNBC, even though it was the highest rated of the network’s such shows; an internal memo later revealed that executives thought Mr. Donahue’s would be “a difficult face for NBC in a time of war.”

Mr. Papa said his impulse toward vulgarity, including references to rape, was a reaction to that climate of suppression. Besides, he said, “I curse a lot in my daily life.”

But now, he said, he curses a lot less, almost as if he has developed an internal quota system that lets him get it out of the way each morning.

Kevin Drum, who writes the more proper Political Animal blog for the Washington Monthly, said he tones it down “because my mother reads my blog.”

“I used to swear a lot,” he said. “I like swearing, and I love reading people who do it well.” But he said he discovered that “a lot of people really don’t like it and I shut it down,” both in his personal life and his writing life.

Next on the panel was Duncan Black, aka Atrios of the blog Eschaton and a fellow at Media Matters, who questioned why certain words were perceived as bad when they were describing policies that were truly horrific.

“I’ve toned it down a little bit over the years,” he said, but he added that if he wants to use a certain word, he does.

Although I think there’s generally far too much fuss and bother made about the level of obscenities on blogs, I have been making a deliberate effort to avoid superfluous profanity here over the last six months or so. As a result, the last time I checked my old site using the Cuss-O-Meter, it scored a surprisingly prim 3.9%! WordPress however produces a much higher score (16.8%) that I would guess must be owing to the comments being included. There’s no particular reason for this move, but putting an end to the grundyesque tut-tutting of wearisome right-wing scolds would probably be high on the list of motives.

9 Replies to “Swearing Off Cussing”

  1. We should make an effort to swear more as a tribute to George Carlin. Perhaps picking a day for major cussing.

    Also, you may want to add some words that otherwise wouldn’t be caught.

    Thinks like “dagnabit”, “darn”, “jeez”, and “tabernacle”.

  2. Don’t get me wrong. I still like some good old fashioned cussin’ but it bugs me when that becomes the sole focus of criticism. I’d prefer to be attacked for what I say, rather than how I say it.

  3. Profanity doesn’t bother me – I use plenty of it in real life. But I rarely use profanity when posting a comment not out of politeness but because I ask myself a question…

    Does it serve my purpose?

    I suspect most commenters probably don’t bother to even consider their purpose.

    I get a kick out of those bloggers who think that profanity and name calling proves that they are fearlessly candid, and thus on a higher moral plain.

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