“Money doesn’t talk, it swears. ” Many of the most brilliant minds throughout time have used profanity. Shakespeare’s best works were revised and edited in order to remove the numerous curse words or obscene phrases he included. The harmless use of profanity in an informal setting should not be penalized, by the assignment of an essay. Profanity continuously to evolves, and has a very rich and interesting history. The system of assigning essays for the use of profanity is ineffective and counter productive.
When angry, count four; when very angry, swear. ” The evolution of profanity began in the sixteenth century, and it evolves with each generation. Profanity is recognized in many Shakespearean works, and has evolved into the profane language used today. Some cuss or curse words have somehow maintained their original meanings throughout hundreds of years, while many others have completely changed meaning or simply fallen from popular vocabulary.
William Shakespeare, though it is not widely taught, used a rather vulgar and dirty vocabulary in his writings. His works included subjects that some people wish they had not. “That includes a fair helping of sex, violence, crime, horror, politics, religion, anti-authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, jealousy, profanity, satire, and controversy of all kinds” (Macrone 6). In Shakespeare’s time, religious and moral curses were more offensive than biological curses.
Most original, prior to being censored, Shakespearean works contain offensive profanity, mostly religious, which is probably one of many reasons that his works were and continue to be so popular. “Shakespeare pushed a lot of buttons in his day- which is one reason he was so phenomenally popular. Despite what they tell you, people like having their buttons pushed” (Macrone 6). His works contained many profane words or phrases and as a result, were censored to protect the innocent minds of the teenagers who are now required to read them, and also because they were blasphemous and offensive.
Perhaps the two worst of these Shakespearean swears were “‘zounds” and “‘sblood. ” “‘Zounds” had twenty-three occurrences. Ten of them were in 1 Henry IV. The rest appear in Titus (once), Richard III (four times), Romeo and Juliet (twice), and Othello (six times). Lago and Falstaff were the worst offenders. ‘Zounds has evolved into somewhat of a silly and meaningless word, but was originally horribly offensive. This oath, short for “God’s wounds,” was extremely offensive because references to the wounds or blood of Christ were thought especially outrageous, as they touched directly on the crucifixion. ‘Sblood” had twelve occurrences in all.
There were eight times in 1 Henry IV (with Falstaff accounting for six), plus once in Henry V, twice in Hamlet, and once in Othello. ‘Sblood occurs less than ‘zounds, but is equally offensive and means basically the same thing. Several other words came from Great Britain, but were not included in Shakespeare’s works. Today the expression “Gadzooks! ” is not particularly offensive to most. Of course, most don’t know what it originally meant. Gadzooks was originally slang for “God’s hooks,” and was equally offensive to ‘zounds and ‘sblood as it also referred to the crucifixion.
An interesting note is that there is an American store called Gadzooks, which is a pop-culture vendor to America’s youth. Some of Gadzooks’ shoppers would be very offended if they knew the true meaning of the store’s name. Another word from this region is a Cockney expression, “Gorblimey,” which is a word used to swear to the truth, and is a shortened form of “God blind me. ” Also, in England, words such as “bloody,” “blimey,” “blinkin’,” beginning with the letters “BL” are taken offense to because they, once again, refer to the blood of Christ and the crucifixion.
The military has an interesting technique for swearing without offending anyone. They use the phonetic alphabet (A= Alpha, B= Bravo, C= Charlie, etc. ) as a code for their swearing. For instance, instead of saying “bull shit,” they would say “bravo charlie. ” Or instead of the horribly offensive blasphemous cuss word, they could say, “golf delta. ” Most people are familiar with the swear words that are still used. These “four-letter words” aren’t necessarily four letters long, but more or less, they get the same point across as their four lettered friends.
Such words usually include crap, ass, shit, bitch, and fuck. There are many variations on the usage and placement of these words, but they still pack a punch. The word “crap” dates back as early as 1846, and is usually used as a euphemism for shit, yet many people find it equally offensive. As most cuss words do, crap has several different variations, such as, “eat crap,” “crap-ass,” and “crapola. ” The meaning has not evolved since its first publication, where it was defined simply as excrement.
The word “ass” had its first publication as a swear word (as opposed to a donkey) in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1556. “Whyyped… at the cartt es arse… for vacabondes. ” This is not the definition commonly used today, but is still a vulgar way of using the word. It was defined as the back of an object, whereas the more widely used definition is “of the rump, the buttocks, rectum, and anus” (Lighter 37). The more common definition was first recorded in “Covent Garden Drollery. ” The word actually started out as Irs, then evolved into arse (which is the German translation also), and finally evolved into ass.
Shit” is, when used as an interjection, “An expression of strong disgust or disappointment,” but is, when used as a noun, “Anything inferior, ugly, cheap, or disgusting” (Flexner 467). Shit can be placed with just about any word resulting in a obscene expression. Some examples are, “shit head,” “shitting bricks,” and the colorful phrase, “shit or get off of the pot. ” Bitch was first used in 1400 in F and H, and has, quite amazingly, maintained its original meaning for over five hundred years. It’s definition in F and H was “a malicious, spiteful, promiscuous, or otherwise despicable woman” (Lighter 169).
It is also used today to describe “a sexually promiscuous young woman, a male homosexual who plays the female role in copulation, an ill tempered homosexual male, an infuriatingly large object, or something especially disagreeable” (Lighter 169-70), among various others. There are many other forms of the word, such as “bitch kitty,” or “bitch session”. “Fuck” is probably the most offensive curse word. The earliest use of it is in “Verbatim” in 1500, which says, “Non sunt in celi/quia fuccant uuiuys of heli. ” The meaning, unlike the language, has remained the same, however. It still means, “to copulate” (Lighter 831).
Some popular variations of it are “fuck a duck,” “fucked by the fickle finger of fate,” (Reinhold 79) “fucked up and far from home,” and “fucking A. ” The word “damn” itself is not offensive, but is rather used as an intensifier of other words or phrases. When placed with God, however, it becomes a horrible, blasphemous word, which is, to many, more offensive than fuck. This type of thinking goes back to the sixteenth century when religious curses were far worse than biological. G. D. goes back to 1697, when D. Defoe, in G. Hughes Swearing 209 said, “G. D. ye, does not sit well upon a female tongue” (Lighter 914).
Swear words can be used in pairs such as “fucking bitch” to intensify and make the swearing humorous. They can also be used as compliments. Words like “bitchen” have been used since 1957 when Gidget said, “It was a bitchen day too. The sun was out… in Southern California” (Lighter 171). Profanity has evolved from the religious curses of Old England and the biological curses of today not only in meaning, but also in intensity. Besides G. D. , the only curses that are offensive today are the biological curses that make sentences, movies, and just about anything more graphic or offensive than had the word been left out.
It is improper and incorrect to believe that by banning profanity students will not make use of curse words. They will simply speak softly or when the teacher is out of earshot. By punishing the occasional use of swear words, a teacher actually inadvertently promotes their use and doesn’t even come close to solving the problem. As a student with 5 years of experience with high school courses and 8 years at an elementary level, I believe I qualify as an expert in regards to understanding the student psyche. It is only in this, my last year of high school that I have encountered a “Swearing Essay”; I believe that this is ridiculous.
By enforcing this system it only serves to encourage the use of curse or cuss words. Furthermore, through the research for this essay I have actually learnt many new curse words. The use of profanity has never been a problem with any of the students in any of the courses I have ever taken. If a student used profanity frequently and inappropriately, the teacher would speak to that student separately so as to not centre them out or humiliate them in front of their peers. The occasional swear is acceptable as long as it is not directed at any individual or group and is not intentionally offensive.
This “Swear Essay” system is very counter productive. When a student in class swears other students and eventually the teacher reprimands them. This process takes valuable time, and with several offenders each period this amounts to a considerable amount of time. A far more productive approach would be to speak to the student and ask them to generate a list of alternative words to be used instead of profanity. By forcing a student to justify a pre-determined point of view, they fail to learn anything. They merely regurgitate what has been told to them in class and don’t actually have to do any real research or work.
According to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, an assignment such as a “swearing essay” would qualify only as knowledge or comprehension. Both of the categories are tests for lower levels of knowledge. At the senior level in an advanced class, assignments should be designed to test higher level thinking skills. A far better assignment would be to ask students to defend and justify their use of profanity. This assignment would fall into the highest level of knowledge, evaluation. The only actual lesson that students learn from a “swearing essay” is to speak more softly.
Profanity has a varied history and some of the best minds are known to have employed cuss words frequently. The “Swearing Essay” is counter-productive and the methodology is flawed. As intelligent human beings, we all know what is right and what is wrong. When a swear is not meant as a put down or intentionally offensive, in a classroom setting it does not merit an essay. This is entire process and system serves to further discourage the teacher student relationship, and is waste not only of the offenders time but also of the teacher’s themselves.