Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Deal With Dirty Words (Part Three)

[Side Note: I have fought the good fight. I have lost the race. Blogger WILL NOT let me make my font the same as it has always been. I offer my sincere apologies, and hope it will not prove too distracting.]
If profanity is neutral, then why would one fifteen-year-old young man receive 60,000 critical emails (including death threats), unsolicited pornographic magazine subscriptions, and a $2,000 pizza scam for speaking out against it? I covered his story in a school report I wrote back in 2011, and the further information I uncovered regarding the issues of profanity was eye-opening to say the least.
In today's article we have an answer to the questions we posed last Tuesday, as well as a more in-depth look at the types and physical and mental effects of profanity. This is our third installment of "How to Deal With Dirty Words" and the series concludes on Friday.
1. Are Some Swear Words Worse that Others?
While I don't have a specific verse or statistic to back me up, I would argue that yes, there are different "tiers" of swear words. The lowest is crude slang, which includes terms that can be used in a correct and edifying manner. The second includes words that are definitely seen as curse words in our society, but which are neutral gender and make light of God's judgement. The third is mild use of the Lord's Name in vain (believe it or not, while all are wrong, there are some less descriptive than others) and words derogatory towards women or crude in the extreme. And the forth is blasphemy towards God's name in the extreme, which I will not go into further detail on.
The first level I will sometimes use white-out on, and sometimes not. I take it in a case by case basis, and if I find the general intention of the usage is not bad, then sometimes I'll leave it in. The second and third levels I always white out, as I can see no edification whatsoever from reading them, and the fourth level causes me to close and trash the book completely. (One example of the fourth would be Kathryn Stockett's The Help, or Fahrenheit 451, neither of which have I read, but I have heard about from others.) Some parts of level three make me extremely uncomfortable, and are likely to cause me to seriously question the book, whether or not I choose to make an end of it.
2. Words that Used to be Good and Now Aren't
Read the King James Bible alone, and you'll find plenty. While I would never include such words myself in my own writing, if I am reading a book written at a time when the word's meaning was good, or placed in a setting where it would have been perfectly acceptable (for instance, an author writing in the 1600s or a character living in the 1600s) I am not as bothered by it, though I would certainly omit it when reading aloud because of its modern meaning.
3. Words that Are Both Good and Bad
Hell is a real judgement, and a real location, and never to be used lightly in the mouth of man. Therefore, when used as God intended it, it is a perfectly fine word--one that carries a weight of meaning. But in the reality that many will be facing an eternity there without accepting Christ as their savior, it should never be used in a light manner. Also, the damnation of God is a very serious thing, and can be used in a proper and God-honoring way. But because the souls of human beings are in the balance, it should never be used carelessly, for that would be carelessly tossing aside the judgement that these souls will undergo.
4. How to Keep From Swearing By Mistake
Simply know the definition of the word you're going to use. Look it up in the dictionary before you use it. Most of us have been caught using words whose connotation we had no idea of, especially period drama fans who know a word based on it's 1800s connotation rather than 2012. Words and their meaning change, so even though it's fun to use those long, fancy words, be especially careful in your use of adjectives that have meanings you do not know. And if you do use one by accident, then don't beat yourself up over it. You didn't know, and chances are you'll never repeat it once you do. Spoken from personal experience.
(Tip: Never use a search engine to find out if a word is legitimate. Use a dictionary, and you'll be kept a lot safer from finding out more information than you need to know.)
How the Brain Processes Swear Words
In this section, I'm going to quote from the last report I wrote in high school, back in July of 2011:
Now that we know how to define profanity and why we should be careful of our words, let’s look at how the brain processes swear words. In our brains, the cerebral cortex, in the left hemisphere, processes our language (language meaning “the words we speak” not “swear words”.) Scientists recognize this as a ‘higher’ function. The brain processes emotions and instincts deep inside itself, and the right hemisphere takes care of the emotional parts of language. Scientists classify emotions and instinct as ‘lower’ brain functions. Researches have been conducted showing that the brain processes swearing in the emotion and instinct regions, and instead of processing the words as units of sound that must be combined, it stores swear words as whole units. The left hemisphere isn’t even involved. “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that the higher and lower parts of the brain can struggle with each other when a person swears [ref]. A New York Times article [1] cites several other studies that involve how a healthy brain processes swearing. For example, the brains of people who pride themselves on being educated respond to slang and "illiterate" phrases the same way they do to swear words. In addition, in studies in which people must identify the color a word is written in (instead of the word itself), swear words distract the participants from color recognition. You can also remember swear words about four times better than other words [ref].”[2] So using swear words comes directly from the emotion portion of the brain. The Bible classifies those who operate by instinct as godless men that deny the Lord Jesus and exploit his grace. “Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals — these are the very things that destroy them (Jude 10, emphasis mine).”
So let’s sum up. Our English language contains words that we instinctively recognize as swear words. God’s Word contains standards for our speech, and the words we should and should not say. He wants us to avoid coarse and corrupt speech. Our brains process swear words in the emotion/instinct portion of the brain, not the language processing unit. Thus, if we give free rein to our instincts, we act as animals and godless men. I think many agree with me at this point that speaking swear words is wrong, so allow me to take you one more step. Reading them is not only unnecessary, but highly questionable.

 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, emphasis mine). And lest we excuse the issue by saying that this refers to the heart, not the mind, the Hebrew meaning for the word ‘heart’ in this verse means “the heart; also used (figuratively) very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the centre of anything.” As the final clincher, see this verse: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:20, emphasis mine). And the Greek for ‘heart’ in this verse means: “the heart, i.e. (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle.” The Bible tells us here to guard our intellect, our brain. Remember where swear words come from? The emotion or feeling section of the brain. So, if we read in books these words that we’re supposed to guard our minds from, then we are not properly guarding our intellect and emotions. Now, before you throw away anything, come with me just a little farther. I am not saying that you must never, ever read a book with a swear word in it. If you try to avoid all profanity, you will be subjecting yourself to a great many headaches and heartaches. We live in a fallen world, and if we try to throw out every book that has something wrong in it, then we’re going about the issue the wrong way. Aside from the Bible, all other books are written by finite, human authors. They cannot possibly produce a story that is free from error.

But just because a book contains error does not mean that we need to overlook it. That's all until Friday, when I make my final case on "How to Deal With Dirty Words".
Lady Bibliophile

[1] Wilson, Tracy V. (n.d.) How Swearing Works. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from http://people.howstuffworks.com/swearing.htm
[2] Wilson, Tracy V. (n.d.) How Swearing Works. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from http://people.howstuffworks.com/swearing.htm


  1. Dear Lady B,
    I must add something to do with apologetics. “Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals — these are the very things that destroy them (Jude 10) If God doesn't want us to behave like animals why would He create us from animals? There's my little rant... :D
    Wonderful post! You had some good points!

    Love, Sister

    1. Right! Another good proof for creation apologetics. ;)

      Love and cuddles,


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