Tag Archives: shocking

Writing: Profanity and Obscenties

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Although it is often used to denote any objectionable word, profanity literally means words that are considered profane—that is, words proscribed by religious doctrine. (Proscribed generally means forbidden by written order.) In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this primarily means taking the Lord’s name in vain (that is, not in prayer).

For the love of God, stop complaining.

Jesus Christ, look at the size of that thing!

In writing as in life, profanity can seem gratuitous or, worse, a thinly veiled shock tactic. And it can offend.  All of which might jolt the reader out of the unfolding action.  As a result, it’s important to use profanity only when it’s adding something essential.

I have to admit that when a book has so much profanity and obscenity that it’s the only thing that I keep seeing instead of the story, I quit reading the book or watching the movie. I was raised in a time when four letter words and obscenity were insulting and crude. They were used, but not in mixed company. People used clichés as, “cussed like a sailor.”

Obscene means something disgusting or morally abhorrent, often connoting sex. The f-word is considered the most objectionable of these. (Adding “mother” as a prefix ups the ante.)

Non-objectionable variants of the present participle form of the word—besides “fugging”—include “fecking,” “freaking,” “flipping” and “fricking.” (To be honest, I really don’t know why that “u” is so important.)

“Screw” is a milder word. Notice that both the f-word and “screw” are used not just too literally describe the act of intercourse, but to connote “taking advantage of”:

Don’t go to that repair shop—they screwed me out of $500 for a brake job I didn’t need.

Words referring to the pelvic area, male and female, are also considered obscenities.

To help you understand why I think like I do let me tell you a personal story that I remember as if it were yesterday instead of the 1950’s.  I was a small child maybe five at the most.  My father and my uncle were sitting at the kitchen table, drinking. I can’t say they were drunk because I was not old enough to really be aware, but I do remember a bottle setting on the table.  I was sitting in the kitchen floor by our refrigerator watching and listening to what was going on.

My dad was talking and gesturing with his hands.  I heard my father say that four letter word and the next thing I knew my uncle knocked my father out of the chair to the floor.  My uncle then told my father not to say that another time in front of me.

I asked my mom about what happened and she told me that daddy had used a word that he shouldn’t have. That one event impressed my five year old mind so strongly that anytime I hear it, I see my dad hitting the floor.

It seems to me that today’s language is filled with four letter and curse words, and is accepted as norm by mostly young people. Truth be told, I still find it offensive no matter how much I hear it.

In writing language choices should stay true to the character; however, the narrative isn’t riddled with profanity.  Using restraint allows one to achieve voice effectively and maintain authenticity while avoiding the likelihood of profanity’s potential pitfalls.  Such language can seem be a departure for a character, and that contrast can also be revealing.

When profanity influences characters or becomes pertinent to the unfolding action, it can be necessary.  In the autobiography Black Boy, Richard Wright uses strong profanity and racial epithets to show the ways in which white characters try to intimidate and terrorize him.

When used incorrectly, profanity can be a shortcut to emotion and the reader is bound to remain unconvinced.  Try to convey emotion through action, gesture or different dialogue for a more nuanced effect.

 

Your Childs Education

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History2I have to tell you, right up front that this post is strictly a commentary on my part. I belong to a Historical Fiction group on LinkedIn and yesterday during a history discussion the direction of the conversation turned and my mouth hit the floor (so to speak). It seems that during my absence from the educational system for myself and my children the system has taken a giant leap backwards.History3

I was not aware that history is no longer taught in the schools as it once was. I could not get my mind wrapped around that thought. How could our future not be taught about the past of our country and of the world? And if they are taught it is skewed.
History
I am going to be posting the statements made by the people of the group. That way you can read and make up your own mind about how HISTORY should be in our educational system.

Carole Schutter
Owner, Carole Whang Schutter
I was talking to my neighbor and her daughter, a 14 year old honor roll student. She told me something shocking. They never discuss or learn about 9/11, they are not allowed to bring up the subject of terrorists or discuss terrorism, and they learn almost no history. I’m shocked. History was one of my favorite subjects. As I watched “Waters World” on Fox, something I’ve only done a few times, he went around asking a bunch of 20-something-year olds easy questions like, “Do you know who George Washington is? Who did we fight in the Revolution and the Civil War? (most people said France) Who bombed Pearl Harbor? (Most people said China, one even said Russia) He asked most of them if they went to college (yes for some)-the older people fared better. When my ex-husband dated 20 something year olds (he was in his 50’s) after our divorce and admitted he he was getting tired of dating girls who had no idea who the Kennedy’s were. As lovers of history, this is shocking to me. Is this what is happening? I have 30-something year old kids & no grandchildren & I made my sons read history books-which, btw, they liked. They weren’t taught as much history as I was taught but according to my neighbor’s daughter they are taught practically nothing. Just interested in knowing what’s going on in our schools.

Christine Gibbs commented on a discussion in Historical Fiction.

I was talking to my neighbor and her daughter, a 14 year old honor roll student. She told me something shocking. They never discuss or learn about 9/11, they are not allowed to bring up the subject of terrorists or discuss terrorism, and they learn almost no history. I’m shocked. History was one of my favorite subjects. As I watched “Waters World” on Fox, something I’ve only done a few times, he went around asking a bunch of 20-something-year olds easy questions like, “Do you know who George Washington is? Who did we fight in the Revolution and the Civil War? (most people said France) Who bombed Pearl Harbor? (Most people said China, one even said Russia) He asked most of them if they went to college (yes for some)-the older people fared better. When my ex-husband dated 20 something year olds (he was in his 50’s) after our divorce and admitted he he was getting tired of dating girls who had no idea who the Kennedy’s were. As lovers of history, this is shocking to me. Is this what is happening? I have 30-something year old kids & no grandchildren & I made my sons read history books-which, btw, they liked. They weren’t taught as much history as I was taught but according to my neighbor’s daughter they are taught practically nothing. Just interested in knowing what’s going on in our schools.

Lu Ann Worley
Book Review and Marketing

I know a wonderful History teacher who took an early retirement because there is no real history in the new history books…He refused to teach this farce of a history curriculum. These books were presented during the Clinton administration. Tax dollars were withheld from any school not agreeing to the new History & English books (In the English books the students only have to look up the answers to two out of seven questions at the end of a chapter. Basically, the students do not have to search for answers and learn to think for themselves- many students did not even look up the two questions…many didn’t even read the chapters!)
We are definitely in a “Dumb down America” that most parents are not even aware of because of the way it is presented to them. history4

ART HENDRICKSON
WRITER OF FICTION AND COMEDY

On the morning of 9/11, I was teaching in a Bakersfield, Ca school. When news of the first tower invasion was relayed to me by another teacher, I immediately switched on the TV and found a channel covering the event. What a great learning experience for my kids. The TV was on for about five minutes when the principal entered the room and demanded that the set be turned off and kept off and for us to get back on curriculum. Seriously? I was dumbfounded. How could she (later I found that it was a district ultimatum) deny observing history in the making. She did and I made formal protest as did some students in other classes. The district backtracked in the coming days and even blamed the teachers. It was their choice to watch or not watch or so they said. I wrote a editorial letter of response to the district whitewash and was promptly admonished…with no union backing. I retired the following year when even more restrictions were placed on the teaching of history in the Bakersfield Middle schools.

M.N. Stroh
Freelance Writer with Her View from Home

Sadly, these facts are all too common. History was barely taught in my school. My last high school class covering American history was a joke. The teacher didn’t even teach from the books. Lessons were totally on his lectures of HIS perception of history. The downgrading of history and education in general is one of the prime reasons that I homeschool my children.

Now that you have read a few of the statements made, how do you feel about it? I think a big disservice is being done to the children of this country and that is very sad. How can are children really understand what and why things have happened the way it has if they are not taught in our educational system.