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Swearing: Vital Emotional Expression or Low-Class Abuse of the English Language?

In 1985, the lead singer and songwriter for rock band Twisted Sister, Dee Snider (or as he prefers to be called “Dee Fucking Snider,”) testified before the United State Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The transcript, in part, goes thusly:

Mr. SNIDER. I am a Christian….I do not want to go to Hell and I do not want to be damned for all time. But I do like the feel of the [rock] songs. The lyrics have no effect on me.

The transcript goes on:

Senator AL GORE. ….I am not, however, a fan of Twisted Sister and I will readily say that. Mr. Snider, what is the name of your fan club?

Mr. SNIDER. The fan club is called the SMF Fans of Twisted Sister.

Senator AL GORE. And what does “SMF” stand for when it is spelled out?

Mr. SNIDER. It stands for the Sick Mother Fucking Fans of Twisted Sister.

Senator GORE. Is this also a Christian group?

Mr. SNIDER. I do not believe profanity has anything to do with Christianity, thank you.

Right there, my ears perked up and how! Actually, I giggled my ass off. It tickled me that, without a moment of hesitation, Dee Snider had said “Fucking” to a Senate committee and a future Vice President! But my ears pricked up because, being raised in a Christian home, I too was taught that any language stronger than “Oh Bother” to express emotion was wrong, bad, verboden.

If Winnie the Pooh said it, it was allowed. “Oh bother” was what Pooh Bear said when in a tight spot so it was the strongest phrase I was allowed to say.

Obviously, that just didn’t cut the mustard. You can’t express pain, hurt, frustration, exploitation and rage with a staid, controlled “Oh bother.”

Furthermore, no one will take you seriously if that’s all you say. “Intelligent people with a good knowledge of the English language don’t need to swear,” Dad and Mom said.

But they swore when they were mad! It was like Dad’s blackout rages robbed us of the right to also be angry and the right to swear. And, thanks to him, we had a lot to be angry about…with no means to blow off steam or express it. (Except comfort eating, of course.)

In first grade, my best friend, Jess, taught me the “F” word on the schoolbus. She didn’t know what it meant; I didn’t know what it meant. My parents promptly nipped that in the bud by saying it made a mockery out of Daddies and Mommies expressing physical love to each other and forbade me from speaking to Jess ever again…turning me into a nearly friendless pariah at school. “Why are you ignoring Jess? Why are you being mean?” the other kids asked me. I couldn’t tell them.

So I segued into saying “damn” but Mother said the whole phrase was “damn it to Hell” so a Christian girl wouldn’t say that either.

Once I called “pussy” after a stray cat. Boy! Mom got mad…but didn’t tell me why!

By the time I grew up, I’d developed a habit of saying “crap.” Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap! But Mom said a real lady wouldn’t use a slang word for excrement. But this time, I kept saying it! I had nothing else. No other words to effectively and convincingly express emotions other than happy, happy, happiness. But that was okay because I was only really allowed to be happy, happy, happy. No one took my pain seriously. My anger, like the “F” word, had been forbade by mom when I was six.

Do you know what happens when you grow up and go out into the “real world” not knowing or using swear words!? It’s awkward. People don’t take your boundaries seriously. People can’t talk freely around you. They apologize and stumble when an F-bomb sneaks out. Moreover, you don’t know what things mean. I’ll never forget being twenty-fucking-seven years old and asking my coworker, VV, what she meant by “SOL.” That’s just plain embarrassing.

Until I discovered the Urban Dictionary a few years ago, my education in commonly used slang, crude and swear words came from reading the forbidden word list on my parents Internet filter software. Cock, dick, pecker, hoo-hoo…I didn’t know any of those words existed nor their meanings. But if I’d laughed at a joke containing those “evil” words, my parents would’ve soundly chastised me for unChristian behavior. That’s how their tortured faux religious world works.

Then I met Michael. Raised by a drunkard. Joined the Army and Navy. Turned eighteen at Fort Benning. Later drove a semi.

Yeah, his language never stood a chance!

He swears from the moment he wakes up (in pain) until the moment he falls asleep (if he falls asleep…still in pain). But, hands down, his all-time favorite word is “shit.” The man is a veritable artist, a wordsmith, a Shakespeare with the word “shit.” Not in a mean way. Never in an angry way. He simply uses it for every Part of Speech, as you can see from this actual conversation we had. It’s just…him. (Or rather “he.” Let us be grammatical or die!)

Modifier: “Uh, check the cat, check the floor. Something smells like shit.”

Me: “No, that’s your supper, Dear.”

Noun: “What is this shit?”

Me: “Thai noodles with shrimp and fish sauce. Try it. You’ll like it. And don’t call my food ‘shit’!”

Predicate Nominative: “This is pretty good shit!”

Me: “Told ya you’d like it!”

Term of Great Endearment: “You’re a Little Shit, y’know that, but you’re my Little Shit.”

and twenty minutes after supper…

Verb (kinda’): “That was rich! I gotta shit!”

C. S. Lewis claimed that women never uses precise nouns. No, it’s Michael. “Shit.” That’s his one-and-only noun…and pretty much every other Part of Speech as well! It works quite well really.

From Michael I learned to swear correctly, but according to him, not convincingly. If you don’t learn it in childhood, apparently, you never develop the knack for it. So when I break a dish or stub my toe, my shriek of “Sonofabitch” sends him into paroxysms of laughter.

For me, learning to swear was the right thing at the right time. Swear words allowed me to fully express the rage I felt after three decades of narcissistic abuse. Since 2013, this house has rung with my unconvincing, yet heartfelt, swearing. Not using God’s name in vain. I’m not comfortable with that. Just colorful language.

Plenty of swear words have found their way into these articles too. Other PsychCentral bloggers do it too. We like to keep shit real.

But I wonder if, for me, swearing has run its course. Served its purpose. For a while, I loved swearing…despite feeling guilty every time I did it. Of course.

But that’s not who I want to be anymore. It’s not really authentic to me. Doesn’t make me feel good about me. Maybe it’s time for me to reserve it for those times when I’m really angry and no other English word will get it off my chest except a heartfelt “fuck” or an unconvincing “Sonofabitch.” Or a Klingon “ponfo miran.” That does the trick too.

Or when I really need to get it through to someone else that they are way outta line and I’m not taking their shit anymore.

I conclude this article with a 2016 video of Dee (Fucking) Snider performing his most iconic song, We’re Not Gonna Take It. Yes, I know you know it already. It was the theme song for a generation who, like Michael, came of age in the 1980s.

And guess what? There’s not one swear word in the lyrics. Ironic!

This song helped Michael survive a horrible abusive, “jaded and condescending” upbringing where he was routinely told “you won’t amount to shit.” But it’s also a great mantra against all of man’s inhumanity to man: narcissistic abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, cult abuse, gossip, slander, condescension, control, assaults on Free Speech including the right to swear. Now crank up those speakers…and fetch the kleenex. You’re gonna need it.

Swearing: Vital Emotional Expression or Low-Class Abuse of the English Language?

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2019). Swearing: Vital Emotional Expression or Low-Class Abuse of the English Language?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jul 2019
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