010 What the Cuss: A Post-Mo Guide to Swears
All the bad words come out to play
DISCLAIMER: this episode contains profanity. At times, much profanity.
Mormons are known for being clean-cut, wholesome, and for avoiding the very appearance of evil. But when it comes to swearing–oh my flipping fetch! Mormons don’t avoid appearances; they imitate to an expert degree. For most people who leave the church, switching from pseudo to actual swearing is not a particularly difficult process. But that’s not to say it doesn’t get weird and awkward sometimes.
In this episode, panelists Aimee, Donna, Kristin, and Micaela talk swearing...and swear a lot in the process. They discuss their history with swearing, how their swearing habits have changed as they have exited Mormonism, and any stumbling blocks that have tripped them up along the way. Also revealed–their favorite actual swears and Mormon swears. Oh my heck!
Research show us that swearing and other forms of forbidden speech have existed in since the earliest days of human communication. Cultural rules and norms surrounding swearing have evolved over centuries to create a framework for what is and is not currently considered acceptable by wider society. It is not just our Mormon roots that impact how we view the practice of swearing.
Swearing might be low on the Mormon hierarchy of sins, but outward behaviors still carry immense weight in Mormon culture. Consequently, even small outward behaviors can be deeply connected to one’s identity and sense of value and “goodness.” For some, swearing can feel liberating; for others, it can be much more stumbly.
For many post-Mormons, swearing will be an additive behavior; either something they start doing or start doing with more frequency. You may also still harbor some residual guilt and shame due to Mormonism’s hard-line stance on profanity, so know that adding this new behavior may come with a lot of mixed feelings.
Many agree that swear words exist on a continuum of potential offensiveness and uses, ranging from soft to hard swears. And on that spectrum exist gendered swears, blasphemous swears, truly taboo swears, and a whole host of individual preferences and reactions. What’s more, intention and usage can soften or increase the impact of a swear, from an angry invective to encouragement in the the bedroom. It’s a swearing matrix, and everyone, regardless of religious background, will have their own boundaries surrounding what swear words are or are not acceptable, and in what settings.
First and foremost, if you don’t feel comfortable swearing, then don’t do it. There is no one right way to be a post-Mormon, and swearing isn’t a requirement to join the club.
Using some profanity doesn’t mean you have to use all the profanity. You can set your own guidelines now.
Context is key: be aware of how those around you feel about profanity, and adjust accordingly. Maybe save the swears for your heathen friends and try to avoid them around Grandma and Grandpa. (Unless Grandma and Grandpa are into it.)
For those with children, take some time to think through how you feel about their use of profanity. It’s up to you to set your own limits and expectations for your children. Do help them understand context and respecting their audience.
What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen
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