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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

I have a curiosity that has been bothering me for a while. What makes profanity so…well, so profane? If you look at the origin of most of these words we consider profane, they mean nothing other than the old Anglo-Saxon terms for common things we use/do today. Even so, there are many words we use today that were considered profane centuries ago; but as time progressed, they became common words and nobody cares if they are said today. Also why is okay to use a substitute word when you’re angry and not the original profanity? Don’t you mean the exact same thing, just using a different word?

Chuck

 

Answer

 

Dear Chuck,

Why do you think that it would be okay to use a slang word for the original obscenity when one is angry? Expressed profanities, whether in direct or slang terminology, are the occasional bubbles that escape to the surface that emanate from an inherent rottenness underneath.

There are different kinds of profanity. One kind is to take the name of the Lord in vain. To desecrate the name of Deity is an offense against God of the highest order. The third of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:7) is a proscription against such evil practice.

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

A second form of profanity is the use of vulgar language. Vulgarities are debasing and degrading. They associate the user with all that is filthy and obscene. Part of the vulgar language scene is the use of sexually explicit terms. This is particularly offensive because it debases that which is inherently sacred.

Another form of profanity is the use of slang terms. Slang consists of coined words or phrases modified from or representing either sacred terminology or ribald vulgarities that would be shocking in polite society..

All of these forms of profanity have one thing in common. They all represent attempts at emphasis on the part of those who think that such vulgarities give added weight to what they are saying. Profanity is a poor substitute for artful presentation of thought. Not only does it degrade the user, but it fails miserably to add clarification or emphasis to any idea. Wise counsel once given said “Allow nothing to enter your lips that would contaminate your body, and permit nothing to issue forth from you lips that would contaminate your soul.

Per lds.org:

Foul language is both degrading and harmful to the spirit. We should not let others influence us to use foul language. Instead, we should use clean language that uplifts and edifies others, and we should choose friends who use good language. Setting an example will encourage those around us to use clean language. If friends and acquaintances use profanity, we can good-naturedly encourage them to choose other words. If they persist, we can politely walk away or change the subject.

 

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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