Bad Words, or Confessions of a Potty Mouth


I was recently chastised for using “bad words” in my blog. (My guess is the person who handed out the reprimand had not read much of my other stuff else the comment might have been how innocuous these rantings usually are as compared to some of my previous offerings.) If memory serves, her comment was in response to my post about the death of Robin Williams. In that post I had used the phrase “fuck addiction.” I grew up in the church so I know the Bible says, “Thou shalt not cuss,” but sometimes (like this time) “gosh darn I really hate you addiction” just doesn’t cut the mustard. I’ve buried too many friends. I’ve seen too many lives destroyed. Addiction stole my husband and my hope for a happy marriage. At one time or another addiction has threatened or destroyed just about everything I hold dear.  Yep, “fuck addiction” pretty much serves my needs perfectly. I may be a Marine for life but when the case calls for it, I cuss like a sailor.  If your offended by that, their are a lot of other blogs out there.

But her comment did get me thinking– which is a good thing I guess, about the whole concept of “bad words.” What are these bad words and why are they so bad? Who declared them bad? Is one person’s list of bad words different than another’s? If there are discrepancies, who’s right?

I began to wonder what my list of bad words might look like. What would make a word bad in my estimation? The answer seemed obvious. Bad words are words that hurt, right? But wait a minute! The woman who reprimanded me for using the words I used… had done so with words and they hurt! Well not that bad really but didn’t that make her words as bad as mine?! Most would say no. And yes, before you even go there, I’ve heard a million times how artists of one type or another have to develop very thick skin if we’re going to continue to put our stuff out there. And I have… developed thick skin I mean. But I want to remain vulnerable. I want to write from that place.

Being a writer is an inordinately fearful thing. I often think if I could someone get away with not doing what I do, I would. Certainly the battle I fight every day to make myself sit down at the keyboard isn’t because I’m necessarily afraid of the little white keys themselves. I’m afraid because I know what kind of stuff I write. Whether its poetry or prose, headed for the page or the stage, my writing is vulnerable. Through the words I share, I basically set out to eviscerate myself emotionally for the world to see and judge. I’m not complaining. That’s my choice. Writers who can’t be found in their own writing bore me.   On the other hand, writers like Tennessee Williams who lay their souls bare draw me in like little else can.
So what are my “bad words” then? What words would Jeff Key consider bad? I think back and consider my early life. What were the words I heard around me in elementary school that I’d have to label “bad?” Well certainly “nigger” and “faggot” must make the list. I definitely heard those a lot!  Those must be bad words. But wait! What about my gay and black friends who have wielded those words in a defiant political action, purposefully and poignantly to reclaim personal power? Reclaiming personal power for oppressed people is a good thing so if these words are able to help this happen, surely “nigger” and “faggot,” at least in these cases, must be good words!

Dang! Bad words sure are elusive… sometimes even allusive. Heck, sometimes they’re even illusive. (Homonyms are confusing and therefore bad.)

I’ve got to get back to working on the script so I’d better wrap this up. But I really don’t feel like I can move on without listing at least a few “bad words.” So I’ve come up with a short list of bad words according to me. We’ll call it “A Short List of Bad Words According to Jeff Key.” My guess is it won’t include any of the usual suspects:
1) Democracy as used to describe a system of social governance wherein the majority of people congratulate themselves on having established a fair system of laws based on majority opinion but in which a section of the pubic is underrepresented and afforded less rights.
2) Justice when it is tossed about by the citizenry to imply that a society provides equal protection under the law but in reality, based on some arbitrary factor like, say, skin color, some of us are treated differently– by the government, by the courts, and by those employed and deployed to enforce those laws. And for the sake of brevity (and my “real” writing work for today) I’ll end with
3) Liberty which Merriam-Webster would have us believe is “the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely” and certainly most Tea Partiers would give the ole thumbs-up on that as certain American value. But are we able to speak freely? I mean really freely?  I wonder.
So there’s my short list of bad words for the day. Use them freely. Use them often. Just know what  you’re saying.
And by the way, “fuck censorship.”

About this entry