I Love to Swear: In Praise of “Spicy” Words

I am in the studio recording my fourth CD and I am swearing my head off.

I apologize to my producer for all of the cursing. I cuss a lot in the recording studio. I love being there, but the intensity of recording calls forth an intensity in me, one that is most frequently expressed in exuberant expletives. I tell him that someday I intend to give it up.

He says, “Oh no…don’t give it up! You love swearing because you’re a poet. Swear words are like spicy food in your mouth.”

Well. That’s the day I give up the idea of giving up swearing.

Swearing is one of the ways I temper seriousness. Throwing a little irreverence into a reverent situation allows for even more depth. The surprise is disarming – much like humor is – and suddenly people open up in a new way.

A few well-placed cuss words also help dispel some of the projections people put on performers or leaders. Being at the front of the room can make people seem larger than life. I’m uncomfortable with being put on a pedestal, so swearing is one of the ways I take myself down a notch.

Last summer I wrote a little jazz song in praise of swearing. Here is the first verse…..

I love to swear
Love those four letter words
That burn like hot pepper on my tongue
There are ways swearing should be done:
With a wink and the cock of an eyebrow….

 I do have strong opinions about what makes for good swearing. When I hear people doing it poorly, that is, without wit or humor, I find it offensive. When I overhear people using the f-bomb every other word — for adjectives, adverbs, nouns – it makes my ears hurt. What a waste of a good Anglo-Saxon expletive!

I also dislike when swear words malign a person or group, especially women. Swearing should be fun and light-hearted (unless you stub your toe….).

I express that sentiment in the third verse …

I love to swear
But I must admit
I prefer to keep my mother out of it
And “bitch” is a verb, but not a noun
Do we need another way to put a woman down?

 And where is the second verse? I’m not including it here because…well…it has a LOT of swear words that aren’t generally used in respectful company. Which brings me to my last opinion about swearing: it’s essential to discern when and where swearing is going to work and when it isn’t.

I once gave my CD “Britches” to a young man in a small northern Minnesota town to thank him for his work at an event where I was performing. He sent it back with a note saying he couldn’t accept it because one of the songs “included swearing and a reference to nudity.”

The offending lines in the title track?

I’m getting too big for my britches
I guess I’ll just have to go nude
I’ll become one of those bitches
And cultivate a bad attitude.

I love to swear. And that means I’ll risk offending someone sometime. I intend to keep learning how to do it better and better.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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4 Responses to I Love to Swear: In Praise of “Spicy” Words

  1. J.C. says:

    ‘Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer’

    Mark Twain

  2. Laura kinkead says:

    Love it. I actually just heard in class that when we swear it actually does a little jolt thing in the brain. Must be why I swear so much, I need a few jolts to my brain!

  3. stanleykipper@comcast.net says:

    LOL !!!

    What the fuck right?


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