THE EDITOR, Sir:
'Bad words', also known as curse words; expletives; foul, indecent, lewd, obscene, offensive, profane and vulgar language, are communication which individual cultures deem to be socially unacceptable, reprehensible or taboo. These words are generally characterised by their seemingly derogatory references to sex, the reproductive organs, motherhood, and the excretion of body wastes; or deemed blasphemous or irreverent.
Words such as 'damn', 'bastard' and 'pussyfooting' were once considered offensive. It is ironic that many 'bad words' are normally accepted terms, but when used in relation to sex, become offensive. In carpentry and mechanics, the word 'screw' has at least eight meanings, but in reference to intercourse becomes vulgar.
Even the metaphorical reference to food products such as beef, pork, pone, cherry, and juice is deemed vulgar. This clearly demonstrates that words are not inherently good or bad and have no meanings except those which we ascribe to them.
Human sexuality remains taboo in many respects, hence the association of indecency and obscenity with many related words.
Words express emotions, ideas and intentions, and the use of certain words being an offence seems contrary to the concept of freedom of expression. It is easily argued that this is to ensure decency and order in society, given that bad words are often used to abuse, accuse, intimidate and threaten others. Moreover, some of these words quite often provoke not only angry, but violent reactions.
But these forbidden expressions are also used for exclamation and punctuation in everyday conversations. There are many children who are bred and brought up in socio-economic conditions where bad words are used routinely by their parents and other adults.
Children live what they learn, and by age two, many become quite fluent in the vernacular. This is like a first language, which becomes ingrained. Throughout life, in moments of heightened emotion, sheer joy, anger or frustration, they naturally resort to these forbidden expressions.
Criminalising certain expressions definitely puts those persons at a great social disadvantage.
DAIVE R. FACEY