November 17, 2014

DUGGAL | Swear Like a Smart Trucker

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By HEBANI DUGGAL

Or swear like a smart sailor — it doesn’t really matter. Clichéd expressions usually drive me crazy, but they’re what came to my mind first when I read over David Zha’s ’15 article last week. Don’t worry — I’m not going to address his piece directly, mainly because Jevan Hutson ’16, Joseph Fridman ’17 and Arthur Peterson ’15 already did so quite eloquently in their guest column; I am, however, going to bring up the struggle surrounding the other f-word.

Deciding whether or not to use profanity in my writing has always been an issue for me. Senior year Hebani wrote about learning what the middle finger meant for the first time in her college essay, and it took every ounce of her willpower to not drop the f-bomb (considering it was so relevant to the topic itself). There’s a certain hesitancy that follows a writer as they hover over a keyboard, conflicted over what adding an expletive to a piece of writing might do. The “good person” in me always wants to censor what I write; not everyone uses profanity, and to make others feel uncomfortable with my writing is not something I aim to do (note: Eulogy to the F-Word). At the same time, however, I don’t understand what is so wrong about profanity to begin with. Are swears not another way to express emotions? Doesn’t profanity allow us to bring rage, frustration, sometimes even happiness and a lack of containment to the surface? It may just be me, but the words I use to express myself when I bomb a prelim are the same as the ones I use to celebrate when I get somewhere close to the mean (guess which one happens more often). In fact, a recent study quoted by Time magazine claims that swearing is more than a kind of an emotional release, saying, “We want to use taboo words when we are emotional. We grow up learning what these words are and using these words while we are emotional can help us to feel stronger.”

Yet no matter how easily we may accept other colorful displays of emotions, it is hard to think of swears becoming completely integrated into our society (can you imagine a parent encouraging their five year old to scream “shit” every time he or she fell off the bed? Because I can’t.) Instead, it might be a better idea to recognize the fine line between when profanity is used effectively to express emotions and when it is simply a sign of ignorance. A lack of control over how you choose to express your feelings does not help your argument in any way; no one likes talking to a person without a filter. Words are powerful; use them in a way that allows each one to carry the weight that it deserves.

Hebani Duggal is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at hduggal@cornellsun.com. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.