Profanity Stress: Language for Our Times and Others

Profanity Stress: Language for Our Times and Others

© 2016 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.

Word cloud for Word sense

Is the English-speaking segment of the World now in profanity stress? In the last few months, I have noticed a large shift in one area of the American language: an upswing in the use of language that would have been unacceptable even two years ago. It’s languaging that is still regarded as rude or profane enough that it needs to be bleeped in broadcast media. Yet, on television evening talk shows, in live entertainment shows, and in campaign speeches, we now have the common and deliberate use of profanity.

In order to report on these performances, media need to cover the speaker’s mouth with a pixelated effect, a cartoon “pow,” or other obscuring effects, in addition to making some sound that prevents the audience from hearing the word/s. A new video of a key Presidential candidate goes on for minutes with a montage of recent public occasions where he spoke in ways that required bleeping. Urban music has been using some of these words for years, but performances on broadcast media often use substitute words for Those Words. So why would current candidates use these words? (I’ll wait.)

Apparently, they believe they will gain favor with those particular audiences, and that favor is worth the negative reactions their use of profanity will generate from others.

I have previously written articles on the phenomenon that profanity can, in fact, release stress. That’s if you don’t overuse it. It can actually reduce pain when you get injured. But that isn’t what this current phenomenon is.

One of my key references for how life has changed with the decades is my 1912 edition of 2016 Everybody's CyclopediaEverybody’s Cyclopedia, a 5-volume set of words people thought were important several years before World War I. That’s right. I own a dictionary/encyclopedia from 1912. It was prepared by writers and scholars connected to the Encyclopedia Britannica. And in this fascinating set of the best of the world’s concerns and knowledge 100 years ago were none of the words being bleeped today. The word profanity isn’t even in Everybody’s Cyclopedia, let alone the names of personal body parts or sexual functions. Not even the word “sex.”

Do we really need to be using profanity in public venues? Do late-night talk show hosts really think it’s punchy and funny? Or are they trying to be “relevant”? Has the American public sunk so low in education and taste, that they will only “enjoy” a Presidential candidate and vote for her/him if s/he uses profanity? And what are those speechwriters thinking as they compose this material?

As we write for any audience, let’s bear in mind what will convey our thoughts, create the effects we want, and be appropriate for the audience and its cultural framework. Are you adding to the culture? Or are you just making “relevant” noise?


Kebba Buckley Button is a stress management expert and author of the award-winning Kebba booksbook, Discover the Secret Energized You, as well as the 2013 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition. Her newest book, Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, is available through her office. Just for more info. Like this article? Buy Kebba’s books by clicking the links! Reach the writer at For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group:

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