September 2nd, 2017| Topic: RaMbLeS | 2


Mark Twain is reported to have said:

Let us swear while we may, for in Heaven it will not be allowed.”

The great man would have been happy with the results of a recent study. Jean Twenge, prof of psychology at San Diego State, and her co-researchers analyzed titles of English books published in the US between 1950 and 2008, looking for profanity, specifically for seven words I am ashamed to repeat here. They were, BTW, the “seven words you can never say on television,” or so thought comedian George Carlin (1930–2008) in the 70s.

“The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television: Increases in the Use of Swear Words in American Books, 1950-2008” was published in Sage OPEN. The various words were individually used between 4 and 678 times more in the mid-2000s than in the early 1950s. Overall, books published between 2005 and 2008 were 28 times more likely to include profanity.

Said Twenge:

I had guessed that the use of swearwords would increase, but I was surprised that the increase was so large—28 times more.”

Complained the late Justice Antonin Scalia:

One of the things that upsets me about modern society is the coarseness of manners. You can’t go to a movie—or watch a television show for that matter—without hearing the constant use of the F-word.”

(The use of which word, I am chagrined to recount, has gone up 168 times!)

The authors of the article explain it this way:

Individualism is a cultural system that favors the self more highly than the collective, and a growing body of research suggests that American culture has become increasingly individualistic. One key factor may be self-expression. … Due to the greater valuation of the rights of the individual self, individualistic cultures favor more self-expression in general and allow more expression of personal anger in particular. Thus, a more individualistic culture should be one with a higher frequency of swear word use.”

And as social taboos weaken, the use of swear words increases.

The article concludes:

Research suggests that swearing is linked to personality traits such as extraversion, dominance, narcissism, and neuroticism …. Average levels of extraversion and dominance, narcissism, and neuroticism have all increased among individuals in the United States. Thus, the frequency of swearing may increase as well.”

And it has!

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,
and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us ….
But immorality and all impurity or greed must not even be named among you …
—and [let there be no] filthiness, and foolish talk, or coarse jesting,
which are not fitting, but rather thanksgiving.
Ephesians 5:1–4

With “immorality” heading the list of vices, it appears that the rest of the obnoxious traits are colored by this sense of sexual misconduct. Self-indulgence is commonly manifest in sexual sins that have roots in the desire to satisfy self rather than to sacrifice self. That, too, is a form of greed, of a most dangerous kind, the inner spring of many evil passions. Perhaps that is why greed is set apart in 5:3 with a different conjunction: “immorality and all impurity or greed.”

In any case, all kinds of evil speech are proscribed: “filthiness and foolish talk [the vulgar product of a dull mind?] or coarse jesting [the obscene product of a sharp mind?].”

Instead, believers are conscious of the self-giving of God, his goodness and generosity in Christ, and so, rather than engage in obscenities and vulgarities, they express thanks to their Creator and Redeemer, the ultimate source of all their blessings.

Thanksgiving. Not blaspheming.


  1. Gerry Jackson September 3, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Another cause of foul language as “self expression ” is the weakening of the ability to use excellent English to express yourself. Vocabulary has decreased.


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