No such thing as ‘bad words’

Justin Rastelli

I, like most of you, speak fluent sailor. Words with four letters will often be used to express my feelings on various day-to-day topics. These words add emphasis to my emotions, yet some still argue these words are “bad words.” As if these four letter words have been in time-out since that first English speaker stubbed his toe. Moms and schoolteachers have cast them away, convincing us as kids that these words would corrupt our souls. Swear words: the original gateway drug. These words are just that, words, and should not be demonized for simply existing.

It is impossible for words to be inherently evil. Only their usage can be judged as moral or immoral. The only bad words are those that are used to demean and belittle others. Admittedly, swear words can and are used maliciously, but so can every word in this column. To pretend like those “bad words” should be exiled for simply being used with a negative meaning is ludicrous.

South Albany High School in Oregon has recently instituted a policy that inflicts harsh punishment upon students who use swear words. Ranging from a warning for just slightly off-color language to suspensions for true emotional outbursts, the goal of the policy is to teach students how to behave once they reach the real world.

Swearing is the spice we add to conversation. It puts a little bit of “oomph” behind the things we really feel passionate about. But like all spices, too much can ruin a dish. Saying the same thing every other word in a sentence truly shows the world your intelligence level. Swear words, like most other words, should be used sparingly. This practice adds emphasis to your ideas and emotions.

The principal of South Albany High School argues the roll of high school is to prepare kids for future careers. Going on to suggest that most work environments frown upon and waggle a finger at people who let a swear word slip. These students are effectively being taught to hide their emotions to fit into pre-established molds. They are being told to restrict every emotional impulse so as to not upset the current system. Heaven forbid they say something that offends another person. We should be teaching these kids to embrace their emotions and use that energy creatively, not stifle it and hide it away. There are more important things we should be teaching kids then to walk in line without ever offending anyone.

Swear words can only carry the meaning that is assigned to them. Like all words, they can be used to tear people down. The effort against swearing should be focused more on respecting others rather than the vocabulary of students. Thinking the removal of words will also remove negative feelings is ridiculous. Schools should be trying to instill students with a sense of respect towards their fellow man, as opposed to spinning their wheels on prohibiting swearing. Improving behavior is more important than improving vocabulary.

Justin Rastelli is a columnist for the Daily Evergreen at Washington State University.