Cussin'

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I really liked the movie “Knocked Up.” I thought it was very funny.

One thing that distracted me, though, was the language. It was in English, of course, but man, did they all cuss a lot. Even the characters who you wouldn’t expect to cuss all the time, cussed all the time.

People cussed to their parents and their parents cussed back to the kids. Not in anger, I mean, just in general, everyday conversation.

I’m not offended by it, but it sort of took me out of the story, because I never talked that way to my parents (as a kid or now), and no one I hung out with ever talked like that to their parents. And the parents never talked like that to us.

So when it kept happening in the movie, I kept thinking that it didn’t feel real to me. Not that there aren’t middle-class pretty blonde girls who cuss like sailors. There are, of course. But still, watching it made me think about whether it’s realistic, rather than being involved in the story without thinking at all.

So that didn’t work for me.

I just saw “Superbad.” I know, I’m the only person my age who hasn’t already seen it. The kids cuss even more than in “Knocked Up.”

But what I found really interesting was the gag reel (which I guess I have to accept is the new name for “bloopers”).

After one actor broke up a scene, another actor asked whether they should do the scene again, because: “you said the f-word.”

When the guy playing the foul-mouthed grandaddy of them all ruined a scene, he said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.”

People say “oh my gosh” sometimes, when there’s no script and they’re not aiming to be “did-he-really-say-that” funny. I can be filthy, God knows, but I’m also known to say “yikes.” I wonder whether Apatow et al. will ever choose the less shocking word, just for variety.

6 Responses to Cussin'

  1. BruceS December 27, 2007 at 10:48 am #

    Sometimes vulgarity seems entirely appropriate, whether in entertainment (e.g. South Park) or irl, but other times it’s just out of place. Context is everything. Unfortunately, many in entertainment seem to think it “fixes” an otherwise weak bit. It sounds like the Knocked Up folks don’t get it, or are just trying too hard. FWIW, “cuss” is inappropriate here. As it is derived from “curse”, it should only be used for words like “damn” and “blast”. Also, people should stop using “swear” for this purpose, restricting it to actual swearing (like the masculine act of testifying).

  2. weeklyrob December 27, 2007 at 11:09 am #

    My guess is that “curse” has referred to general vulgarity (as opposed to religious profanity) for about as long as “vulgarity” has!

  3. Kevin December 28, 2007 at 9:06 am #

    Since I’ve started working at a company that has a very strict no-profanity policy, and since I have young children in the house, I rarely have opportunity to use profanity, and it has generally worked its way out of my everyday conversation. Since my wife is with the kids all day long, she generally avoids it as well. As a result, we only use such words infrequently. As you might guess, when we do use them now, it has a much more profound and communicative effect on the conversation. We feel we’ve actually gained a tool for communicating.

    Of course, when we sit down to watch movies like “Knocked Up” or the even more funny and inappropriate “40 Year Old Virgin”, it’s uncomfortable to hear all the swearing. It’s not that we’re offended by the words, but because they have more meaning to us now it’s like hearing nails on the chalkboard for an hour and a half. Yes, it gets our attention at first, but it quickly just becomes an irritating distraction.

  4. BruceS December 30, 2007 at 6:04 pm #

    Ha! Profanity is altogether *another* thing. In the secular world, one might well say “Profanity, profanity; all is profanity”. In some company, talking of money is vulgar. I swear this is so. Anyway, I’d bet that “curse” was used correctly and specifically for a long time, but “cuss” quite likely is a late enough corruption that you’d be right about it.
    I sympathize with Kevin, having worn those shoes. You could hang around an elementary school playground to inure yourself again, but that could lead to other problems.

  5. weeklyrob December 30, 2007 at 11:10 pm #

    Hmmm. “Correctly”? Your understanding of what correctness means may be different from mine.

    If respectable writers have used a word a certain way for hundred of years, it IS correct English in my opinion.

    My reading of the record tells me that for at least as long as “vulgarity” has referred to something other than “common,” the words “swear” and “curse” have referred to things other than oath-taking and requesting damnation.

    I stand by my damn position, by God.

  6. BruceS January 3, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    And I say, if these writers were using words incorrectly, they’re not very respectable. And anyway, can you name a *single* writer who used *any* word for “hundreds of years”? I rest my case.

    I’m torn between asking what side of God your position is (as it’s “by” him), and asking what that is in your hand.

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