Dean Esmay is following the “what is wrong with profanity” thread and comes out in favor of “nothing wrong”. because it’s all about social class posturing. While that may be true to some extent, I think there are more fundamental points that lead to the use of profanity being a class marker.
One standard charge against profanity is that it marks the user as inarticulate. I think that’s a mistake, as the counter argument is to point to people who use profanity and are articulate. The more correct formulation is that their speech is inarticulate. With particular regard to Esmay’s praise of the flexibility of one bit of profanity, if a word can mean anything it means nothing and isn’t meaning nothing the very definition of inarticulate?
But I think the primary object to profanity is more asthetic than that. To me it’s primarily a matter of conversational volume. One frequently sees objections to people who type ALL IN CAPS or use bold all the time or repeat endlessly certain stock phrases. Profanity is effectively all of these things rolled in to one. Profanity is a very psychologically loud conversational spice, which can be useful if used appropriately and sparingly. But if used frequently, it’s the same as running at volume 10 all the time. Who finds it pleasant to be on the receiving end of that? I think it’s also indicative of laziness and ill-consideration for others in the conversation, like throwing more hot sauce on a dish instead of preparing it properly, which is what is interpreted as inarticulateness.
One of Esmay’s commentors points out that most profanity is based on basic, everyday activities. That is, of course, completely irrelevant. All language is pure convention and by convention those particular words are psychologically loud. If the set of words were different or had no relation to normal human activities, we’d still be arguing about them. Unless one is making the argument that there should be no such loud words at all, which seems to me to be rather dull. One can see something of this by considering where does someone who uses profanity heavily go to express true outrage or anger? They’re already at volume 10 so they need to turn it up to 11. Since that’s not possible the result is a reptiive stream of profanity where word count substitutes for good word choice (which contributes to the perception of inarticulateness). Deracinating profanity would be the same as requiring all music to be played at the same moderate volume. Frequently use of profanity does just that, except that then everything is at the maximum volume all the time. In either case something important is lost.
In contrast, what is lost by using profanity rarely? If your only thoughts are ones that require maximum volume to express then I’d rather not listen to you. Like poetry, linguistic constraints don’t restrict creativity, they enhance it and highlight it. I have no more respect for people who use profanity instead of a good turn of phrase than I do for people who slap words on a page and call it a poem. “What do I need structure for?”, they say. Well, you don’t but your audience might appreciate it. If you don’t care what your audience thinks than I don’t care to be your audience.