Vulgar or Profane?

Last night at small group we read Exodus chapter 20 verses 1 through 7. The important one for last night, though, was verse 7 which said, “You should not misuse the name of the Lord. Any who do this the Lord will not hold guiltless.” (paraphrase there)

So, of course, we got into a discussion of using G- as a swear word and JC as a swear word. Those are clear misuses of the Lord’s name.

The question was then posed on why people used them that way. Historically I think it was used much more profoundly than profanely. People did use them as prayerful exclamations.

However, now, even people who believe in God don’t use them that way often. One teacher spoke of students who say, “Holy Lord” and “God the Father” and things like that whenever they get something right. I guess they may think of it as a prayer but she thinks of it as swearing.

What does it mean to the people who use it as swear words and what does it mean to those who hear? A consensus was that it trivializes the Diety. People who use the name of God as an expletive and people who hear it used that way also become inured to it. The name no longer has any significance.

After that we got into a discussion of minced oaths. These are words which were originally a misuse of God’s name and have been slurred slightly. “Geez” and “Gosh” come to mind most quickly. My husband and I are of the opinion that these minced oaths are just as much a profanity as a straight use of the name for expletives.

Some of the people in our group had never heard of minced oaths and didn’t realize that God’s name is the origin for many expressions that they use.

I have to admit to using one minced oath under certain circumstances. I am trying to break the habit, though.

From there we went on to a discussion of the difference between profanity (which using something holy in an unholy way) and vulgarity.

The patriarch of my husband’s family says there’s nothing inherently wrong with our other words for poop (S*** and C***). They are vulgar but they are not profane. So we discussed the difference in those for a while.

After that I took is in another track all together. I discussed the fact that we told the boys the actual names for parts of their body, even private parts, and that my parents just about had a fit when they used those words. They acted like the words were sexual or violent or something. It drives me crazy to this day, though the boys talk about such things less often now that they are teenagers.

Then I told the story of a family which had their own private names for certain bodily functions. Poppi and Nonni were visiting the house and had taken the little boy’s room. He wasn’t supposed to wander around on his own, so he went in the bedroom and shook his Poppi awake. “Poppi, I gotta whisper,” he said. Poppi was confused, but decided maybe something had scared his grandson. “Okay, whisper right here in my ear.” And the boy did. He whizzed/peed right in the grandfather’s ear.

I’m all for using the correct names for things. No way I want urine in my ear.