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The Stigma of Swearing in School

By Rachel Grushan in Opinion & Politics

At some point in our early childhood, we all made the mistake of using a “bad word.” Although it was harmless at the time, our parents simply gave us a stern talk about never using that word, or words like it, again. Any high school student can verify that few of us obeyed these instructions. It is impossible to be sheltered from swear words in a high school environment, as it is pretty much anywhere in the real world. And, although we as students don’t really pay any mind to the usage of them, a stigma does exist around using swear words as a young adult. Kids who swear are called out on it in school by teachers, who, to be fair, do have an obligation to shelter us from inappropriate language. Swear words are seen as rude, a sign of a poor vocabulary, and ultimately an indicator of low intelligence.

Before I go any further, I should clarify that racial slurs or any form of language derogatory to a group of people, which fit under the category of “bad words,” are unacceptable. Don’t use them. People will judge your character because of it, and rightfully so.

However, the classic exclamations that have been passed down in our society as “bad” are another story. Should they reflect negatively on someone’s character? And how should they be treated in a school environment?

As students, the school building is our workplace and is treated as a professional environment. Just as we are expected to be professional in the way we dress and interact, we are also expected to be this way in our use of language. As easy as it may be to drop the f-bomb in a loud, busy classroom, it’s important to be aware of what we say in front of teachers and peers who may have a problem with such language.

I’d like to say that, as a group, we students have a good handle on our “time, place, and manner” skills, but that’s not true. Some kids have serious trouble with distinguishing appropriate and inappropriate times to swear, which is sad and embarrassing for them. If you want to use a word with strong connotations that might seem rude to others, make sure you consider your audience first.

While classic “bad words” themselves don’t bother me personally due to the fact that I hear them all the time, it does get painfully annoying when someone rattles them off just for the sake of it. A cathartic cuss after stubbing a toe or failing a test is one thing; strings of pointless expletives that don’t belong enough in a sentence to justify the use of them is just obnoxious. Be respectful, and know that no matter how justified you feel in your use of swearing, it can annoy those around you and make a bad impression.

As easy as it is to judge, I do think that it is important to not base an opinion on someone on habits like swearing. Doesn’t it make more sense to pass judgment according to what the person is saying instead of how they say it? The only purpose swear words serve is to strongly express an emotion; the use of them has nothing to do with intelligence, or a limited vocabulary, since they are simply used for expression (as is any word, really.)

In the end, swear words are just that: words. When used in the right time, place, and manner, they rarely do damage. However, as unsheltered we have become to curses and as acclimated we may feel to an environment filled with them, we need to respectful to those around us.

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