The unfortunate rise of four-letter words


By Julia Waldow, Print Arts & Style Editor

When I was in elementary school, I used to admire the “big kids” who I saw on the playground.  Everything they did, whether it was running the mile or gossiping with their friends, seemed so chic and sophisticated. Their statuses were elevated in my mind due to both their “grown-up” activities and towering heights.
When I got to middle school, I wanted to serve as an example to the younger children who looked up to the older grades. However, it was difficult to act as a role model to younger students when many of my preteen and adolescent peers gave us a bad reputation by swearing like sailors.
To some, swearing seems natural, sophisticated and a way to express anger or disappointment.  There are many instances when I hear people say more four-letter words in a day than there are four-letter words in a dictionary. In fact, it is hard to go 24 hours without hearing a colorful variety of coarse language. I hear my classmates drop the “f-bomb” when they spill their coffee drinks from the cafeteria. I notice teenagers saying the synonyms for dog doo when they describe tests they have just bombed. However, expressing themselves through inappropriate and vulgar language is anything but appealing. More than anything, swearers sound crass, unsophisticated and juvenile.
While teenagers are the biggest swearers (in America, 74% of 18 to 34 year-olds use obscene language, according to, adolescents are not the only ones swearing.  Younger children have also adapted the lingo.  Adults are even hopping onto the swearing bandwagon.  In fact, claims that swearing makes up 13% of adults’ conversations.
Unfortunately, it appears that our society makes swearing seem like a casual and acceptable means of expression. Rappers often use this type of language to tell a story, express emotions or describe sexual activities. Songs by artists such as Lil Wayne and Tenacious D use inappropriate lingo in their song titles. Additionally, swearing has taken over television shows. According to, one episode of “South Park” used the same swear word 162 times.
Cursing has become such a major issue that people who swear can be charged with breaking the law if they use language that influences others to act violently or illegally. Although freedom of speech falls under the First Amendment, certain acts, such as using obscenity that starts riots and fights, can be considered crimes.
The swearing epidemic has a simple solution: avoid using disrespectful terms to express frustration. Use Spongebob as a role model and substitute clean, alternative expressions such as “tarter sauce” for swear words. Why risk getting a reputation as a potty-mouth simply because your teachers, peers or co-workers have heard your lingo?
While I wish that we could go back to earlier times where these terms were not as common as they are today, it seems pretty impossible without Doc Brown’s De Lorean.  Until everyone expresses themselves appropriately, our four-letter-word frenzied world proves that we have a long way to go toward reforming our language.