The Proper Way to Use Swear Words

I have often been told: “People who swear do so because they have a limited vocabulary.”

To that I reply: “I am an equal opportunity vocabularist. I swear so I can use my entire vocabulary.”

Alas, just because I like to swear, doesn’t mean I should all the time.

Everyone has their own set of swear rules.

You might not have written them down or have even thought about them. They are there, nonetheless.

In order to avoid damaging relationships that you may need to foster, you have to know and follow the swear rules of others. But how do you learn those?

Grow the “swearing relationship” slowly.

You can’t jump into a swearing relationship full force. You risk offending the other person by breaking their own personal swear rules. You must grow that relationship slowly.


Listen to see if they are following proper swear protocol.

If they swear all the time, they are a) not following proper swear protocol and b) risking your relationship. If you are confortable enough with them or like them enough, you might let this go. I have a good friend like this. I like him enough to let him break all the rules. I still play by my rules, though.


Use a low level bad word.

For me a low level bad word is hell or damn. For you it might be a little tamer. Don’t go higher than hell/damn in this first phase, though.

In a conversation where you are particularly heated, use the word. Don’t throw it in casually at this point.

Don’t do this:

Yum, they all look so good. But I don’t know which damn cupcake to get.

Instead do this:

I’m so angry! I can’t believe that bone head of a boss! What the hell is he thinking?!

Let the word sit. Wait. Be patient. Your potential swear partner will either reciprocate within a week or two with his own low level word, or not. If he doesn’t, let it go. He’s not a swearer and probably never will be. Refrain from using that part of your vocabulary with him.

If he responds with his own low level word, you’re on your way. Develop the swear relationship for a couple of months with only low level words and then move to phase three.


Up the level and see what happens.

When you and your swear partner are comfortable with hell and damn and other low level bad words, toss in a fuck. Play the same game as above and let it sit for a while. Your partner should respond with another word at this higher level.

Caution: Learn the “super bad” words and avoid them at all costs.

Some people might place fuck in the super bad word category (my mother doesn’t, my step-mother does). The one most likely to be slotted into the completely-of-limits category is G-D. (See, I can’t even write it.) Especially in the Bible Belt from where I hail, this word has particularly severe weight. I have been known to throw it out in complete frustration, only to regret it later. It violates one of my personal and unwritten swear rules.

Learn these for the people you are with as well as the culture. Depending on the person, these words could drag you down quite a few notches if you use them.


What are your own swear rules? Do you know people who violate them?

Do you have a swear relationship with someone that you want to take to the next level? Do you have relationships that you think migth be able to grow into swear relationships? Follow the phases above and see where it goes.

Strive to use your whole vocabulary, not just the limits of societal propriety. But do respect the limits of others.

Let us know in the comments how it goes.

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