What makes a word a cuss/swear word and are there any acceptable uses for them?


#1

I’d first like to say that I am not a Catholic. I only used this site because it seems to be the only popular Christian forum available. I consider myself a non-denominational Christian. I don’t confirm to a denomination, I just read my Bible and take from it what I gather and then compare my interpretations to those of other people and decide which is most logical, so I don’t follow the Cathecism or the Pope. Now on to my question. I know that cussing is a sin but are there any circumstances in which it is acceptable? For example, repeating something someone else said, saying the name of something that contains a swear word in it’s title, light-hearted use of swear words for comedic effect that are not meant in a vindictive or harmful way at all etc. What constitutes a word as a ‘swear word’. Also are substitutes such as ‘frick’ ‘heck’ ‘flip’ etc also considered swearing? I’m confused as to what makes the words inherently evil. Is it the way they are used that makes them sinful or are the words themselves evil and if so what makes them that way?


#2

Swear words, crude language, is impolite. It is not acceptable in polite society.


#3

Colossians 4:6

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Matthew 5:37

But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.”


#4

The words are not inherently evil. The vicious impulse to use them is. I cannot think of a situation, outside of courtroom testimony, in which it would be necessary to repeat curses verbatim. ‘Substitute’ curses, like ‘Jeepers Creepers’, ‘Judas Priest’, ‘Jiminy Cricket’ etc. again are not evil in and of themselves, but you must analyse the impulse that gives rise to their utterance. It is not the words so much as the impulse we must rein in.


#5

I would second that if there’s a sin associated with swearing its anger or crudeness or whatever the case may be, not swearing.

In addition, it’s my understanding that St. Paul used some colorful language on occasion in the NT. That seems to settle it for me. Sometimes vivid language is needed to make a point.

Jesus compared returning to sin with a dog eating it’s own vomit. Crude and impolite in some contexts? Certainly. A valueable image if communicated properly at the proper time and context, yes.

All of that said I, not always the best at taking my own advice, think that not swearing at all is a very good way to be a Christian witness and a light.


#6

I must say, too, that hearing someone who cannot get through a single sentence without at least one curse word immediately decreases my respect for that person in a major way. I cannot respect their intelligence, as their vocabulary of adjectives appears to be limited to a mere half-dozen words. I cannot respect their manners, as this sort of person invariably utters these words in mixed company. And I cannot take seriously their commitment to their faith, as the mouth they use to utter these words is the same they use to recite the Angelic Salutation, to confess their sins, and to receive the Body and Blood.


#7

James 1:26

New International Version
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

New Living Translation
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

English Standard Version
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.


#8

Taking God’s name in vain is serious, grievous, matter. Whether it is sinful depends on consent of the will and your desire to do wrong. The F word is also a serious offence because it mocks something God created as sacred. Most other words are not sins. Maybe the anger behind them or the hate is sinful.


#9

A civilized people should never be vague about this since we are getting more and more of these words on TV. A comedian laughed when he said it doesn’t make it OK. Certain lines should not be crossed. There need to be limits. These limits are good and healthy.


#10

What if the F word is used in a literal manner?


#11

But this is where I’m confused. What makes the word sinful if there is no evil intent behind it’s use? For example a comedian using it light-heartedly. Why is that evil?


#12

This for the most part may be a fair assumption to make, but I know many very intelligent people who are plagued by habitual swearing that they picked up as children from being surrounded by others who used profanity on a regular basis. I know many Christians with this problem who believe it is their biggest weakness as a christian. And are struggling to break free of it’s bondage.


#13

My take.

When used to offend, wrong
When used for no good reason when it does offend (regardless of if you want it to offend), wrong
When used amongst those who are neither offended nor meant to be offended, a-okay.


#14

They are not inherently evil. As far as I know what defines a “swear word” in this sense has mostly to do with social norms. (Most of these words, in terms of their actual meaning however, refer to things that aren’t exactly productive to talk about, so there’s that.) There are of course contexts where words like this are not appropriate at all and we should respect that.

The main reason I try to avoid crude language altogether is because for me personally it very quickly becomes a habit if I don’t. I don’t like the idea of habitually blurting out words that are considered impolite, or at the very least not useful, practically everywhere. Will it be necessarily sinful to use a “swear word” jokingly? I don’t think so, no. But as far as my experience goes, not the best habit to get into. (And of course keep in mind the context and audience.)


#15

It’s the wrong word to use. Fornicate if unmarried, having sex if married. But a married person should have the decency not to talk about sex. It is private.


#16

If you mean, I want to have intercourse with my wife. It would be crude but not sinful, IMO. I would never talk about my wife that way. Or, That intercoursing car. Just stupid.


#17

Words mean something, they are not “just words.” A foul-mouthed comedian is a foul-mouthed comedian.


#18

And it is indeed a bondage if any of us does not filter his speech.


#19

It’s perfectly acceptable in some rare instances. For example, if I witnessed a crime where someone used the word and I was later called into court to testify exactly what the person had said, there would be no sin in quoting the word.


#20

So from what I’ve gathered there may not be a definitive yes or no answer. Is that correct? Everyone seems to have conflicting opinions. Some seem to believe they are only acceptable in extreme circumstances and some believe if there is no evil intent behind the words used then they are acceptable.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.