Business visionary Karrie Kohlhaas posted about swearing quite a while ago. Re-reading her post recently reminded me of the strangeness I experienced doing voiceovers, where you read a written script, but want it to sound like natural speaking. (It’s amazing how much work “sounding natural” takes!)
Looking at a script and seeing a swear word in writing, my inclination is to soften it by replacing it with another word. But when you listen to any casual conversation anywhere, you will hear swear words littered throughout the conversation.
As a voice actor I am supposed to read the words on the page in a convincing way, so this dichotomy – reading what is intended to be heard – can really trip a guy up!
Are Words Bad?
There are long diatribes of varying merit on whether a word is inherently “good” or “bad”, or if it is just our constantly-in-motion Pendulum of Social Mores that dictates whether a word is currently in fashion or not. I am not qualified to weigh in on the correctness of any particular word, but I do love language. All of it. And I do swear from time to time, although I do it with specific intent when I use this kind of colorful language.
I tend to take some solace and refuge in Stephen Fry’s thoughts on the ever-changing topology of language.
But in the end, being offended by words is a choice you make. I will do what is reasonable in my mind to avoid being offensive, but it is ultimately your responsibility to choose whether to be offended or not.
I suggest the powerful thing to do is to allow the intent to shine through, and let the specific words drift away. After all, the intent is where the gold is… many different agglomerations of words can express the same feelings.
Take joy in the feeling of language and the finely turned phrase. And, if, in the end, you wind up swearing to emphasize a point, I won’t mind. I hope you won’t either!