Swearing in the Bloggernacle

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 StumbleUpon 0 Email -- Filament.io 0 Flares ×

I’ve noticed a trend over the last year or so. Granted, this is all anecdotal, so don’t be expecting me to go all Ziff on you with amazing stats and charts. Maybe it’s not actually a trend, but it seems significant enough to have stuck out to me.

There seems to be an increase of swearing in comments, posts and Facebook message from members of the Bloggernacle. It’s usually pretty mild: a hell here, a damn there, and an occasional ass. Mild though it may be, it’s still swearing.

Now before the knots in your knickers get too tight, I’m not passing judgement; I’m not saying whether this swearing (or its increase) is right or wrong. I’m just observing it.

I wonder though at how many of those using such language would do so in a non-Bloggernacle, non-social setting with other Mormons discussing the gospel. Would they say hell while giving a lesson in Relief Society? Would they say damn while commenting in a Gospel Doctrine class? Would they say ass while giving a Sacrament talk?

Maybe they would.

Here I go waxing all anecdotal again, but based on my experience in the Church, very few Mormons swear at Church, and I have attended over 100 wards in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Alberta.

That being said, I did used to have an elders quorum instructor who regularly used hell and damn in his lessons.

Anyhow, I guess the point is this:

  1. If these persons swear in real-life gospel discussions at church, it tears apart what I have come to believe was anorm in the church.
  2. If they don’t, then why do it online? Has the Bloggernacle made us more comfortable in what and how we share?

30 thoughts on “Swearing in the Bloggernacle

  1. Add this to your anecdote pipe before you lite it up:

    As recently as yesterday after sacrament meeting I was talking to our Stake RS President and she use a “no way in hell” as part of a story she was relating to me. Right in the chapel.

    Now you can lite it up.

  2. Using words like hell, damn, and ass could be perfectly fine in a sacrament meeting talk as long as they weren’t being used as expletives.

  3. Geoff, so you’re saying it would be okay to mention that your wife has a nice @.. in a sacrament meeting talk? (Assuming this was a relevant aspect of, say, your courtship and eventual marriage.)

  4. Jacob, was she quoting someone?

    Good point, Geoff. I guess I should have qualified my comments there by saying, I wonder if they would use those words the same way they do online.

  5. I’m not surprised. I know several members who swear (even if mildly) in private conversations. I would be interested if this person would do the same in the situations I outlines above (RS class, GD class, sacrament talk, etc).

  6. Kim,

    No, I am quite sure she would not have said the same in a sacrament talk, so your church norm is not at risk in my anecdote. As to your question of why we swear in some settings and not others, I think this stems directly from what it is that makes bad words bad. If the badness is entirely a matter of perceived social norms, as I would argue, then we should expect usage to vary in different social settings. Not only would I avoid swearing in a sacrament talk, I would avoid using words like “crap” and “frickin” which might otherwise serve as colorful metaphors in my everyday language. Now, maybe that is because I’m a heathen, but do we really think that we should ever use a word that we wouldn’t be comfortable using in a sacrament talk? I certainly don’t feel that way. In a related question, is it wrong for me to swear in the privacy of my own mind if I never verbalize those swear words?

  7. As a guilty party, I guess I have always used them in casual conversation as long as they are in the scriptures. I’ve avoided the others unless I smashed my finger with a hammer or something.

    Just being open about my failings here.

    And I have probably become rather desensitized in general. I won the general fiction category for a first chapter contest at the LDStorymakers conference and had one judge criticize my swearing in the story (it was about Porter Rockwell) and I was puzzled, I wasn’t aware I had swearing in it and still don’t remember ever putting any in there, maybe I will have to look again.

  8. I remember overhearing one of my Young Men leaders swear while on a Father-Son outing. I was scandalized.

    Now I relive that experience every day on the ‘nacle! Thanks, ya bunch of J. Goldens!

  9. As to your question of why we swear in some settings and not others

    Well, specifically, I was wondering why swear in the Bloggernacle but not in other church settings (assuming of course that those who swear in the Bloggernacle do not, in fact, swear in public church settings)?

    If the badness is entirely a matter of perceived social norms, as I would argue, then we should expect usage to vary in different social settings

    Does the Bloggernacle, then, perceive swearing as a social norm?

    do we really think that we should [n]ever use a word that we wouldn’t be comfortable using in a sacrament talk?

    I don’t think so. To be clear though, my post wasn’t saying we shouldn’t swear; I’m just wondering why people use different language for similar “church” settings where the only difference is one is online and one is not.

    is it wrong for me to swear in the privacy of my own mind if I never verbalize those swear words?

    An excellent question. Personally, I don’t think swear words if I don’t say them. I may think other things (e.g. “You’re such an idiot”) that I don’t say though.

    You may be interested in a post we did a few years ago on censoring profanity.

    David, was Porter a swearer?

    Ben, I had a scout leader who swore a lot, and the big ones, too. He really changed some of the notions I held about members of the church.

  10. Kim

    About Porter, I believe he did, though there really isn’t much to go on as far his own actual words go, but being the general breaker of both the word of wisdom and peoples arms I have little doubt that he did.

    My own astonishment was that someone said I had swearing in my 3,400 word tale.

    I can’t find the offending word.

  11. Porter Rockwell’s unique personal expletive was “wheat!” according to a number of witnesses: someone might, say, report that rustlers had been at his calves again, and Porter would spit out “wheat!”

    With that word as a specific example, then yes, I do hear swearing at church. Beyond that, I don’t.

  12. I try not to swear. I thought it was pretty standard that Mormons try not to swear. I thought it was pretty standard that active Mormons if they do tend to swear around close friends/family or by themselves, they at least try to avoid it amoung larger groups of Mormons out of respect.
    If you are noticing an increase in swearing in the bloggernacle I would chalk it up to a decrease in respect for active, believing, card carrying Mormons. There is no way to tell how many commenters or bloggers are non-lds, ex-lds, disbelieving lds or whatever, but the more people who act like swearing is accepted, the more it will be used and be accepted. I think that is just the way it goes. Things like this can actually change really quickly.

  13. I’ve noticed this too Kim. It just means you’re cool if you do it. Throwing out a casual ass or hell just shows that you really have a grip on it all.

  14. I swear on and offline, at church and in class. This is sounding like a bloody Dr. Seuss book now. I also use the word fetch a lot – that is my testament to my morminess.

    So I am pretty congruent with my life, but I see the larger point you are making all the time. (that is people who act one way at church, and another out and about, and yet another when they have perceived anonymity)

  15. BTW, as a teenage convert living across the globe, I never realized what a liberal, out there, non-traditional Mormon I was until I showed up at BYU at 17 yo. I also learned all about judginess too that year.

  16. It’s been alluded to above, but I think the increased anonymity of the bloggernacle is a factor here. You just get a more authentic voice than you would at church. This doesn’t necessarily mean that those who swear online but not a church are big phonies, it could be seen as evidence that they find some of the church norms a little restrictive and find outlet for their voice in another venue.

    But if it becomes more prevalent and accepted in the bloggernacle, will those who tend not to swear sub-vocally in polite circles take up the practice in order to fit in with all the “cool” mormons they’re encountering online?

  17. Porter Rockwell’s unique personal expletive was “wheat!”

    Nice. I may try that.

    I swear on and offline, at church and in class.

    TStevens, maybe those I mention in my post above swear offline as well. I really don’t know. If they do, then that says something about my perceptions of Mormons.

    It’s been alluded to above, but I think the increased anonymity of the bloggernacle is a factor here.

    That could be, jjackson. I wonder why now though. Why not in 2003 or 2004 when the Bloggernacle was starting out? And will we see more people swearing, and more culturally severe words being used?

  18. I typically don’t use damn, hell or ass unless it’s in a gospel setting. I did say to one of the young women the other day that “Texas is going to be the first place to burn in hell.” She was mildly scandalized by that. Those words are really mild and they don’t bother me, I still don’t use them however.

    The other day, in the Bloggernacle, someone used some pretty harsh language. I felt it was completely inappropriate for an LDS themed blog. Some words were only alluded to by the first letter, others were fully spelled out. But, who am I, the blog police?

  19. It’s a public/private, formal/informal distinction. There’s a lot I say on blogs and on Facebook–apart from naughty words–that I wouldn’t dream of saying in church or certain other social settings (including online settings).

  20. Rebecca,

    Do you feel there is a fundamental difference between having a gospel discussion with Mormons on a blog and having a gospel discussion with Mormons in your ward’s Relief Society?

  21. I have a friend from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and she’s told me that “Hell” and “Damn” aren’t considered swearing there.

  22. I don’t swear at all, except for that one time at recess in elementary school, and another time I cussed out some 8th-graders when I was in 9th grade. The two punks had been verbally taunting someone I knew, and it made me feel powerful to see the way they shrunk under my foul-mouthed assault. When I told my friends what I had done, I don’t remember them acting impressed. Perhaps they were as disappointed with me as I was myself.

    I’ve noticed the casual hells, damns, and asses on the Bloggernacle. Whatever. I have no desire to use such language.

    “Wheat!”

    Okay, I’ll make an exception for that.

Leave a Reply