Risqué Business.

What “potty mouth” is doing to your articles and blogs.

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The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.” Tom Waits

Back in Merry Old England, there was a book called “List of Covent Ladies,” an interesting review of London’s ladies for hire. Being attractive certainly put you at the top of the list, unless you were Miss Emma Ell-tt of Gray’s-Inn-Lane, for instance, who “poured forth such a torrent of blackguardism,” she was considered “most agreeable looking when asleep.”

Some of us are more attractive when we’re asleep. Not that we can do that all the time. Eventually we’re going to talk. Even worse, we’re going to write. If our “potty mouths” make their way into print, it’s not going to matter if we’re asleep or not. We’re “potty mouths.”

Swearing is supposed to show how angry or frustrated we are. That’s all well and good if we actually are angry or frustrated. Where it becomes a problem is when we’re not. So much of swearing today is to get attention.

I remember Jerry Della Femina, in his book “From Those Wonderful Folks That Brought You Pearl Harbor,” recalling his father always telling him, “Whatever you do, do it loud.” Swearing is simply being loud.

For instance, are you going to read “Why I Love My Mother” when you can read “Why I Love My Mother More Than The Courts Say I Should”?

We need to be loud, to shock, to stand out these days. We’re in a crowded marketplace. Thousands of blogs are out there, each trying to get read by a “selective audience.” All this means is, nobody’s going to read a thousand blogs. They’ll look down a list of articles to see what catches their eye. For instance, are you going to read “Why I Love My Mother” when you can read “Why I Love My Mother More Than The Courts Say I Should”?

Sensationalism seems to beat sentiment these days. We’re all sentimental around, say, Mother’s Day, but our daily routine tends to be drawn to the shocking and offensive. We don’t want to be too shocked. But what’s too shocking these days? Look at what comes out of the mouths of celebrities, politicians and even the occasional preacher.

Pastor Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill Church, Seattle Washington, is known as the “Cussing Pastor.” He likes to pepper his sermons with “dirty talk.” Critics say he’s “coarsening the hearts and minds of a generation.” Driscoll says he’s using words his younger congregation know and understand.

If a little “pulpit potty,” increases the flock, isn’t that what religion’s been about all along?

Whether Pastor Driscoll is being a modernist or following “Grunge Christianity” is anybody’s guess. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Grunge Christianity. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. So many ministries are complaining about declining numbers. If a little “pulpit potty,” increases the flock, isn’t that what religion’s been about all along?

But let’s get back to us, writers trying to build viewership. We look for subjects people want to read. We research, we use empirical evidence, we bring fresh insights. Then someone like Mark Manson comes along with “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” He ends up with a bestselling book.

Manson decided he didn’t give a fuck, which had readers — many thousands, apparently — deciding they didn’t give a fuck, either. Why should we care about, well, anything, when even the President of the United States obviously doesn’t give a fuck. Political analysts have called Trump the most I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck American president in history. Even Richard Nixon gave a fuck more than Trump. He resigned before he could be impeached.

Mark Manson became popular riding a wave of negativism. As he explains in his book, accept the world as fallible, and you’ll feel better about good ol’ fallible you. Pastor Driscoll takes a more militant view, saying, “God is frustrated with you right now. He doesn’t think you’re cute.”

Well, he’s not wrong there. Surely we’ve had enough of cheerleading parents turning out entitled “cute” kids. What are those kids doing now? Probably writing blogs saying they don’t give a fuck about anything.

Pastor Driscoll takes a more militant view, saying, “God is frustrated with you right now. He doesn’t think you’re cute.”

Which brings us back to our own potty mouths. Are we adding to this negativism with headlines like “Go F*ck Yourself, Bob Ross,” a nifty little expose about a guy who bought Ross’s “Joy Of Painting,” and can’t even paint a tree to save his life. Having a potty mouth doesn’t make you an artist. It’s just a coincidence that most artists have potty mouths.

Then there’s the ever critical Caitlin Johnstone, who’s article “Fuck You, Actually,” derides The Sunday Times for their mindless drivel about Russia turning Labor Party’s Jeremy Corbyn into a “Kremlin bot.”

“Hey, Sunday Times?” she wrote. “How about fuck you, actually? Fuck your brazen attempt to keep the British people from reclaiming what is being stolen from them by an increasingly corporatist neoliberal government.”

Jeremy Corby, by the way, has his own potty mouth. He’s been caught numerous times muttering “bitch” when Prime Minster Theresa May is talking. There might be a “bitch” equivalent in Russian he can say, too.

Do we run the risk of being “shock jocks,” like rappers figuring you ain’t “street” unless you call cops “pigs”? Are we guilty of what Twain called “echoes of nothing”?

It’s hard knowing how much “potty mouth” is good for the blog world. Certainly there’s enough anger and frustration out there. Is it lost with us throwing our “fucks” around like loose dimes? Eventually, any language has a numbing quality. It’s just one more “fuck” in a vast world of “fucks,” until, as Mark Twain once said, “We forget how pitifully we came by it.”

Do we run the risk of being “shock jocks,” like rappers figuring you ain’t “street” unless you call cops “pigs”? Are we guilty of what Twain called “echoes of nothing”?

Novelist Margaret Atwood got in trouble a while back, claiming the internet “leds to increased literacy.” People scolded her. They said they found the grammar online shocking. “I was talking about fundamentals,” Atwood explained. “Quite simply, you can’t use the net unless you can read.”

It’s pretty hard to use the net if you can’t type, either.

No doubt we do learn a lot from social media. It keeps us abreast of politics and social issues, not to mention lost dogs, lost loves and dangerous vitamins. Just the toxins we’re ingesting should have us screaming bloody murder. Which we do, as long as we can throw in expletives, which is the same as being angry, and it’s better to say “fuck” than “I’m steamed.”

Nobody reads “I’m steamed,” these days, but they will read “I’m fucking steamed.”

Nobody reads “I’m steamed,” these days, but they will read “I’m fucking steamed.” The difference should be negligible, but we’re scanning thousands of blogs, thousands of articles and millions of comments.

To write online these days is to enter blindly, hoping anything you say or write or tweet will be topical — or at least questioned. Raising the hairs of your viewership is one way. Pissing them off is another.

If numbers are that important, sometimes pissing people off works.

Without supported our arguments, we’re fluttering around, saying anything we like.

The real problem I find with swearing is it tends to be a filler for, well, writing. As Tom Waits said off the top, “…bad writing destroys the quality of our suffering.” For all the “fucks” we see online, it’s usually followed by writing that relies too much on shock and not enough on fact.

Without supported our arguments, we’re fluttering around, saying anything we like. One of the biggest criticisms of opinion is that everyone has one, and it takes very little research to carry on a conversation. Kurt Cobain once said he liked “arguing without any facts whatsoever.” Nobody’s right or wrong.

At one time, I was writing for Writer Beat, an online platform dedicated to people fighting. One article I wrote drew so much contempt, people were swearing at me left and right. I decided to take a nap. I woke up to an email from the editor saying, “Why did you stop?!!”

I don’t mind being a potty mouth, but when it becomes essential to the medium, I prefer taking a nap.

I decided to leave Writer Beat. I don’t mind being a potty mouth, but when it becomes essential to the medium, I prefer taking a nap.

In the end, I’m not sure it matters if you shock people or not.

As Kierkegaard once said: “Do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”

Robert Cormack is a novelist, humorist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon & Schuster for more details.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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