Little Kids Cursing

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53 Responses

  1. j r says:

    The general reaction to these ads seems to be a strong split between people who think it is really awesome and people who think it is highly problematic.

    I am in neither one of those camps. I am someone who reads the following statement and has a hard time keeping a straight face:

    The ads are for a “progressive” and for-profit t-shirt company called FCKH8. The young spokespeople say things like “Stop telling girls how to dress, and start teaching boys not to fucking rape.”

    What does that mean? To whom is it directed? How does buying a t-shirt make any of these supposed problems better? Does any of that even matter? No. Of course not. This is what happens when you build a movement around internet memes and half-formed ideas. You get activism transformed into ad copy.Report

    • Kim in reply to j r says:

      ” build a movement around internet memes and half-formed ideas” aptly describes Anonymous.
      I don’t think it aptly describes feminism — or Obama-led critiques of rape (which you may not want to lay on the feminist bandwagon…)Report

  2. morat20 says:

    There also does seem to be a general culture war going on over cursing and whether people should ever guard their language or not.
    I think you’re fighting language evolution there. Yesterday’s curse words are today’s adjectives, so to speak.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    “A capitalist well sell you the rope which you use to hang him”- V.I. Lenin

    Business people have been using various political causes as a source of money for a long time. It happens on both sides of the political equation. Causes are a good place source of money because of the intense passions and emotions they generate among people who feel very strongly about a particular issue. Various feminist and inequality issues are generating a lot of heat these days for good reason and a merchant is acting accordingly. There will be another cause and another merchant doing the same in the future.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Preventing people from trying to make money from issues that deeply concern people is going to require some rather draconian legislation. Its ethically problematic on a certain level but the cure is worse than the disease.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I realize this and agree with you but it doesn’t mean that I or anyone else has to be totes okay with people trying to come in and make a buck off of every movement.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “A capitalist well sell you the rope which you use to hang him”- V.I. Lenin

      I’m not quite sure how to read the rest of your comment, @leeesq, so if I’m reiterating what you’re saying, please forgive me. But my response to Lenin would be that the capitalist will also commoditize your revolution to such an extent that you never will get around to hanging him.Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “Obama gonna take your guns away!”
      … buy our ammo!

      Profit is good. Information is better.Report

  4. Doctor Jay says:

    When she was little, my oldest child was in her high-chair and accidentally pushed some peas off the tray and on to the floor. Out of her mouth came a perfectly formed exclamation, “Shit!” It was pretty much the first word she ever spoke.

    However, this feels like a rigged performance to me, not something authentic. Could I say it seems “authentic”.

    Also the phrase “teach boys not to fucking rape” lands oddly on me. Is there some kind of rape that doesn’t involve fucking?

    It doesn’t seem at all like the sort of thing a child would say on his/her own.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    When I was president of the philosophy club a million years ago in another country, we had a t-shirt fundraiser.

    My idea for the t-shirt? “Jesus Christ died for the sins of this world and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” I said that we needed to set up a table outside of where the Freethinkers had their club meetings and we’d be rolling in money.

    The club sponsor told us that that was not going to happen.

    Instead we made a shirt that said “Who Am I? Where Am I Going?” on the front and “And Why Am I In This Handbasket?” on the back in flaming font. We sold approximately six of those shirts to people who weren’t me (and all were members of the club).

    All that to say: I hope the guy behind this makes lots and lots and lots of money. Enough to fill the bathtub with it and for him to rub it all over himself between tossing handfuls of cash into the air as he laughs and laughs and laughs. More power to him.Report

  6. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I think I can safely assume that the kids in the video had the consent of their parents, who I would hope got an advance copy of the script & were OK with it’s content. In which case… Why are we talking about this?Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      1. Not everyone is required to agree about what we should and should not be talking about. The video was produced and opened itself up to comment.

      2. There is a difference between what is allowable and whether people should actually do it. I agree with you and Lee that any law to prevent this kind of thing would be too draconian but that does not mean I have to be supportive and accepting of what exists as an alternative.

      3. Whether people support this viral ad or not seems to depend on how much you think selling t-shirts is a primary or secondary goal. Those who think selling t-shirt is a primary purpose are more displeased by the ad because it is taking hot button social issues at a tense time to make a buck and that is perfectly cool thing to discuss. We are not all “markets yay” libertarians.Report

      • dhex in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        when someone raises consciousness and brings awareness to a good cause, that’s activism. when they do it for a bad one, that’s marketing.

        and i’m ok with that. i like being evil. hail satan!Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        On it’s face, I found the ad… boring. That was cussing for cussing’s sake, and badly done at that. The schtick is just that it has potty mouth pre-teen princesses doing it.

        Perhaps it’s the sailor in me, but there is cussing, and then there is Cussing. One is done either for shock value or because the speaker has a limited vocabulary & imagination. The other is an art form, where the swearing is blended with insults & phrases that are crafted by artisans in the use of language. It’s segments of speech so beautifully done that even though the target was just insulted to the core of their being, they can’t help but appreciate it.

        Of course, such Cussing tends to be wasted on the ignorant, while just slapping swear words on things gets an “Oh My!” or “Hee-Haw!” from them. Perhaps that was the target audience all along.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        truly and indeed there is Cussing. It is a high art of both sound and poetry — one that Carlin, I suspect, knew very well indeed.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        There is something to be said about cussing when it reaches the Ruyonesque.Report

      • Van_Owen in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Cursing as an artform:

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        That was very well done. At first I thought it was going to be boring, but a whole conversation!?

        Slow ClapReport

  7. LWA says:

    I’ve seen this before, where cursing seems to be some kind of hip cachet, and the fact that the cursing is done for a benevolent cause somehow inoculates it.

    Cursing is shocking because it violates a taboo, profaning something sacred. Yet what is the campaign against date rape if not the effort to make it a taboo, and have that taboo respected?

    Its a bit of the Broken Windows theory here where accepting the violation of small taboos makes it easier to violate larger ones. I know, slippery slopes are dangerous arguments, but I think it fits here.

    If f*ck is hip and transgressive, why not B*tch?

    I can see the logic behind transferring the boundaries of taboos- for instance, declaring that N*gger is now taboo, but Queer is not (after being taboo for a while, then embraced). These reflect shifting social boundaries and evolution of cultural norms.

    But there will always be vulgar terms for sex or excrement, even if they have to be invented; We need them after all, to express ourselves. The point of this tee shirt business isn’t to shift taboo boundaries, so much as to drape itself in shock value- and of course, make a boodle of money.Report

    • Kim in reply to LWA says:

      not all languages curse using sacred words. German, in particular, likes to simply use fecal words. It’s the Romance languages, in particular, which go out of their way to insult someone’s parentage.

      We only need foul words to express the concept of intercourse if we need to have sex be dirty/bad/evil. If you pull out those connotations, the words you have left are … either natural or pleasant.

      Now, it is the case that some people enjoy considering sex to be dirty/bad/evil. The transgressive nature of said act is hot to them.Report

      • LWA in reply to Kim says:

        I suspect that sexuality will always have a double sided aspect to it- one hand, wholesome and loving and life affirming; on the other, the raw primal fury of it directly exposes our darker selves, where norms and boundaries are stripped away.

        I don’t think there is any way to purge it of that darker side, because that isn’t extrinsic to our selves- the Church didn’t create it, the Greco Roman myths spoke bluntly about its power to drive us beyond the reach of our norms.

        A thousand years from now, in whatever language is spoken, someone will use a word for intercourse that is shocking and vulgar.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        wrong perspective, actually.
        Humans are a messy ball of contradictions about sex.
        But most of /that/ goes back to population control.
        With abortion/birth control as a reliable option, we don’t
        strictly speaking need to make sex “naughty or nice” anymore…Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kim says:

        I know the word ‘fuck’ is pretty old, so I went to wikipedia to see if there was a consensus on how old.

        Make sure you scroll down to the helpful picture on the right.

      • Chris in reply to Kim says:

        Let’s see if this works:

        Also, from Wikipedia:

        William Dunbar (c. 1460 – c. 1520)
        As Dunbar belongs to the latest medieval phase, his work is quite far from that of Chaucer’s. Although Dunbar’s The Tretis includes many ironic gestures that recall the Wife of Bath and The Merchant’s Tale, he utilizes a much wilder humor than Chaucer. Dunbar is even credited with the first printed use of the word “fuck.” He does not utilize the Chaucerian palinode, or retraction.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kim says:

        My favorite one (now that I know I can do this):


      • Chris in reply to Kim says:

        Not going to post any more… not going to post any more… Aaah, I can’t help it:

        Fascinating that “fuck” and “fucking” are just now getting back to their mid-17th century popularity.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kim says:


        Everything old is new again.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kim says:

        RE: the drop then resurgence of ‘fuck’.

        There’s a gimmick commenter over at AVClub who plays a sort of decadent minor Victorian royalty character, who’s always getting in trouble with his Lord Father for engaging in sexcapades with the help and orgies (Greater, Lesser, and other) and such.

        Among the euphemisms used by him in place of “fuck”:

        Amorous congress
        Horizontal refreshments
        Joining giblets
        Invading his/her back settlements

        And my favorite: “Blanket hornpipe”.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kim says:

        Ah, I see that this commenter is familiar with one of my favorites:

        One of the first downloads when I got a Kindle.

        Some other examples of euphemisms for “amorous congress”:



        PIECE. A wench. A damned good or bad piece; a girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress. Hence the (CAMBRIDGE) toast, May we never have a PIECE (peace) that will injure the constitution.


        THREE TO ONE. He is playing three to one, though sure to lose; said of one engaged in the amorous congress.


        CLICKET. Copulation of foxes; and thence used, in a canting sense, for that of men and women: as, The cull and the mort are at clicket in the dyke; the man and woman are copulating in the ditch.

        BASKET-MAKING. The good old trade of basket-making; copulation, or making feet for children’s stockings. [The two last definitions, in contrast, crack me up.]

        DOG’S RIG. To copulate till you are tired, and then turn tail to it.

        DRY BOB. A smart repartee: also copulation without emission; in law Latin, siccus robertulus.

        HUMP. To hump; once a fashionable word for copulation. [Emphasis mine.]


        To MOW. A Scotch word for the act of copulation.


        TO SWIVE

        TO WAPReport

      • El Muneco in reply to Kim says:

        And, of course, the Python “Exploding Penguin” sketch (damn, it’s almost as old as I am), where they verbed “intercourse”, thus completing some circle in the development of the language…Report

    • Kolohe in reply to LWA says:

      “If f*ck is hip and transgressive, why not B*tch?”

      You alluded to it later in your post, and so did Kim. They are different categories of bad words – a genderless vulgarity for a sexual act vs a slur on one’s gender. The same difference between s**t and any number of racial/ethnic/sexual identity slurs.

      And of course, above all, context reigns. What Meredith Brooks sings has a different connotation than what Prodigy does and different connotation than what David Bowie does.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

        Sissygirl is insulting someone because of their gender. So are most dumb blonde jokes (never see one about a blond do you? — did you not know that word is gendered?)

        Bitch is insulting someone for straying outside the gender role.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

        This is exactly right. Just because “bitch” and “fuck” are both considered curse words doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Suggesting that because one has taken a particular cultural trajectory means the other can or should is naive.Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to LWA says:

      The point of this tee shirt business isn’t to shift taboo boundaries, so much as to drape itself in shock value- and of course, make a boodle of money.

      And plenty of people are talking about this video, which is free advertisement, and it should help bring in the money. Sounds like it could be a very effective strategy.Report

  8. Chris says:

    Dude, you would love Twitter.Report

  9. Brandon Berg says:

    “Women are paid 23% less than men for the exact same fucking work.”

    Well, the language may not be appropriate for eight-year-olds, but they seem to understand the issues at an eight-year-old level.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Let them have their illusions… When they adapt to the real adult world of “yeah, it’s only 7% of salary for the same work, but you’re demonstrably going to be pushed down a slower track, there’s a 10-25% chance you’ll be sexually assaulted, you’re likely to suffer actual sexual harassment in the workplace, and certain to suffer passive sexual harassment in the workplace” will they be more optimistic about their future?Report

  10. I know kids curse, and although I don’t like the use of words that are generally recognized as curse words, I don’t think using them is a moral failing.

    But this ad campaign, at least as Saul describes it (I haven’t seen it), bothers me, even if the parents consented. There’s something that seems really wrong about this. Maybe you can chalk my belief here as being a mere sentimental notion of childhood innocence or a mishmash along the Maude-lin lines of “won’t somebody please think of the children!” But depending on the situation, it seems potentially abusive.

    When I was very young–not sure of my age, but probably when I was 8 or 9 or so, a family member who was babysitting me made me say a bunch of curse words into a tape recorder, and the babysitter told me if I wasn’t good, she’d make my parents listen to it. I probably didn’t know what most of those words meant, but it seemed very wrong to me at the time, and it made me feel dirty, and it’s still kind of hard to think about.

    I suppose this ad campaign is different, especially if the parents have given their consent, which they probably have, as Mad Rocket Scientist pointed out above. But the whole thing really bothers me.Report

  11. Kim says:

    Fuck innocence. I knew a guy who was raped at the age of 4 by his relatives.
    I wish we lived in a world where parents could keep their kids innocent, but
    there are life-altering decisions that parents make for their children before
    they reach puberty.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    This ad doesn’t really freak me out. It’s got too much “HEY! YOU! SQUARE! GET FREAKED OUT!” in it for me to freak out.

    You know what makes me say “what in the hell were we thinking?” to this day?


  13. Chris says:

    We need a good internet portmanteau for manufactured controversy with a dose of sexism. Fauxtravergyny?Report

  14. switters says:

    For what its worth, I sent this out to over 20 females yesterday, all friends or family (and all but two who have children). Every single one of them responded positively. And over a quarter responded independently of the other responses, that they loved the juxtaposition of an issue that’s ultimately unimportant but discussed ALL THE TIME with young children vs one that is critically important but not discussed nearly as much. And none mentioned being offended that it was an add to sell shirts. Neither did any mention any interest in making a purchase anything.

    MY thoughts. Is this a game changer? No. But no single thing is . Like someone pointed out on Tod’s race post the other day, many don’t need to be made aware of the absurdities around us all the time. But sometimes its nice to be reminded. This was one of those for me. But then again, the idea of being offended by curse words is utterly baffling to me.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to switters says:


      There are lots of people in the world and I have a lot of female friends who are put-off by this video, concept, company for co-opting. I suppose one side effect of niche marketing is deeply turning off those not in your niche.Report

      • switters in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I guess I’m not sure I inderstand the contours of the co-opting idea. Is advertising a book about Martin Luther king co-opting the civil rights movement. Did g carlin co-opt all the ideas he raised or poked fun at because he sold tickets to his show and probably t shirts afterwards. Lenny Bruce? The daily show?

        I get that it’s not people’s cup of tea. That they don’t like it. But I’m not sure about why it’s offensive. That it’s cheap humor? That they’re trying to make a buck? That little girls say fuck?Report