I often use the word fuck when that’s what I’m doing. Otherwise, not so much. People who’ve read my fiction are sometimes stunned, staggered, and maybe a little heartbroken by my rare use of profanity. I stick to the rule that writing should be lean (not so much clean as lean), efficient, and not cluttered up with a lot of unnecessary words. And despite the mileage George Carlin got from The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV, these are still words that are generally meaningless, in the way they are typically used.
Take an old time classic novel or movie that you liked as a kid and go in and add profanity. The meaning of the piece won’t be improved, and it might even come off sounding completely absurd.
But maybe I’ll have to revise my thinking on this, because in the hardcore culture we live in, profanity is apparently not only necessary, it is a veritable list of magic words. Profanity is capable of transforming a work of solid fiction into a best-selling colossus. A run-of-the-mill comedian can ascend to headliner status. A generic disc-jockey can become the new Howard Stern.
George Carlin’s routine remains hilarious, but The Seven Words came out almost exactly forty years ago. The words aren’t nearly as restricted anymore as they were then, and no one need be denied their magic today.
But it’s possible that we are being denied something else – a lighter, more imaginative, and more memorable experience of living, which just can’t thrive in an environment of unfocused hostility, rude cynicism, and nearly universal threat displays.