On Christmas Day, 2013 “The Wolf of Wall Street” premiered in U.S. theaters to stellar reviews and a great box office performance. The movie earned over $115 million worldwide. With an Internet Movie Database score of 8.3 out of 10, it ranks in the top 150 movies of all time. The film was nominated for five Oscars. Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
Martin Scorsese was nominated for Best Achievement in Directing. The movie itself was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year. Despite all of the movies accolades, it did not yield one single win.
I believe this was mostly due to one factor. The movie also broke box office records for vulgarity. In three hours, the movie used the F-word 506 times, averaging 2.81 times every single minute.
Why does our culture demonize certain words?
If you think about words at their most basic, they are just a collection of sounds produced by our vocal cords and manipulated by our mouths. There is no innate meaning in any word.
At some point in the history of the English language, someone decided that a small, pointy-eared feline would be called a cat. In other languages, the words gato in Spanish, paka in Swahili and maow in Cantonese all signify the exact same animal in their own languages.
Likewise, every language has its own swear words.
Swear words have the ability to convey a message that can’t be conveyed with any other language. Swearing shows a disregard for societal norms.
If you use a swear word for emphasis, you are showing the people around you that you mean what you say. The words have a special emphasis because they are nonstandard.
I am a self-admitted user of colorful language. Though obviously there is a time and a place that it is not appropriate, most situations allow me to express myself freely.
The words themselves don’t inspire any repulsive thoughts for me. They don’t make me immoral or mean. They certainly don’t make me ignorant or uncreative, despite what many people believe.
As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Swear words allow people to express themselves in more unique ways than any other language because it is the most diverse language.
The F-word is the only word in the English language that can be used as every part of speech. People can construct sentences using these words that are original and still grammatically correct. No other words allow a person to do that.
The most surprising effect of swear words is physiological.
The popular television show “MythBusters”tested the effects of swearing on pain tolerance.
They set up a test in which many people took a pain test. On the control they tested how long the subjects could stand having their hand in ice water while remaining silent.
On the second test they were allowed to yell anything they like as long as it wasn’t a swear word. For the third test they were directed to yell swear words. People were found to have a 30 percent higher pain tolerance when using swear words. This suggests some biological link to using words that society sees as unfit.
Swear words are just a part of society. They have been used by nearly every culture for hundreds of years. Though the specific words may change, there is always something that people can use to express themselves.
We need to be mindful of other people so that we don’t offend them, but we should all realize that these words aren’t going away.
We certainly shouldn’t deprive DiCaprio of another well-deserved Oscar just because he said the F-word on screen over one-hundred times.