Dear YA, Swear You’ll Swear

Swearing, what a wonderful thing. Yes I’m all up for it with friends. Swearing in different languages is preferable, because it’s easier that way. You can’t really say some words in English that express how you’re feeling.

But what about swearing in books? Should it be allowed? Should we just ban all books that drop the f-bomb here and there? Why should we? So many questions and so little time. But I’ll try to answer some of those questions here in today’s Endless Discussion.

So swearing in Australia isn’t really a big thing. Swearing is just normal. You can go about your daily lives and hear a fellow Australian swear at a vending machine for not giving them their Diet Coke or someone else trying to find their phone when they left it on the bus by accident, or when someone steps on gum and they swear to their friends next to them. Swearing is no big deal. Especially when you’re a teenager. Teens just spew up every swear word in the book because why not? It expresses how we feel, so why not use swear words to exert that anger or happiness? Swearing is an outlet for most teenagers. In YA, I find it hilarious that some teenagers don’t even say ‘Damn’ or ‘Crap’. I side-eye teens like these in books. Like, JUST SWEAR ALREADY. LET THAT ANGER OR HAPPINESS OUT.

Swearing in books is one of my favourite things to see on the page of YA novels. It just makes sense. Teenagers swear, so make them swear in books. However, I totally understand that where these characters are from and how they’ve grown up essentially influences how they see swearing. It could be a bad thing to some teenagers and a normal thing for others. I mean even the ‘harshness’ of swear words is different all around the world. Here’s a buzzfeed article of 100 swear words that some Australians use (if not all). Some people may say these swear words come off as harsh and others just shrug it off because it’s normal. Teenagers have a invisible scale of how harsh swear words are and how they are interpreted. We know the difference between threat and just swearing because it feels right. I’ve yet to meet a teen who’s never sworn in there life. So why make swear words foreign to teens in books?

There’s also this ‘Elephant in the room’ where people question the intelligence of teenagers because they swear. Teenagers can swear and be intelligent. Swearing does not tarnish someone’s intelligence. Smart people can swear, it doesn’t make someone lose their knowledge. It’s also as if it’s taboo in some sense. Like swearing is so bad. I mean, it’s weird hearing a stranger swear, but hearing friends swear is normal. So if we’re suppose to relate to teenagers in books and suppose to become, or want to become friends with them, wouldn’t it make sense to let them swear?

Swearing is such a great way for teenagers to build relationships. Teenagers can make friends by swearing. Swearing also adds, actually the better words is authenticates teenagers as growing people in books. We have no idea what’s really right and really wrong yet. We haven’t touched the surface of the ‘real world’ either. We don’t know what in the world taxes are, how mortgages work, how to correctly write a resume and all that jazz about reverse parking. Some teenagers in reality are grasping these concepts while the majority are just living their lives, free, working on assignments, trying to obtain ace grades. This majority, a majority I must confess I’m apart of, are also swearing and cussing about how they shouldn’t have started the assignment the night before or crammed study for their exam. We’re swearing at the stupid things people do for love, during love and after love leaves. We’re swearing about the people who push in line, who talk behind our backs, who think they’re better than us, who say that to our faces and to those who need the proof that they are bloody incredible. We swear about that time we pretended we don’t remember but really, we remember every single moment of that memory because it was so embarrassing. We swear about the times we made mistakes and repeat them or learn from them. We swear when our friends are struggling and they need a boost, so we become the funny swearing person that tries to mend their heart or thoughts. So be aware that we swear. Swearing makes your teenage protagonist feel real.

Before I finish up this article, we must also acknowledge that there are, I guess we can say ‘appropriate’ times to swear and other times it’s well, weird to hear. But this all depends on dialect, social context, culture and so much more. No one should be policing when teenagers swear in books. Like yeah, some moments it’s rude but they’re teenagers, we don’t know when we’re going to swear most of the time. For example, we swear with friends and basically never in front of the elderly and children (well, this is an example from where I’m from. It doesn’t apply to the whole world). But then there’s times when we’re clumsy, forgetful or feeling angry, happy, sad and fearful and the f-bomb feels like the appropriate word to use. I mean, if you follow me on twitter, you may have seen my anger about the president-elect and all the horrible things that have resulted from Trump being elected. The f word was basically my best friend.

Anyways, teenagers swear, some of us like to cuss in private and some just don’t care and do it whenever, wherever. Sometimes swearing in books allows teenagers who aren’t big on reading to actually read more, because “LOOK A TEENAGER WHO SWEARS AND ISN’T JUST BLAND & BORING” (these are similar words a friend who wasn’t big on reading shared with me after a character swore in a book I recommended!). Swearing is a way we can shield ourselves. Swearing is a way to express ourselves. Swearing can occur anywhere and swearing is a way we’re trying to say we care. If you care about teenagers relating to your protagonist, swear you’ll swear.

Have some words to share about swearing in books? Despise it? Love it? Let me know below and tell me how you feel about it! Also let me know if you loved this discussion, I may have a part two.

7 thoughts on “Dear YA, Swear You’ll Swear

  • I grew up around farmers and plumbers so I swear relentlessly. It always feels awkward in books when authors try to work around swearing. “Gee darn dewilickers!” NO! Just let them say GODDAMMIT! I mean, if it's a super innocent character, ok…maybe, but just a normal person? Kids swear all the time. My nephew knows bad words and he's 6. I also think there should be more swearing in inner thoughts. You know I'm swearing up a storm in my head, why don't narrators?

  • Definitely weird when there is a moment that I'd personally swear in (the world is ending, you're a wizard *Harry*, there paranormal things happening in our high school etc) and none of the characters actually curse. It's like, are you even are teen?

    Also, yes, swearing in books doesn't corrupt people and doesn't equal a lack of intelligence. Thanks for stopping by and reading the discussion.

  • In books, I have mixed thoughts about swearing. I mean, for some books, it makes complete sense, and I'm happy there is swearing, but in others, it feels out of place and I absolutely despise it. I guess it depends on the character, and their situation – if it's completely out of the blue, I'd feel awkward, but if not, then it's fine by me! 🙂

  • I swear, and I like to think I'm smart, haha, so I second that statement that swearing does not equal a lack of intelligence. Seriously though, I don't really understand why swearing is a such a big deal to some people. They're just words. And yeah, ok, words have power, I'm not saying we should run around shouting racial slurs or something, but these “bad” words are only “bad” because someone said so. Really though, as you said, they're just more ways to express our emotion.

    Also like you said, I do always find it so unbelievable to read books about characters who are fighting in battles and wars and getting injured and in the craziest, most stressful, most violent, most hectic of situations… and not a single person ever says a single swear word lol. So yeah, I don't think swearing should be considered a problem in YA books. I mean, I'm not a teen and I don't have any kids, but it's not like teens have never heard or said any swear words themselves. And if they are someone who never swears, reading some in a book isn't going to corrupt them.

  • I don't mind swearing in YA books, as long as it makes sense character-wise, I mean. If it's being thrown in by an author to make themselves seem “cool” and “edgy” (and it's really obvious when they are) then that's just stupid, but “crap” and “damn” is the very least for the majority of teens.

    (I still laugh at a rather terrible series where the main character would say things like “bull-poopie”. It's like, you're killing people and talking about/having sex on page and that's all the author will let you say? Really?)

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