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"Bad" words, but why so bad?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/25/2013 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,470 times Debate No: 30694
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (1)




Had this conversation with a friend today. Why are "bad" words actually considered bad? I am for the use of these profound words, being "bad" doesn't necessarily stop them from being said either, but i would like to have the conversation about why they should be "bad" words.
Round 1- proposal, please start with your opinion why they should be "bad" rebuttals will be exclusive for Rd. 2-3
Rd. 2- arguing
Rd. 3- more arguing
Rd. 3- Conclusion, no new points


There are several reasons a word can be condemned 'bad' (I will explain in later rounds):
1. 'Bad' is a subjective adjective & society says it's bad, it is therefore bad.
2. A 'bad' word is a word with negative connotations; it is usually accompanied by images of acts of potential immorality as defined by society. This is an echo of reason #1. Bad is purely subjective & is defined by society.
3. Something is usually 'bad' when it produces negative effects (negativity is also subjectively defined by society). To have fallen under the 'bad' category, a word must have had association with that which the general populace consider (subjectively) bad. This means that the origins of a word's condemnation do not necessarily have practically justified basis.

I'll explain these in greater detail in round 2 and will allow my opponent to present his case.
Have fun!
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting! This should be interesting.

So to begin I will present my case as my opponent has based on his proposal. So "bad" is bad obviously, and society as a whole does decide whether or not something is immoral or not. Bad words don't necessarily come by me as "bad" just a word replacing another word or phrase for it's significant definition. The bad word acts like a synonym. Almost all bad words refer to something that is profound to say or do in public. However, only a few words have been used. Why not a word for war? Or rape? How about drugs/ drug dealing? And you can't forget about crimes in general, especially murder.

So I will work backwards. Bad words are commonly known to represent a "bad" or immoral situation. I would like to first argue the word F***. It pertains to the action of having sexual activity with another human being (and in some cases... not un-human beings), and because it has been made a bad word, society has used it in many other forms such as the phrase F-you, which means that person could care less what happens to you, or a statement made. I think this is just awkward, because technically the person using that phrase would be offering his/ her "services" to the other. Also sexual activity is a natural part of human life, so why is it so "bad"?

And yes this source also does say that "bad" words are used to explain pain or hurt, but is it much different from saying ouch?

For situations other than what "bad" words are used to explain, I would like to start with rape. It is a VERY derogatory action, yet there is no word saying so, and the word rape has not been pronounced "bad" by society yet. As a side note this source was found while trying to find if rape was a bad word or not. And truthfully, i agree with the point this person made.

SO back on topic. Bad words have synonyms, and pretty much exact definitions of that word, or at least what it originally meant. I will post a few.

And back to my opponent, good luck!


I thank my opponent for the swift reply, on to the main points:

Contention 1: Subjectivity
Language at its core is simply an understanding between multiple individuals, an agreement made upon the consignation of a specific set of sounds to a specific idea or object. Many english words are comprised of various roots from several language sources..
File:Origins of English PieChart.svg
According to the chart:
Since 94% of all english words have obvious otherworld origins, it's obvious that someone or some group put together sounds from these origins to fit their own description of things.
For example: Computer came from the latin word, 'computare' which means 'to reckon' or 'to count'. It wasn't until recent centuries, with the advent of digital/electronic processing units, that computer took on a new meaning. People agreed to call these processing units, that which we are using right now, computers. If people had decided to call it something else, let's say Pudding, then this thing would be a pudding.

This applies to all english words, including the word 'bad'.
'Bad' is subjective, meaning something is bad when people think it is. If the general populace agrees that a certain word is bad, then it is definitely bad. Since most people agree that 'F*ck' is a bad word, those who say otherwise are wrong. A word's 'bad'ness is based on the definition of a proportionally larger majority.

Contention 2: Negative Connotations
Humans dislike inferiority. If given the chance, most human beings would chose to take a position of superiority providing all other conditions remain constant (if becoming superior meant a billion years in hellish torture, I'm pretty sure many, if not all, would rather remain inferior). This aside, many traditionally 'bad' words carry potential insult implying inferiority.
Let's take the word 'b*tch' for example. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (also known as the OED), the word bitch was first used as a desription for female dogs around 1000 AD. It wasn't until the 18th century that 'b*tch' was explicitly defined as a demeaning word, 'even more provoking than that of a whore' [2]
A b*tch, literally a female dog, explicitly implies inferiority. Humans consider themselves the superior beings on earth. Here is an example of this sentiment:


When you call someone a b*tch, you're literally calling them a dog, but you are also implying that they are inferior. This is an insult and is therefore bad.
How does this apply to 'bad' words that aren't nouns?

Contention 3: Association with Bad
What comes to mind when someone says 'F*CK!'? Sh*t refers to feceIt is easy to think about sexual activity if one were to think of this word's inherent definition. Rape is a sexual activity, meaning the word carries potential crime behind it.
This also applies to 'sh*t' & 'crap' which relate to filth, implying inferiorty as feces are usually objects of disgust.
Damn connotes hell.. etc. etc.

People agree something is bad, making it subjectively bad.. why?
My theory is that all bad words carry some for of implied inferiority.

This is all theory, but I think it's viable.. let's hear what PRO has to say![1]

Grose, Francis. 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue [2][3]
Debate Round No. 2


Damn my opponent with his/her great argument! (pun intended :]) I will do my best to have an even better rebuttal.

Well on the discussion of otherworldly origins of words, I cannot argue, so instead I will address the actual language of English. Obviously many believe English is the hardest language to learn with all the verbs and pronouns and many other subjects it involves, but the English language has also evolved. Today, the use of profound words has almost become part of our regular language. Many say these "bad" words without even thought of what they mean or how they were or are actually used. Personally, I would say most cuss words have fallen in the adjective column, and maybe even as verbs, because many English speakers use these "bad" words to describe people and things even if they are an inferior jab at certain nouns. For example, this random phrase I just thought of "Man my teacher can't teach worth sh**" technically means the teacher this character is speaking of has a poor way of teaching. And well, whether that is true or not depends on personal situations, but I hope I pushed my point across.

This also goes for when these words come to a persons mind as my opponent said in the previous rebuttal. Depends on the individual I say. One person might think, when they hear the word Sh**, about feces and maybe they even have to take a serious No. 2, but then another individual may think of the more direct word, stuff. Ex. "Man my teacher gave us a lot of Sh** to do this weekend." Again, a different use of the word, and only because society has decided these words bad, I will agree with my opponent that the word Sh** in that situation IS giving an inferior meaning to the "stuff" that is being talked about. Although if Sh** was not considered bad, in this situation it would merely mean "stuff".

Damn, not considered as bad a word as Sh** or F***, is used to represent hell as my opponent stated, but more commonly used to express the feeling of distress. As I said at the very top, "Damn my opponent..." I was not willing him to go to hell (also thought as a bad word when used in certain pretext), but instead sending a distress call towards him/her showing my, well distress, at the situation at hand.

So instead of making these words "bad" like they are, why not just incorporate them into the English language as legitimate words that describe actions, feelings, visuals, or well, nouns, as they are so commonly used? Presumably, this act would also eventually be rid of the old pretext of these "bad" words, and instead make them bearable.

(Below is copy and pasted from Google search)
A word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence

A word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.

Back to you opponent good luck!
*Also a quick correction from my beginning post; this is the final round to make rebuttals or new points. Rd 4 will be wrap up and no new points, just to clarify :)


"Man my teacher can't teach worth sh**"
There are better ways to denounce your teacher's pedagogic skills. Saying sh*t is literally to describe excrement and is directly attributing the 'stuff' a teacher makes the time and effort to create to a base & disgusting thing. It's very informal, not very nice and rude; it embodies foul language & insult. It is like calling your teacher's efforts garbage. The generic human being would not register such an insult without at least some fleeting negativity. Since such actions are subject to scorn, it is subjectively bad (my opponent agreed to my subjectivity argument: "So "bad" is bad obviously, and society as a whole does decide whether or not something is immoral or not")

"sexual activity is a natural part of human life, so why is it so "bad"?"
As per the subjectivity contention, 'f*ck' is bad because people in general agree that it is. As for sexual activity: society hinges moral conduct & misconduct on sexual activity. Ancient civilizations, such as that of the chinese, place great import on the virginity of a bride. Shakespeare, in his work: Much Ado About Nothing, exemplifies the preferential sentiment for sexual inhibition exhibited during those times. Even modern society scorns sexual indifference (let's use DDO as a substitute for the entire U.S. nation: 43% of DDO is against legalized prostitution [1]. This transfers to about 170 million people in the U.S. in proportional measurement). 'Penis' & 'Vagina' are also generally avoided even though they aren't considered derogatory terms like 'f*ck', but the sexual reference is, in itself, a moral taboo. Not all things natural are good. The state of being natural carries no import in a thing's subjective good/badness (bad, poison herbs are natural).

"I was not willing him to go to hell (also thought as a bad word when used in certain pretext), but instead sending a distress call towards him/her showing my, well distress, at the situation at hand."
True, but the implication is there. Unless you were unusually uneducated, it is very unlikely to not have the biblical damnation flash temporarily in your conscious or subconscious mind at hearing someone use the word. This applies to all derogatory terms.

Contention: Indifference
I believe in addition to subjectivity and insult, a reason for a word's 'bad'ness is the indifferent use of words with obvious alternate, more demeaning definitions.
As established above, 'f*ck' pertains to an action of great societal significance: sex. By throwing around a word like 'f*ck' without care, one is essentially scorning society's expected conduct. To scorn society, one should expect society to reciprocate scorn. (I mean seriously, if someone called you a f*cker or a sh*tty loser everyday, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't just let it go).

Contention: Context
A word's derogatory nature is also based on its context. For example: 'f*ck' probably has no direct derogatory import while a person is going through such action, but 'f*ck' is immediately condemned when used outside its original context. This also applies to the words 'damn', 'sh*t, 'crap', and various other words. It also explains the non-derogatory nature of 'rape'.
'Different times call for different measures' ~traditional proverb
When in a formal environment, one should deploy a degree of contextual formality. Certain environments expect certain behavioral patterns.. Pick your nose in private.

"So instead of making these words "bad" like they are, why not just incorporate them into the English language as legitimate words that describe actions, feelings, visuals, or well, nouns, as they are so commonly used? Presumably, this act would also eventually be rid of the old pretext of these "bad" words, and instead make them bearable."
Dropping verbal conduct is essentially throwing away morality. As established under the contention of indifference, many of these words that are generally deemed bad usually pose some form of moral transgression that scorn society's decorum. Again, the english language is simply a compilation of sound to which people agree to follow toward the nomenclature of all objects&concepts. If you can get people to suddenly agree to drop the immoral definitions made inherent within words such as 'f*ck' and 'sh*t', then I will fully support this suggestion.

On further reflection, I realized 'bad' words are usually those words whose use is that which people tend to prohibit. This means that people dislike its use and would like others to discard such habits of speech. Those who use it expressedly against the wishes of others are completely disregarding other people. It's like asking someone not to spit only to have her splatter phlegm all over the floor. It's an act of utter disrespect & it's not very nice.

Once again, this is all theory and is open to discussion.. it's my theory versus yours, have at it!;[1]
Debate Round No. 3


My example does not just apply to teachers; it could apply to anyone you know, or maybe even any thing even if it is already considered inferior. My point exactly, "it embodies foul language and insult". If it were not considered foul language then it wouldn't necessarily be an insult. Like I have said previously, many people curse without even thinking of the legitimate usage or definitions for these words, and only a small amount of those people who hear them actually think of these words as insulting. Obviously excessive use (cursing every two or three words in a sentence) would be noticeable. However, many adults only use cursing when it is appropriate while their talking. So in other words only a few curse words in a story being told, opposed to many curse words in one or two sentences.

I stick to my reasoning that sexual activity is not necessarily bad on the point that it is a natural act of human life. I'm not saying it should be done in public; it is obviously a VERY private and personal part of human life, but nonetheless, prevalent and necessary for human life. Again why it is considered bad, inappropriate, or even gross and unappealing to some, I fail to see the reasoning behind that. Prostitution on the other hand, yes is morally wrong, but it's a choice that some women and men make. Sex is involved, but is that the main goal? No, the main goal is to receive a sum of money in exchange for the service of another human being. Is this not how society works? Receiving money for providing your skills in a certain service? I'm not defending prostitution, personally I think it should be discouraged, but the fact that society sees the act of sex, which is only a part of the actual activity itself, as the 'bad' in that situation, sends a message that society cannot see the deeper problem with prostitution, or any problem for that matter. Please don't think I am downplaying society, I am only trying to nail my point to the board.

I did not say a single curse word in this rebuttal, and yet some of my opinions or points may have insulted someone who has read this. I only wish to bring up a small point. People do not have to curse while insulting someone because it's not the curse words that make the insult, it's the intent behind the words said that lead to the insult itself. My point is you don't have to use curse words to insult someone. Ex.('s) "This work the teacher gave us is so stupid." "I wish my brother would just die" "You can just go dig your own grave!" "Please stop talking to me, you're too weird to even look at me". Words like 'stupid', 'die', 'weird', all have a secondary rude and immoral meaning behind them, but these aren't bad words. Instead they are merely thought of as immoral. 'Stupid' or 'weird' in these examples pertain to mental disorders. 'Die' refers to obviously the actual act of dying, but just like willing someone to go to hell, willing someone to die is much worse.

So again, let's incorporate these words into every day language. There may be better ways to say stuff, but really is there a better way to take the intent out of insults? Or for that matter, if your not trying to insult someone, let's say a good friend, and they become angry with you because they took it AS an insult, would you think it could have been insulting even if you didn't mean it? You could say that we should just not insult anymore, but realistically, the human mind would not allow one to NOT form a 'bad' opinion about an individual even when they only see that individual (or maybe even a group) walking innocently on the sidewalk.

I hope my points were made and understood, please vote Pro! But also I encourage voters to vote based on the better argument. Also I would like to thank my opponent for this debate, and wish you good luck in your rebuttal!


I don't think PRO has proposed a theory for why bad words are bad. He has, however, tried arguing the necessity of discarding the insulting nature of profanity. Cool, but what is your theory? Why so bad? The resolution asks for reasons, not solutions.

My opponent concedes the following contentions:
1. Subjectivity (explicitly)
"Well on the discussion of otherworldly origins of words, I cannot argue"
Many of PRO's contention fall in light of the subjectivity contention and are, therefore, irrelevant .
EX: "If it were not considered foul language then it wouldn't necessarily be an insult."
It is however, considered an insult as per subjective standards. The same can be said about the immorality of prostitution My opponent basically concedes my musings on subjectivity. Eternity in hell vs. simple death.. which is worse? That's subjectively up to society & individuals.

2. Context (implied)
EX: "many adults only use cursing when it is appropriate"
This falls under my contextual contention & functions as a reciprocated subset of my premise. I have priority since I expounded first.
"So in other words only a few curse words in a story being told, opposed to many curse words in one or two sentences. "
My opponent says that the majority of words used in conversations are comprised of non-derogatory words. True, but irrelevant. Even very common words such as 'like' and 'as' only appear once in every hundred or so words.
(I used "Ctrl F', typed 'like' and found that this entire debate 22 'like's as opposed to thousands of other words)
Basically, this applies to all words and is a moot point.
Pick your nose in private.

By using words deemed derogatory while knowing of its nature, one is essentially scorning society's standards. If you disregard one form of societal conduct (diction), then you might as well disregard them all. Let's all be murderers.. there's no objective reason for humanity's existence. We live & die.. why? It's natural order. Why must we prolong our lives? It's not because we have to, it's because we want to. We're nothing, only a tiny fraction in the history of the universe. The purpose behind all of humanity's goals are survival & happiness: Going to Heaven (to be happy), living a full life (to be happy), getting a decent job (survival & happiness), relationships (happiness), frieds (happiness), living essentials (survival), art (happiness), aesthetics (happiness) etc. etc. Is there a reason for happiness & survival? If you can think of a reason for happiness or survival that isn't redundant, then I'll concede immediately (comments section, go) Everything is ultimately subjective.
I think my subjectivity premise is my strongest one..

Anyhow, I feel I've presented a more case of greater viability and relevancy.
On to the voters!
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by medic0506 3 years ago
Another point Con could have made was that use of language reflects on the character and intellect of the user. In most public situations, the person who uses normal language to convey their thoughts is going to be viewed as being more intelligent than one who cusses alot. Those who cuss alot tend to have less command of the language, and are more prone to negative emotional reactions.
Posted by Fayz 3 years ago
This was interesting. I feel if the topic had been worded differently to head in a whole different direction and both contenders could've have showcased their skills alot more colorfully as well as the fact the debate would've been more interesting, it was interestng just would've been MORE ineresting. Good sh*t lol
Posted by Beginner 3 years ago
No problem :)
Posted by Reni-1_3 3 years ago
Ok thanks @Beginner!
Posted by Beginner 3 years ago
You can italicize by first clicking the blue, hyperlinked 'rich text' button above your DDO word processor and waiting for it to appear.. you'll know when it does.
Posted by THEVIRUS 3 years ago
I have always had the same though. Crap and Sh!t mean the same thing... so why give one word so much power? It may be used to show extremity, but I think it was also over exaggerated. I swear all the fvckin time. And nobody has changed my mind yet.
Posted by Reni-1_3 3 years ago
Soooo... you're going to teahch me how to do italics right? haha
Posted by Reni-1_3 3 years ago
I don't know =[
Posted by Beginner 3 years ago
I realize my images aren't showing.. why????????
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by medic0506 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I feel that Con gave the better argument, that society has deemed the words to have negative connotations, and using them shows an obvious desire to deviate from the accepted norm.