The Instigator
Pro (for)
9 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
9 Points

Swearing is, on balance, a negative influence on society

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Post Voting Period
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after 4 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/3/2012 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,070 times Debate No: 23365
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (4)




I thank Imabench for agreeing to debate this interesting topic with me. It is a controverial topic which I'm quite sure would rouse many a rabble, many a believer in free speech etc. I intend to show though that swearing is, on balance, a negative influence on society.

On another note, this debate is part of MIG's temporary debate tournament, round 2.

Resolution matters

With regard to the resolution I wish to have no semantics games or stupidity. Readers, assume typical definitions where required. For instance, let's not argue what ‘on society' constitutes – it's obvious.

That said, let's be clear on a few matters:

On balance' refers to a weighing of positives and negatives. Basically, ‘on balance, a negative influence' refers to the negatives outweighing the positives.

While the word ‘influence' is used, which tends to imply a factor into actions taken, this debate will also discuss the actual impacts of swearing and how this is bad for society. ‘Influence' therefore will refer both to actual impacts and how one's mindset is changed. More on this later.

And on swearing, let us be abundantly clear that we are not talking about swearing an oath or promise. Chivalry is indeed a fascinating subject, yet we are not discussing oaths here. To outline a suitable definition for swearing, I sourced this

"By swearing, we mean the use of profanity, obscenity, or coarse language... To use biblical terms, swearing includes "corrupt words" (Eph. 4:29), "filthy language" (Col. 3:8, NIV), and "cursing" (James 3:10)"

One might consider ‘to swear at' to mean:

"To use abusive, violent, or blasphemous language against; curse" -

I think however that readers have a general understanding of what swearing is, so we needn't go be too specific about it. This debate is not intended to get stuck in a quagmire over specifically what constitutes swearing, although that is an issue at hand.

Debate Structure

Round 1: Definitions, resolution matters and acceptance
Round 2-3: Advancing of arguments, clash etc.
Round 4: Final arguments and conclusions

It should be noted that both debaters should not bring up entirely new arguments in their final rounds, although rebuttals and the introduction of supporting evidence is permissible. Basic debating rules of conduct and such apply. Due to the nature of this debate though Con is allowed to use swear words (I will ardently refrain from doing so), although I don't want an excessive degree of swearing.

Now, since the first round isn't for arguments I leave it to Imsbench to enter the lion's den...


"And on swearing, let us be abundantly clear that we are not talking about swearing an oath or promise"

This is about f*cking swearing, loud and clear.

"Due to the nature of this debate though Con is allowed to use swear words (I will ardently refrain from doing so), although I don't want an excessive degree of swearing."

Loud and clear, I will try to not f*cking swear so much like I do in other debates.

F*ck, I just swore.....

Aw sh*t....

Arg, Let the debate begin!!!! :D
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Imabench for accepting this debate. A reminder to readers that this is a shared burden of proof – I am arguing swearing is a negative influence, Concould argue for a neutral or positive influence.

Now, without ado, let’s begin.

An Introductory Scenario

One must see there are alternatives to swearing. Let’s pretend that you’ve got a report due the next day:

1-Swearer's choice of words : @@@@ [not typing here]! The report’s due tomorrow!
2-Non-swearer: Blast it! The report’s due tomorrow (or heck, what in the blazes etc.)
3-Polite person: What a nuisance. The report is due tomorrow. (or anything polite)

Options 1 and 2 both emphasise a short, sharp burst of anger. The difference is that when the meaning of a swear word could be taken offensively we can avoid that offence via option 2. The less offence taken in society the better. Ie. less offence would result in more happiness, and if we adopt utilitarianism as an ethical system we’d prefer happiness. To (over) simplify, utilitarianism advocates actions that produce the most happiness.

So, between option 1 and 2 option 1 generates the potential of offence. Also, I contend that effective, precise communication is superior to imprecise communication. As swearing is typically used in too wide a range of contexts, it’s meaning is often unclear. At best, swearing does have meaning, yet has less nuanced a meaning than, alternatives.

That’s not to state that 3 isn’t superior to both 1 and 2. 3 prevents anger, assists in creating a calm atmosphere and soon. Option 3 also maintains civility.

It might seem like I’m setting forth common arguments. To a point that is true. However, let’s judge by, say:

Civility / Politeness

A rational mind


Lack of anger



Given the above, we can see that swearing doesn’t contribute to these values, as well as resulting in other impacts. Let’s see this.

Foundational aspects of swearing

Swearing is to use ‘abusive, violent’ language we find in many definitions. Swearing itself tends to signify immorality or obscenity - “that the use of such [swear] words in the context of swearing actually admits that they signify something immoral or obscene.” [1]

The widespread usage of such words suggests that the acts represented have become tolerated, otherwise such words would be treated with disgust and not used as commonly. If Con wants to argue that nobody swears based on meaning then he runs into the fact that swearing has resulted in degradation of our speech – we communicate imprecisely, a negative impact.

We must also recognise that swearing showcases anger and betrays things like chivalry and the image of the scholarly gentleman. Simply, swearing clearly betrays rationality, reason and civility. I don’t care if there are alternatives that also betray these things. The point is swearing doesn’t meet these criteria, resulting in swearing being a negative influence.

Let’s be clear on common perceptions of civility:

But The Times virtually never prints obscene words, and it maintains a steep threshold for vulgar ones. In part the concern is for the newspaper’s welcome in classrooms and on breakfast tables in diverse communities nationwide. But a larger concern is for the newspaper’s character. The Times differentiates itself by taking a stand for civility in public discourse” [2].

That The Times, a respectable newspaper, shows a need for civility and recognises that news is best spread through civility is not conclusive evidence, but certainly something for readers to consider.

Swearing is inherently abusive and violent - negatives. Swearing betrays rationality – another negative. Also, swearing either has resulted in immorality or a lack of communicative ability, both negatives.

Distinctions of Character

Swearing helps promote different gender standards

Western society tends to view swearing as more appropriate for men than women. For example:

People also tend to judge women more harshly than men for their use of obscenities. Society in general can also make moral judgments about women who swear” [3]

Note the term ‘moral’. While judgements are made about men who use swear words these judgements are not always ‘moral’ judgments. We see that this double standard is promoting unreasonably different gender standards - another negative influence on society.

Class Barriers

Society tends to perceive that lower classes are more prone to use swearing, and swearing has connotations of lower class. The validity of this perception is highly questionable, yet it makes a point –perceptions create barriers, barriers that aren’t always legitimate, justified or beneficial. Granted, there are forms of discrimination that are justifiable, but the elimination of swearing would be beneficial to breaking down these barriers, and so swearing is a negative influence.

Examples of Swearing’s Negative Effect


In one year, 15.4/100 GPs were verbally abused” [4] – Reference to NZ GPs. Clearly, verbal abuse affects a person’s concentration and clarity of mind, essential in a medical profession and essential to good public health.

In a survey by the British Medical Association 95 per cent of GPs and hospital doctors reported that they had been verbally abused, a quarter of whom had been abused more than five times within the last year.” [1]

There are many more sources to back up claims of verbal abuse in various medical journals. It needn’t be said that verbal abuse results in anger which in turn clouds judgement.


Society tends to require a degree of order and control in order to function optimally. Police implement this order and undermining this order is a negative.

Well, it’s expected that a recent judgement on swearing at police have consequence. “Police unions warned that the ruling would erode respect for the police and lead to more officers being verbally abused.” [5] [6]

Let’s not disrupt law and order.


George Orwell once lamented how politics corrupts the English language. Well, it’s never good when the former prime minister of your country does it while in office and it becomes a media sensation! [7]

for the light of utterance of shameful words soon leads to shameful actions” – Confucius [8]

Such conduct swamps newspapers and results in a lack of proper news being told. The lack of proper policy discussion and rationality is not a good thing. Remember, this is a result of swearing.

And what about the prime minister being a role model? So much for that! The fact is we wish to act with grace and civility in all discussions, and swearing has been shown to mire that.


Let’s be blunt, swearing is clearly not good at being specific. Let’s take some veritable idiot looking at a hapless chap who just made a pitifully foolish mistake. He might say;

You [insert swear word (s)] idiot! You’re [insert swear word (s)] stupid!

Whereas, depending on the situation, one might be more accurate and true to say:

You would seem to be sciolistic dilettante.

That is not to state that the second statement is always more accurate, but that using a larger vocabulary gives greater meaning to your words over time. I think we get the idea.


I’ll leave it at that for R1, and hope I’ve articulated a powerful case. Over to Imabench.


1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
6 -
7 -
8 – Aristotle, Politics, Book VIII, 1336b.14-11


1) The pro's scenario

Humans are emotional creatures, we can be delighted or sometimes just happy, other times we can get annoyed or very, very pissed off. Curse words are words that help people unleash the frustration inside them in a situation which politeness or less harmful words dont fully express. People who do not release their frustration now has all of that rage bottled up over time which can cause a significant deal of stress. So cursing can be seen as a quick way to release all of your anger and become a happier person, rather than holding your tongue all the time and over time letting all of that rage build up inside you until you lose your mind or snap.

In the first video to the right is an episode from mythbusters. It is about a myth that swearing when suffering from something helps you tolerate pain more than if you were just using more milder forms of curse words. It has even been proven by other studies that swearing can help people tolerate pain more.

As for precise vs imprecise communication, communication doesnt come in the form of just the context of words, because curse words carry more emotion to them and help people really express how they feel on the inside.

Swear words are hardly civil, I give the Pro that. However curse words help a person release their anger in a situation so that they are happier over the long term period whereas being polite means holding your tongue and having all that annoys you bottled up inside over a long period of time. Swearing can help a person feel better later, feel less depressed later, and helps express their anger. Anger is a bad thing to have inside you, curse words remove that anger faster then using politeness or more milder forms of cursing.

2) The aspects of swearing

People dont often swear because they want to be vulgar or uncivilized or cool, most of the time people swear to deal with pain or stress in their lives, really express their emotions and feelings in words, OR TO JUST MAKE A F*CKING POINT.

Had I not done that chances are you would have skipped right over it or not even given it a second thought, right? Then the point is made, cursing helps people make a point to.

As for betraying chivalry and acting like scholarly gentlemen, there is a time to act polite and a time to really express the pain you are in or speak out about what you really want to say, and we cant always put chivalry on top of our right to express ourselves. Swearing is negative in civility but it is the best way to express ones opinions and emotions at the same time.

3) Swearing betrays rationality and morality among other things

Initially it does, but there are long term effects that swearing has on people stress levels and ability to cope with pain that must be taken into account.

4) Class Barriers

People in the lower classes have a lot more pain in their lives, emotional situations to deal with, and stressful lifestyles then the fabulously rich upper class does. If swearing were eliminated it would knock down these class barriers, it would only drive the lower class further up a wall since their easiest way to relieve themselves of stress, protected by the first amendment, would thus be taken away. Lower classes probably do curse more, but since curse words help tolerate pain the lower class NEEDS these curse words to help them get through the daily grind otherwise they just might kill themselves.

5) Examples of negative effects

The first and second case the Pro brings up are cases of someone being the victim of verbal abuse and curse words. Curse words do harm others only if they are directed at specific people in a hateful manner, meaning curse words can be violent towards innocent people only if they are directed at them in a hateful manner.

As for the politician, looks like he was also directing his frustration at people and expressing all the stress he was going through


How is swearing beneficial to society?

1) It helps people cope with pain

2) It helps people express what they feel emotionally
Deals with emotional pain, see above

3) It helps people deal with excessive stress in their lives
See the lower class argument

4) It can be funny and entertaining to others
The next two videos you watch are David Chapelle and Kevin Hart doing stand up comedy, and the funniest parts of their act and are used just to express disbelief or emotion in a scenario, and not used directly against people.

(Chappelle skip to 5:09 if you want)

5) It helps express disbelief or shock
(See Chappelle Video)

6) It can help make a point

Take this example, which person makes their point heard more?

Person 1: "Obama has not handled the situation as well as he could have"

Chances are that even though the second one is less civil, it expresses how the person is feeling with Obama and has made their point be heard more than the first person.


Swearing might not be civil, but it still has its benefits because it helps people express their emotions, it can be used to lessen pain and fight stress, not cursing could lead to having more stress, it helps people make a point, it can be downright hysterical if used properly, and it is a quick way for people to deal with stress in their lives rather than keep their mouth shut and deal with all that bottled up anger inside them.
Debate Round No. 2


The astute reader would no doubt be enjoying this debate right now, laughing at the debaters incompetence. What tomfoolery am I talking about?

I said in round 1 that this debate was a 4 round debate, at least, that's what I intended. Of course, many will have noted that this is a 3 round debate and that I made a mistake.

To readers, we have decided to simply have a second debate with our first 2 rounds copied and pasted. So, no need to reread, just go straight to round 3 in that debate if you've read this one! Link:

For this debate please vote it a tie unless you believe that some gross violation of conduct has occurred (which I believe has not) . I implore readers to finish reading the debate in it's entirety, for that was what you originally intended to read!


Yeah we are goin to redo the debate, so tie this one :)
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Logic_on_rails 6 years ago
To those interested, the completed debate is up -
Posted by 1dustpelt 6 years ago
lol wtf 16k?
Posted by YYW 6 years ago
I will look foreword to reading this. Although I must say that I very much enjoy seasoning conversations with the occasional explicative, wether doing so has a negative impact or not. This is especially the case where I am driving, and people cut me off, pull out in front of me or otherwise behave idiotically behind the wheel.
Posted by Logic_on_rails 6 years ago
Oh boy... I thought I made this 4 rounds!

I don't like the idea of doing another 1 round debate at all really. Any ideas on how to fix this problem we have?
Posted by imabench 6 years ago
sh*t theres only 3 rounds!
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: OMG! Great debate! Pro made a bunch of great points about scientific matters and the Con went all phisolophical! I can't choose!
Vote Placed by Multi_Pyrocytophage 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Coubter VB dust pelt
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Reasons for voting decision: trollollollollollol