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Musings

Expletives, Profanities And Singaporeans: Why Fucking Bother?

My first reaction when I read about valedictorian Miss Trinetta Chong’s use of the expletive “fucking” at the end of her convocation speech, as well as the corresponding public voices of disapproval and disappointment, was “why the big fuss”? Like many of her counterparts have rightly pointed out, the spontaneous application of the profanity succinctly summarised her years of efforts and emotions, and resonated relatively well with the graduating audience at the ceremony.

More importantly, instead of concentrating pedantically upon the traditional definitions and inferences associated with the aforementioned “vulgarity”, proponents have highlighted modern, more relevant interpretations. When used in the right circumstances and intelligently incorporated, such as in literature by authors like J.D. Salinger, the word “fuck” can convey unique feelings of passion and bravado.

Putting The Controversy Into Perspective

The point is this: Miss Chong should not be faulted for the mere exclamation of the word per se.

In a deeper sense, Miss Chong’s outburst can be perceived as a reflection of youthful exuberance – with a mild tinge of defiance before meeting the harsh realities of the workplace, where propriety and decorum are of utmost importance. The truth is that regardless of increased liberalisation and flexibility in language customs, members of the public – because of religion, family backgrounds et cetera – would find it distasteful for a heralded all-rounded role model to casually spew expletives in a formal environment.

Therefore, the point is this: Miss Chong should not be faulted for the mere exclamation of the word per se; however, there is a time and place for everything – especially for such instances in a semi-public setting – where individuals might be particularly-conservative or uncomfortable with these liberal expressions.

On A Side Note: Why Do I Swear?

I started swearing back in High School, partly because it was “cool” and “expressive”; but in my private writings (and now on my social media pages) it was emphatic and cathartic, chiefly when I was making sense of my shortcomings and disappointments. I have never sworn in front of my family and relatives, in formal settings, or during school presentations or training sessions. It does not come as much of a surprise, but my time in National Service (NS) has fortunately – or unfortunately – increased my usage in my daily work and activities, more so in extraordinarily ridiculous situations.

Ultimately, the key is really about code-switching, to know how to convey and express your own perspectives in dissimilar contexts: from making formal presentations or speeches to having day-to-day conversations with friends and family members. This is an integral part of linguistic education that is oft-overlooked by schools and educators, who tend to – at least from my personal experiences – place disproportionate emphasis on being prim and proper with our language all the time. Knowing how to speak at different points of time can break down social barriers during interactions with varying members.

Will I ever snap out of it, I do not think so; but at the very least (I hope) I will remain continuously cognisant of how I conduct myself in varying events with people.

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About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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