Sunday, August 4, 2013

Profanity v Obscenity v Vulgar

Sunday Morning Sermon Aug 4 2013

Profanity is when something is considered insulting to a religion, its god(s), or people’s beliefs in them. Obscenity involves offense to taste or common decency, something vulgar enough to be taboo in a given context (often relating to sex or bodily functions).Vulgarity can mean crude, in general.There are legal nuances in all three terms.

Lets look at a common occurrence in our everyday life to illustrate this. 

You just stubbed your toe on a metal pillar or maybe opened your tax statement that came in the mail, and you want to let loose with some language that would make a sailor blush. Which category would those colorful words fall under?

If you're being profane, you may not need to worry about the arm of the Law, but if you believe in an immortal soul, you might be in trouble. Profane (from the Latin profanes, meaning "outside the temple" ) originally referred to things not belonging to the church. Later it meant blasphemy, sacrilege or taking the Lord's name in vain (we just call that blasphemy now).
Today, profanity is an expression that is specifically offensive to members of a religious group. The definition also extends to expressions that are scatological, derogatory, racist, sexist, or sexual. What is and isn't profane largely depends on the context and the company you keep.
Obscenity (from the Latin obscenus, meaning "foul, repulsive, detestable" ) generally covers sexual or scatological references to the body or bodily functions (i.e. F*&k and s#$t). The term is also used in a legal context to describe expressions (whether words, images or actions) that offend the sexual morality of a given time and place.

Vulgarity (from the Latin vulgis, meaning "the common people," ), which used to refer to text written in a vernacular instead of Latin, has two definitions today, depending on who you ask. For some, vulgarity is generally coarse or crude language. For others, it is more specifically the act of substituting a coarse word in a context where a more refined expression would be expected.

The actual intent and application of all these three category of words may have their nuances and variations in languages other than English, although in general, they must conform to the common definitions outlined above.

Schooldays were always filled with many of these "choice" words, be it in the classroom between colleagues or even in the playing fields. Cricket has its own share of vocabulary, referred to as sledging, that players choose to sling at each other during a game.

Pakistai dudes have a tendency to greet each other on the phone with a massive dose of "mother/sister" related "good mornings". At first I found that rather offensive in nature but eventually got used to it once I found that it was part and parcel of their Operating System, done in a very fun like and acceptable manner.

Whatever category they may belong to, the bottom line of the real meaning of many of these expletives is intent.


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