Profanity and Culture [Letter to the Editor]

New York Times

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To the Editor of The New York Times:

Owing to the extensive use of profane and blasphemous language havingbecome so common seemingly among people in all walks of life, manypeople have been trying to solve the problem why this should be in ouradvanced stage of civilization. Some time ago I noticed anexplanation coming from Prof. Thomas R. Lounsbury, which is as follows:

Profanity is a brain test, thehabit is, in consequence, subject to the general laws governingintensitiveness. To a very great extent the practice of swearing isspecially characteristic of a rude and imperfect civilization. With theadvance of culture profanity declines. It declines not somuch because men become peculiarly sensitive to its viciousness,but they do to its ineffectiveness---the growth of refinement both inthe individual and in the community. Much must always be allowed in thecase of particular persons for the influence of early training andassociation. Exceptions are, therefore, too numerous to lay down anypositive rule; still, it is safe to say in general that a man'sintellectual development is largely determined by the extent ofhis indulgence in profanity.

I fully indorse the professor's remarks as toprofanity being a brain test, and that it can show but a mentalweakness among those who allow themselves to fall into the habit, but Ibeg to differ with him as to the possibility of its diminishing withmodern culture and education, which has fully been demonstrated in thepast, as there is no time in our history where the opportunities weregreater for education and culture, and where we should be at the heightof perfection in this respect. What is needed to rid the country ofprofane language is to start in our schools and colleges an educationof clean speech and respect for reverence which is fast beingdriven out by blasphemous and filthy tongues, and to assist this thelaws of the land that exist throughout the country, and which were madeto protect us against blasphemy and other forms of low language shouldbe vigorously enforced.


Halifax, N. S., Oct. 14, 1910

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) Profanity and Culture [Letter to the Editor] (New York Times, Monday 31st October 1910, ref: #4886, published 9 November 2005, generated 20th June 2021 06:52:48 AM); URL :