In Praise of Profanity
My wife and I don’t agree on everything. Every now and then, we still argue over the use of profanity. I don’t disagree with her that good writings don’t require obscenity. Unfortunately, my writing is shitty. I don’t write to make a living. I write to make sense of my life.
I have been criticized for using profanity in my writing because I am “educated.” Nguyễn Thanh Việt has a PhD and he cusses like a motherfucker. In reference to the use of “Kung Flu,” he tweeted, “If you’re an Asian American who supports Trump, guess what? You’re a fucking idiot.” Even a professor uses profanity. I respect him more just for that.
I will defend my use of profanity as a form of expression. When I like something, I would say, “That’s good.” When I really love something, I would say, “That shit is fucking amazing.” As long as the profanity doesn’t directly apply to someone—unless they fucking deserve it—I don’t see a problem with it. If my kids say to me, “Fuck you, daddy,” I would slap the fucking taste out of their fucking mouth (just kidding). If they say, “You’re a fucking cool daddy,” I would be cool with that. It is all about the context. If you find my language too vulgar, don’t read. I don’t write for anyone but myself. I don’t write for any publication, I write on my own tiny corner of the Internet.
In Vietnamese culture, “educated” people are to be looked up to as role models; therefore, they can’t use foul language. Although I never claimed to be “educated,” I find English liberated me from the two sides. English profanity can be poetry if used correctly. Hip-hop lyric is an example of that. On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to use Vietnamese profanity. For example, “Đụ mẹ” literally means “fuck mother.” It is simply too disrespectful to use. One time, an adult cussed at me, “Đụ mẹ mày” (“Fuck your mother”). I was eleven and he was probably in his 30s. We were either playing or joking around and I didn’t even hear what he said, but my mom heard it. She was furious. She came up to the guy and yelled in Vietnamese, “You want to fuck his mother? I am right here. Come and fuck me if you dare.” The guy apologized. I will never forget that scene.
Vietnamese profanity is so vulgar that Vietnamese people have to come up with creative ways to say it. Using double entendre is one of the methods. Let’s say, when you call someone “khôn liền” (“smart instantly”), you imply that they “khiêng lồn” (“carry pussy”). The celebrated poet Hồ Xuân Hương was notorious for using these types of hidden meaning in her work.
I hope that I make myself fucking clear on my use of profanity. If I come across uneducated or vulgar, I am and I don’t give a fuck. If I come across as angry or hateful, I am definitely not. I just wanted to add some emphatics to my average writing. If you have an issue with that, go fuck yourself. I am just fucking with you. You know I love you.