The Big, Big D

Bad language or abuse

I never never use,

Whatever the emergency;

Though “Bother it” I may

Occasionally say

I never use a big, big D.

W. S. Gilbert, H. M. S. Pinafore

In the recent past I have used two profane expletives in this column—in quoting others, of course—and have received a couple of negative responses.

Christians differ about this. One Christian friend of mine who teaches at a secular university says he regrets the casual and indiscriminate use of profane and four-letter words among college students today because it leaves them with no reserve ammunition when they need a strong expletive—as Shakespeare said, “a good mouth-filling oath.”

Another Christian I know who formerly taught in a Bible college feels that all expletives are forbidden to the Christian. He even extends his prohibition to such a seemingly innocuous expression as “for Pete’s sake” on the ground that it is a reference to the Apostle Peter and is therefore a profane use of Scripture.

A few years ago Elisabeth Elliot caused a minor shock wave with her novel No Graven Image: upon breaking her fingernail the heroine utters the word damn.

My own feelings and practice are somewhat mixed. Under trying circumstances when I resort to the use of an expletive it is considerably more embroidered than simply damn.

On one occasion I was visiting in a nearby church. The minister, whom we entertain occasionally, had launched into a condemnation of the heresy of original sin and was exalting the doctrine of original goodness.

Filled with hearty disagreement I muttered an eight-letter scatological expletive. My teen-age son, who isn’t keen on theological debate, declared, “Boy, I’ll never sit next to you in church again.”

One strange thing about our society is that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.