Is it Manly to Swear?

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 25, 2008 · 199 comments

in Blog, Is It Manly?

We thought it would be fun to start a weekly survey in which we ask Art of Manliness readers whether they think certain actions/jobs/cars/etc are manly. Manliness is a pretty vague concept and means different things to different people. We’re interested in what you think is manly or not and hopefully we can start some interesting discussion and civil debate. We plan on posting the questions on Thursday and we’ll run it in the sidebar for a week. So let’s get started with the first weekly edition of the Art of Manliness “Is it manly?” survey.

Is swearing manly? Vote. Discuss.



{ 199 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew Barbour June 25, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Swearing is manly, but it is not gentlemanly.

But I *would* like to know what effect half-assed attempts at covering your swears in front of people has. Is it manly to say “Motherpuffer” or the like instead of Carlin Words? Does that make you look dainty and effete, or courteous?

2 Pete June 25, 2008 at 8:50 pm

It depends on what kind of swearing we’re talking about here….peppering your speech with a few damns is manly. Using the F-bomb every other word is not manly. It just shows you can’t put a well-thought out sentence together.

3 Ben Ahlquist June 25, 2008 at 8:54 pm

I’d say if you’re gonna do it, go for the gold. No point in bringing out the “What the Fruit” (as the great Caliendo put it) -type censorship. You’ll just come off sounding silly.

Either avoid it completely in front of “those” people, or give it all you’ve got!

4 Brett McKay June 25, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Good question Andrew. Here are some non-manly swear substitutes off the top of my head:

-Darn tootin
-Oh my heck
-Son of a biscuit

Manly swear substitutes:

Great Odin’s Raven!
By the Hammer of Thor!

5 Jaye June 25, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Swearing every third word is not manly, its cliche and any adult should pride themselves on a vocabulary greater than those in Primary school. However not being able to swear when it is appropriate, is limiting, yes there are times where its NEVER appropriate, but there are times where a well placed word be it some sort of foul word can be a good effective way to make an impactful statement.

6 Alex M. June 25, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I like to treat the F-bomb like just that–a bomb. If you use it all the time, it becomes meaningless. If you hold it in reserve and only let it loose when the situation absolutely calls for it…it explodes. People know you’re pissed. The less you use it, the more effective it is.

7 Andrew Barbour June 25, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Alex M. has a good point. Use it all the time, and it’s just like walking around with your junk hanging out. No one appreciates being around it.

8 I. Alvarado June 25, 2008 at 9:18 pm

A man should choose his words accordingly. Even between synonyms words have a different scope. So saying: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” may be just the right thing to say.

9 Kevin (ReturnToManliness) June 25, 2008 at 9:28 pm

I had planned a post on this very shortly. You beat me to it, but I am going to write about it anyhow. I think swearing has its place. The only exception is taking the Lord’s name in vein. I am not a holy roller or anything, but I think there are enough folks out there that takes so much offense to this, it is simply not worth the risk of offending people in this way.

Like anything else, if you abuse it, then it becomes annoying and it loses it gusto. But the properly placed expletive works wonders. For instance, in one sentence I can get across the meaning it would take someone else several sentences.

The other reason it can be manly is the fact that, if used correctly and very discretely, you can get people’s attention much quicker. If you are known as a gentleman and do not normally use that language, if used at a certain point, garners all kinds of attention. It can work…

10 nathan June 25, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Swearing is only manly inasmuch as it’s appropriately placed. People who just swear because they have nothing else to say are not manly. But, the appropriately placed exclamatory statement will long be a trait of true manliness.

11 Ben June 25, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Swearing is unbecoming of a man. To swear is to abandon restraint and spurn dignity. A strong man will hold tightly to these virtues (Incidentally, the English word ‘virtue’ comes from the Latin word for manliness.).

Children often hate hearing their fathers swear, fathers are often saddened and disappointed to hear their children swear and will often avoid swearing in front of their children. I think this is natural evidence that swearing and manliness are not compatible.

12 Heller June 25, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Used on occasion, in the right circumstance, I’d have to say yeah, it’s manly.
I agree with Andrew…it’s not gentlemanly, but it can serve the right punch when needed.

13 Moe Rubenzahl June 25, 2008 at 9:54 pm

As with everything, it can be manly or not. It’s about time and place, about how it’s done and why, it’s about what the swearing communicates. And as with most things manly, it’s not easily learned — we learn it by observing manly men swearing in a manly way.

Observe, for example, that none of the commenters on this article swore. That showed manly restraint. In other words — it is also manly to not swear.

14 Gerard June 25, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I agree with the general idea of the previous commentators – it depends. Excessive wearing is not manly. However, sometimes, one needs to swear to put sufficient emphasis on a subject. In these circumstances, and provided that one is in the right company, I think it is manly to swear.

With regards to substitutes, I find most non-swear substitutes to be most unmanly. More importantly, if you’re going to swear, swear like a man.

15 Eric June 26, 2008 at 3:50 am

I voted no but there’s a catch.

I haven’t read all the above comments but I think I understand and agree with where most seem to be coming from. Swearing incessantly is childish and immature. But a well placed, perfectly timed swear can be effective and may even feel just right. I remember my reaction to seeing the buildings collapse on 9/11. “Holy s–t!” Maybe not the most mature response but it felt appropriate. Short and sweet is, use appropriately and in moderation.

16 C Smith June 26, 2008 at 3:57 am

Swearing is a form of extreme punctuation.
Consciously used (I once very deliberately told my sister-in-law, who was procrastinating severly on a project to “fscking get it done!”) it may be OK.
Habitual potty mouth is tedious and a bore.

17 akakarma June 26, 2008 at 4:10 am

Swearing is just plain fun expression, it’s fun for women too so then it’s not manly!

18 grapfx June 26, 2008 at 4:15 am

Swearing isn’t necessarily manly, but sometimes it’s necessary, even if to just et off some steam. I’d rather cuss a bit than have a heart attack.

19 Dustin Boston June 26, 2008 at 5:04 am

Tough one. I perceive it as manly but I don’t like it. I’m glad to see that Ben took a stand up there.

20 Symbolic Godzilla June 26, 2008 at 5:34 am

Swearing really feels more adolescent than manly. Most of the time there is a balanced, thoughtful, biting, or cruel way to put things that totally negates the need for a well rounded man to swear. As I told my students back when I was a teacher, we know better words than that to rip people to shreds so be a little creative.

21 Arnold June 26, 2008 at 5:43 am

I often curse, but I have never had any trouble moderating my speech in front of more delicate audiences. I don’t even say “silly” things like “frick” or “dang” or whatever. I tend to be more articulate in general when talking with others, and more laid back when it’s just the guys. I have never once “slipped” a vulgar word in mixed company. So I don’t see much problem with having two behaviors for different circumstances.

22 Tanstaafl June 26, 2008 at 5:53 am

Many cities and counties still have public profanity statutes on the books–so not only is it unmanly, but in most cases, it is also illegal.

People who cannot complete a sentence without a curse word or expletive of some sort are immediately filed away in my mind as morons. At the very least, it displays a limited vocabulary and a lack of restraint and circumspection.

If I was hiring someone who used a swearword, even just to me, I would be forced to wonder where else they would show a similar error in self-government–whether I was personally offended or not. The simple fact is that refraining from using swear words will offend NO ONE–but the use of them is certain to at some point.

23 Brett June 26, 2008 at 5:54 am

Great discussion everyone. It looks like the general consensus is: it depends. I’m also impressed with the class of Art of Manliness readers. From the comments it looks like you all are trying your best to be gentlemen in comportment and speech. It’s inspiring to know that there are men out there who don’t fill their language with unnecessary obscenities.

24 Max S June 26, 2008 at 6:00 am

NOOO! But cussing is. The art of cussing is part of manhood. There is a great kids book including this art- no more nice or no more nasty. Very good.

25 Mario June 26, 2008 at 6:19 am

It depends on the circumstance. Some swearing is allowed, but generally it makes you seem like a simpleton when you swear.

Regardless, I think swearing has gotten completely out of control. It is now a staple of the American lexicon, just like an adverb.

26 Tim June 26, 2008 at 6:54 am

This is a topic that I’ve become increasingly aware of, as I peruse the internet, or go out in public, I notice the language used is becoming less and less civil. I guess it starts as teenagers when using such words seems to make kids feel grown up or something, but I would hope that most people would grow out of it and realize that using such language is neither mature nor appropriate.

I once heard a good quote which sums it up perfectly: “Profanity is the attempt of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully.”

27 Snead June 26, 2008 at 7:10 am

Dominating people is manly, therefore the means can justify the ends. It’s obviously not gentlemanly. I’m not advocating swearing in the board room or at your teacher, but when the situation calls for some emotive language, let ‘er rip.

28 Jack June 26, 2008 at 7:47 am

I took a lesson in college to heart, namely that the Bible means it when it says that the tongue has the power of life and death. That power should be used responsibly. Since then, I don’t recall swearing in anger. Occasionally I will, just to properly quote somebody else.

Here’s a question: is it better to explode in a tantrum, or to let the source of your anger see how restrained you are while you calmly address the situation? I go less by what’s manly than by what’s right, because doing the Right Thing is the source of manliness. Besides, seeing controlled anger makes a lot of people very nervous and, therefore, malleable.

Most people I know have never heard me swear in any way. Think of the shock-and-awe if I ever saw the need to actually let loose. Of course, would I keep their respect afterwards, or would it taint their view of me? Therefore do I withhold, until a more desperate day is upon us.

29 Steve June 26, 2008 at 8:36 am

Swearing, in certain situations, can be manly. But if one has to resort to swearing all the time, then it’s simply unintelligent. And if one swears all the time to TRY to sound manly, it is pure posturing.

30 Bryan June 26, 2008 at 8:43 am


31 fotios June 26, 2008 at 9:06 am

Depending on the situation and the company, a few swears can make all the difference. While I’m sure General Patton would never curse out his wife, using a few well placed phrases we wouldn’t tell our mothers when inspiring the grunts probably helped.

32 Jason June 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

Re: Jack:

“If the tongue could cut
as the sword can do,
the dead would be infinite.”

Filippo Vadi, “Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria” (c.1482 – 87) (tr. Greg Mele)

33 John J. June 26, 2008 at 10:08 am

I don’t think swearing is polite, but I find it distinctly unfeminine. Therefore, it’s a masculine act. Is it “manly” in the positive sense? No.

Do I even see “manly” as a positive characteristic? No, it’s a neutral one.

I try not to swear, unless I’m getting into a mindset for a character. I often swear when I’m very angry, but it’s a limit of one or two per state of anger.

34 Scott Kustes - Modern Forager June 26, 2008 at 10:23 am

I went with no. As others have said, a well-placed swear can make a point. A paragraph of swear words only serves to prove the content of the speaker’s character. I think the problem is that people THINK it makes them manly. Manliness is taking care of those around you, being able to handle yourself, solving problems, and not being an asshole without cause. Profuse swearing does nothing to further any of those goals.

Scott Kustes
Modern Forager

35 Dan June 26, 2008 at 11:18 am

Just as an aside to something I read earlier, dominating another person in not manly.

36 fax June 26, 2008 at 11:24 am

My dad used to tell me that cursing was a sign of low intelligence and poor vocabulary. This coming from a Navy war veteran and car mechanic by trade.

Another way to look at it is this: cursing and swearing are often times the adult version of a temper tantrum.

37 Robert June 26, 2008 at 11:48 am

The ability to speak with impact without vulgarity is, I think, far more manly than cursing.

38 Albert June 26, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I wouldn’t say swearing is MANLY, I would say however it does make you out to be a bit of an asshole

39 Ian June 26, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Not in the slightest. Finding a more eloquent word, or omitting the curse altogether, is a much better way of doing things. If you feel the need to curse, you either should not be speaking at that moment, or you lack tact.

40 Gort June 26, 2008 at 2:42 pm

I’ve always been of the opinion that profanity is an art form when used properly and in the right situations and at the proper times. IMO, constant swearing isn’t appropriate, however the judicious use of the f-bomb (a very versatile cuss-word) can more eloquently express a thought or feeling than tens of paragraphs of the most learned prose.

41 Ben June 26, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Tim, I love that quote! Though I wouldn’t personally go so far as to characterise everyone who swears as feeble-minded.

42 Matt June 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

I agree with the very first post. For whatever reason, swearing is manly, but NOT gentlemanly. These things are not to be confused and shouldn’t be compared. Stinking to high heaven after a days work is manly, but I won’t go to a restaurant smelling. I suspect that I will be using “By The Hammer of THOR!” more often. Me likey.
However, I think you fellas looking at swearing from the other perspective have confused manly with gentlemanly. As a former US Navy sailor, and a nuclear reactor operator, I suspect that feeble-minded is not something that most people would call me, and I swear from time to time in the right company, for the right reasons. But I have been all jacked up before, maybe now is one of those times. I think that profuse swearing probably is a shitty way to get your point across and likely a sign of a shallow vocabulary. But hell’s bell’s, nobody’s perfect, even those of us who are sanctimonious assholes.

43 Stephen June 26, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Interesting comments here. Clearly swearing has no bearing on manliness as such. It is not becoming, however, of a man of virtue; at least he should not swear with any frequency. It’s been said above that the well-placed swear word may be exactly what is called for, which seems, to me, pretty close to right. But a virtuous man can usually make the same point without swearing with his sincerity and tone. The manly/gentelmanly distinction pointed out above (Matt and others) seems to be a good one.

There is also the question of setting. Those of us who’ve worked in places where the f-bomb is adjective, noun, verb, adverb, article, etc. know that context often matters. Good men do sometimes cuss and they’re still good.

Probably safer to say that it is gentlemanly to know when swearing is inappropriate, which is most of the time.

Are long, pompous posts manly? If not, I’m in trouble.

44 Jason June 26, 2008 at 5:52 pm

In general, no, but there are exceptions.

Personally, I find constant swearing rather harsh to the ears. One problem with the constant-swearers is that they run off of pure emotion.

A clever turn of phrase can catch just as much attention as a swear word and also get you noticed for the touch of class you bring to tense situations.

Just my thought.

45 Nick June 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Hmmm… It’s rather more complicated than a “yes/no” situation. Sort of like “Is it good to perform surgery?” Well, when? In what case?

I think that there are certain times when it is warranted, where nothing else will really do. However, words that tend to be offensive ought to be used with discretion, and, as truly fine swearing can be an art-form, if used, swearing should be used with panache, class, and creativity. Just using a four letter word because your puny neurons cannot come up with something better is the practice of curs and swine (like most rappers). However, when employed with a certain elegance, a speaker can craft a tapestry-like streak of blue that is like looking into the face of God and hearing him reply, “You are my most wondrous creation!”

In short, yes, swearing can be manly. But it is, unfortunately, rarely used that way. (And let’s not even mention the utter desolation of substitutions for cursing. If it isn’t the right moment to say “damn,” then it surely isn’t the right time to say “darn.” Positively nauseating.)

46 Rod Homor June 26, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Swearing is NOT manly. Think about when you first learned to swear… You may have been a kid. Then, think about when you first started doing it, and were swearing the most. You were probably a teenager, using swearing & drinking beer to “APEAR” to be grown up.

Having the restraint NOT to swear, but to articulate what you are feeling with words and in an appropriate way is manly… in my opinion.


47 Shane June 26, 2008 at 6:41 pm

The general concensus seems to be that it’s okay to swear in certain situations and company. A good manly man, is always a gentleman. I won’t sit on my high horse and say I don’t drop an expletive every now and again, but I believe it to be unmanly and simple. A distinquished gentleman and manly man is smart enough to put together a sentence without such words. It shows you have little to no respect for the other people in the room.

On the subject of female curseing: it isn’t ladylike and I enjoy the company of a woman with some class.

Something above bothered me a bit, dominating people is not manly. What is manly is having discretion, which means, knowing when to dominate people in a situation, and when to yeild and step aside. My grandfather once let a man punch him in the jaw and then asked his attacker if he wanted to punch the other side so that he could have even bruises. I believe he rose above by not retaliating, and in doing so became more of a man than the person that hit him.

In response to the manliness long pompous posts, if they aren’t, then we’re in it together sir.

48 Criffton June 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm

No, let your talk be self-censored, never let a word go without thinking about it.

Think about Pope Benedict, watch him on TV sometime. Very manly person, sincere, caring, and honest, he is still honest. From a man like that, he wouldn’t have to cuss or curse, he would just state the facts, and they would stand, not needing emphasis.

If give your speech a understated character, then even words that mean nothing from others will land like a sledgehammer from your mouth. Leave your censure for things needing censure, and leave your praise for things worthy of it.

49 Michael Yates June 26, 2008 at 7:12 pm

In my mind, swearing indicates a lack of control of language and the inability to use a more suitable word. If it is manly to demonstrate self control and intelligence, then I’d have to say swearing is just not manly.

50 Ed June 26, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Swearing must be used in moderation to be an effective addition to a manly vocabulary. I think it helps express some of our primal emotions, add emphasis, force, and conviction to our statements. It can also be fun and add a sense of camaraderie to a men’s only get together.

{Some senior elements of the military has taken to calling profanity use by officers unprofessional. Given their working conditions and missions they are expected to perform, this just shows a disconnect between elitist/political generals and operation troops.}


51 Andrew Barbour June 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm

I’ve been thinking about the substitute words I’ve been using instead of swears, and a few of them come out alright without coming off as silly.

(By the way, I, for one, always think TV shows that use the word “crap” always sound so ridiculous. It’s like you can hear the FCC breathing down their necks. “Crap” is a substitute for the s-word like carob is to chocolate. No one is really fooled, but everyone pretends that they are. )

Anyway, here are my substitutes:

For BS: Hooey, Nonsense
Unpleasant person: (Male) Clown, Jackass. (Female): Broad, Shrew
Person felled by hubris/Making terrible choices: Train wreck
Expressing wonder: Holy smokes!
Unpleasant surprise: Oh, man. (heavily dependent on tone of voice)

That’s about 90% of my swearing needs right there. At worst, I sound like some tough-guy private eye in a 1953 film noire.

Come to think of it–at *best*, I sound like some tough-guy private eye in a 1953 film noire.

52 Jon June 26, 2008 at 7:28 pm

The circumstances preceeding the swearing matter. If you find out that your wife/daughter/family member is hurt/dead then it is quite ok to swear.

53 Al June 26, 2008 at 7:44 pm

If it’s not ladylike, it’s probably manly. Swearing- case in point. It sure as hell ain’t metro.

54 Numbat June 26, 2008 at 8:57 pm

The pope manly???? That dress he wears is not something that the all-blacks would wear and the silly hat and “dress” ring says nancy-boy to me.

55 Pierre June 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Swearing is a great way to express emotion. Emotion, though, is not something to be expressed by a man. Referencing Ben Franklin’s virtues, speech should be reserved for times benefitting the speaker or others. If an emotion must be expressed impulsively, when the only words that come to mind are vulgar, then it is unlikely that you have carefully thought over the benefit its expression will have for yourself or others.

Amidst even death and destruction, I think it is the real man who can keep his words to himself, overcome emotion, and immediately act, doing what is morally necessary to make things right.

56 Charlie Kondek June 27, 2008 at 4:56 am

I have been trying half heartedly to quit swearing for years. I think swearing pretty much sucks. But then I get into a situation and just can’t think of any other way to express how I feel.

57 Eric June 27, 2008 at 5:17 am

Swearing, cussing and foul mouthed talk is a great mark of a fool and a less than intelligent individual who cannot use rational discussion and words to persuade others. A ‘real man’ will talk respectfully in front of everyone and keep his language and topics “above the line” if you will to gain respect. A man that does this consistantly, will be given favor and respect for being calm under fire and keep control of his mouth. Be a gentleman not a roughian.

Consider Biblical Wisdom; James 3:2-6
2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

58 Jack June 27, 2008 at 8:09 am

Ok so I voted yes. Yet it is more complicated and I found the wording of the question a little wishy washy in a way. Must we define manliness in a modern setting in a traditional way. I will prepare my answer by saying I am English and people seem to swear a lot more here, obviously it is dependent upon the situation, as has been noted previously, but i really think that if you are with friends (not exclusively male but it depends, certainly not on a date) and you swear or if you are looking for your sentence to hold a little more weight then let rip. On I also think we have a slightly different definition of what a swear word is, for me there are four, obviously i won’t write them down for the sake of politeness but four and I’m sure you can guess. One of them I don’t use but I know a lot of young men who do. Begins with C. Use of that isn’t gentlemanly at all but I imagine it fulfils a role, I just find that a bit offensive. Two of my fellow workers (in a kitchen) routinely call one another such. I also think racial slurs aren’t swear words but something far worse which should be ruled out of our language entirely along with words aimed directly at certain groups of people and meant with derision – attacks at homosexuals of both genders for example, or descriminatory language aimed at women. We, the English, also have some wonderous mini swears, words that aren’t swear words but are a bit cheeky. Try calling someone a tosspot and keeping a straight face. a manly note, check out Jurt Russel in the The Thing, stick of dynamite in one hand, blood on him, monstrous alien screaming in his face, and his response, “yeah well **** you too.” Hyper manly.

59 Steve June 27, 2008 at 8:21 am

A good curse is simply an exclamation point on a sentence. “Did you see the last Pen’s game? Fuck…” Sometimes it’s just a single word that encompasses an entire range of feeling. There’s no better was to express being a waiter, and getting a table of 15 just before closing that “Motherfucker…”. It’s expression at its simplest, and therefore its finest. Like any phrase, it can be overused and diluted to the point of meaninglessness, but sometimes you’ve got nothing to say but, “Oh, shit!”

60 Erin Hookey June 27, 2008 at 8:59 am

Swearing just to swear is foolish. If you are trying to express something and you need to make the point very clear, a well placed swear word may be appropriate. Hitting you thumb with a hammer and swearing is appropriate. Going off for five minutes and swearing about it is foolish.

Swearing can also express who you are as a person. In high school, there was a Jesuit brother who could rattle off more swear words than a group of druken salors. His swearing fit his personality. He was a short, mean son a bitch. This is putting it mildly. Everyone know Brother Val and you stayed clear of him.

Guys who swear to sound cool or to bully of show who is the boss are simple minded. I had a boss that would swear just because he could and did to show his rank in the office.

I do not think there is one simple answer for every situation.

61 J. M. Walden June 27, 2008 at 10:46 am

I swear. I curse. I blaspheme. I am infamous for my foul, aggressive, profane scurrility. But I am not proud of it. I’ve made an effort in the last few years to rein in my casual swearing. I do so because I find the habit vulgar and coarse, not, however, because I see it as being indicative of a lack of intelligence or education. Swearing becomes a crutch and it cripples both my lexical creativity and retards what little linguistic skill I already possess.
I cannot say that swearing is entirely unmanly, but I agree with the contributor who said that it is, “ungentlemanly.” The ubiquitous swearing of our day is almost completely opposite the cursing that has gone on before us: it is now cursing that is randomly seasoned with inoffensive terms, not the reverse.
I do not recall John Wayne (in his films) having dialogue that would make a streetgang member blush, and yet a generation of men ascribe to him inherent “manliness.” Being a man, as it is defined by generations of men, entails a fundamental familiarity with and restraint of violence. We are whether by societal or evolutionary (or supermundane) molding the defender and protector sex. This entails aggressiveness and violence which can be physical or, as is more common in our soft and civilized society, verbal. Swearing, cursing, profanity, what have you, does not run counter to being a man, but its misuse or over-use, like that of physical violence, does.
The fine line a “real man” treads is one that snakes between the crude, thoughtless barbarity of the brute and the effeminent, decadent passivity of the androgyne. It is all too unfortunate that swearing has been turned from a provocative intensifier into an ugly, all-too-pervasive symptom of societal degeneration, but a man has a choice: choose your words as carefully. They say more about you then you may intend. I hope to gain control over my knee-jerk profanity.

62 Shakeel June 27, 2008 at 3:39 pm

I tend to choose my words very carefully when I speak. I believe that words have only the meaning we attach to them, and so when I do curse I typically apply good meaning to them (“Son of a bitch that was fun!”). Manly? Probably not. Effective as a tool of speech? Absolutely.

63 Jon June 28, 2008 at 12:01 am

dont forget the greatest of all….frack it. it’s from battlestar galactica (the new one on scifi).

64 Stephen June 28, 2008 at 8:37 am

I think, again, that most of the posts either intentionally or accidentally confirm what many have said. Cussing may be or may not be manly, but it is certainly not virtuous. The virtuous man can and does find a way to say the same thing, with gravity, and with appropriate language. Cussing does not make a man “bad”, it is more evidence of one’s inability to express himself appropriately in all situations. I’m guilty, too.

And with regards to the pope, he is an excellent example of manliness. It’s unfortunate that many take his inclusion in discussions secular to be inappropriate, or can’t engage Catholic and other religious thinkers and ideas without vitriol. Anyone who can say what B16 said to the leaders of Islam, in highest seriousness and intellect, deserves respect. And that’s what he got when he received the letter from many Islamic leaders suddenly wanting to talk about faith and reason. When other Western Christian leaders effeminately replied (without the pope) that he was just kidding, and we’re sorry for being Western oppressors, etc., he again replied that he was not kidding, and with great respect to Islam and its adherents, we need to talk about violence in the name of religion (which the Catholic Church has also in its history), and religious tolerance, he set himself apart from other pathetic and weak religious leaders.

Sorry, don’t want to hijack the discussion. Just wanted to get that on the record. Probably better to deal with that in another thread. I don’t think he cussed, either, but I don’t know him that well.

65 sean June 28, 2008 at 8:53 am

i’m a guy who’s not manly in the least, and i curse a lot. so my vote would obviously fall in the “no” category.

but my question to everyone is, what about heat-of-the-moment exclamatory profanity? like when i’ve heard my ankle go *pop* with a high ankle sprain and felt the accompanying pain? what about when i got t-boned by another car, leading to a totaled 4 month old truck? how inappropriate was is that i swore as my initial reaction rather than something long the lines of “oh man this is not good”?

66 i am an evil taco June 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

To me, the most manly form of speaking is to speak plainly and bluntly. While cursing and flipping out, you could just as easily explain why you’re so angry in the first place. I’ll use words like freaking and crap from time to time, pseudo curses, but a real curse leaving my mouth is rare, and I strive to make it non-existent.

I was raised with the idea that profanity is the last resort of a dull mind.

67 frgough June 30, 2008 at 9:13 am

I find the posts of people who use profanity in their comments to illustrate the proper time and use for profanity amusing. Because they fail miserably. All they have demonstrated is their inability to form cogent arguments without resorting to profane language.

Furthermore, the individuals who claim that the “f-bomb” is appropriate at times to “shock” their listener into attention or to underscore the supposed importance of their argument are missing the point.

If you didn’t have the reputation for a foul mouth in the first place, you wouldn’t need to resort to a “bomb” to make your point.

Watch the scene with the sanitary napkin in the trash can in To Sir with Love for an example of how a man can absolutely eviscerate a group of people without uttering a single profanity.

The use of profanity simply demonstrates an inability to control yourself. Uttering a profanity should be considered a failure of self-restraint in my opinion.

If you examine your use of profanity, you will find nearly every time it is the result of giving in to your anger.

68 Kyle June 30, 2008 at 11:17 am

My memories of a manly father and grandfathers will include their use of “damn” and “shit” skillfully.

69 chiz July 2, 2008 at 11:17 pm

timely swearing is manly. a man should not be afraid to express his rage, and swearing is one of those tools. but a man who constantly and excessively swears looks like an angry fool and is an angry fool.

swearing is a skill, but with many men a lost art.

true men aren’t afraid to swear, but they know when to swear and when not to.

70 Nate Desmond July 3, 2008 at 4:54 pm

A manly man will not lose his temper. The Bible, God’s Holy Word, says that the fool loses his temper. Therefore, because swearing is a symptom of anger, swearing is wrong.

In addition, swear words are probably always wicked words or offshoots of bad words. That is another reason why swearing is bad.

71 Stormbringer July 3, 2008 at 5:51 pm

To support Alex M. on June 25, Marilyn Manson said that if every other word is the “F” word, then what is the barometer of F-ness? That is, if you use it all the time, there’s no impact. Personally, I don’t like the term “swearing”, as it is not the original use of the word. “Profanity” is more accurate. Like other posters said, it shows lack of intelligent thought if you curse all the time.

72 TJ July 24, 2008 at 4:37 am

I have conflicting opinions on this one.

In theory: Under normal circumstances, I think that men shouldn’t swear. In my opinion, it shows a lack of language skill, creativity and/or restraint.

In reality: I swear. I swear too much. I’ve conditioned myself not to swear when my kids are awake, but at my childless worst I’ve been so bad that I could finish a conversation and not know for sure whether I had used profanity or not because it came so naturally to me.

There’s something cathartic about swearing. I once heard a comedian describe being angry without profanity as “about as effective as slamming a cordless telephone. All you can do is hit the talk button really hard, and that’s just not the same.” There’s also something that strikes me as very…prissy…about not swearing when you’re angry. I know a guy that gets very precise and very formal when he gets mad, and I just can’t take him seriously when he gets like that.

I think my final verdict is that profanity is unmanly in all but the most extreme situations (like saying F-you while you beat the guy who just tried to attack your wife, or something equally extreme) and that I have a lot of work ahead of me to put this into practice.

73 Desi August 18, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Einstein said that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Swearing only obfuscates the meaning of a message, making you look like a dingus.

74 B-Sol August 26, 2008 at 8:38 pm

“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” ~ Mark Twain

75 truebelievermonarchist September 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm

I don’t think profanity is manly. Controlling your tongue is manly. However, I agree that sometimes, nothing else seems to quite fit. Saying, “ah, darnit” after you’ve just had it with someone, and you’re swearing to keep from punching the guy, that doesn’t bother me. Or letting something slip when you hammer your finger, or when you you’re really mad about something and need to get your point across. Basically, it should be used as an extreme, something that doesn’t come up in everyday conversation. And lastly, just because something’s not femenine, doesn’t make it manly.

76 Nick September 23, 2008 at 3:07 am

To be manly means to be virtuous, since the spiritual life is the fulfillement of human life, and profanity is contrary to temperance. Temperance keeps the tongue in check, lest it utter every foul word out in anger or in pleasure. It goes beyond taking God’s Name in vain, too; it also extends to the names of the saints and holy places. Saint Michael, rather than verbally attacking Satan when they disputed over the corpse of Moses, prayed rather “May the Lord rebuke thee!” Jesus, rather than verbally attacking His executioners, prayed rather, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Prayer is better than profanity and it is more manly. Indeed, without prayer, a man has no spiritual life, and so, he is not a man but an animal.

77 Ryan September 26, 2008 at 8:35 am

If you are just throwing curses because your an “adult” and no one can tell you what to do, then no it’s not manly.

78 Michael October 15, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Swearing is what we do when our grammatical skills or vocabulary are insufficient to create the impact or meaning that we are looking for. It is for all intents and purposes, a form of intellectual laziness. It’s borish in mixed company, much to familiar in professional settings, lazy in exclusive company and almost always tactless. That having been said, there ARE those (rare) moments when nothing will get the point across quite the way a good F-Bomb will.

79 Joey Miller December 22, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I would say swearing is manly as long as it is articulate — that is, swearing just to be vulgar, or without realizing the impact of your words on listeners, is unmanly and stupid. But swearing either in a way that startles listeners when you are angry and mean to, or that is in appropriate context (around others who think nothing of swearing) is certainly manly, since being scared of words is for wimps.

80 Charles December 23, 2008 at 7:38 am

It is as manly to swear as it is to cry, which has already been discussed in an article on here. As it is a release of emotion, no more no less.

But do remember that using a curse word does show that you are not very articulate, thus lessening your standing as a gentleman.

81 Darren Meyer February 5, 2009 at 8:56 am

Obsessing about swearing is certainly not manly. Excessive swearing marks you as an adolescent — someone who’s trying out the words they weren’t allowed to use as children.

Gentlemen are not wordy. They make their point using enough words to be clear and polite, not much more.

As such, sometimes the only response to something is to swear. By way of example, an entirely appropriate response to “sorry, sir, but your car has blown a head gasket, and it’ll be $950 in parts and labor to replace” is simply: “… shit.”

82 Tony February 20, 2009 at 12:01 am

I’m in the Army and we are about as manly as it gets. And we swear a bunch. Every other word that comes out of my sargeants mouth is f so I’d say its manly to swear. Plus when an IED goes off thats the perfect time to say fuck

83 Manlyman-ness March 2, 2009 at 7:33 am

“It depends on what kind of swearing we’re talking about here….peppering your speech with a few damns is manly. Using the F-bomb every other word is not manly. It just shows you can’t put a well-thought out sentence together.”


84 Webmaven March 10, 2009 at 11:57 am

Swearing has nothing to do with being “manly” – it is an art form either gender is capable of mastering, but most don’t. A true master of this art knows it’s more than just uttering obscenities in everyday speech, it requires timing and an extensive vocabulary. Done correctly, people will often be awestruck or impressed, rather than offended.

Swearing prolifically in day-to-day speech simply engenders the belief that the you lack the necessary vocabulary, intelligence or skills to express yourself effectively.

85 protaganis March 18, 2009 at 7:29 am

I had a great math teacher in high school who said “People over use swearing, taking away it’s original use, placing emphasis and anger into a statement. They now use it instead of developing the linguistic and intellectual facilities necessary to make a bold statement without the use of swearing. “

86 Leny March 24, 2009 at 5:13 am

I’m a fan of the swearing used by Mr. Rochester in the book Jane Eyre. Constantly frustrated, angered, perturbed and just downright a bit of an ass he manages to get away with expressing his disdain for most other living things with the manly: “What the deuce?!”. I use it every now and then when heavier swearing is not appropriate. Unfortunately I’ve discovered that many people now attribute this phrase to the character Stewie Griffin in the fart joke ridden tv show Family Guy. I’ve also come to find out that many people (especially younger ones) seem to associate the word deuce only with feces.
So here is a brief etymology lesson on “What the deuce”

What the deuce is a synonym of “what the dickens”. Dickens being by the way a pet name of Richard. The devil has been called by this name at times. So “What the deuce” could also be said to mean “What the devil”. This is at least the case with the older German phrases “Wat de duus!” and “Was der Daus!”.

87 george April 10, 2009 at 4:41 am

No, No, No! Cursing is an emotional expression, angry feelings reified in unsocial language which is sadly becoming more socialized with each passing day. A real man does not give vent to feelings in public that is before strangers. Not to say he does have them, just that they are under his control, as opposed to in control of him!

All humans get angry, and anger is the frustration of desire, an undesirable state of mental or emotional tension. Real men do not give in, they prevail, through fortitude, strength and work.

If you get frustrated and want to change then just growl under your breath like a bear, but do not give in to vulgarity.

88 Rob April 10, 2009 at 7:30 am

Why, hell yes, it’s manly….sometimes.

Only when needed for emphasis, and only the 4 “classics”, like hell, d#mn, sh#t, and as#…the F-bomb has historical provenance, but it’s too vulgar for a gentleman to use; it’s a definite no-no for ladies (notice I didn’t say ‘women’…some are worse than men).

I have always told my sons it’s OK to throw out a scorcher or two when working on an old car or hot rod, and sometimes you can make it specifically personal to the vehicle (usually of female connotation – the “B” word), especially if a set of busted knuckles are the trigger….

89 Booker April 26, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I think I agree with most of the people here. It really depends on what the context is. If you stub your toe, I think it is perfectly fine to utter damn under your breath. Or as what was already said if your describing something and a curse word is required then say “d-word” instead of dammit…its just stupid and makes you look like a tool. adding the Fuck word to explain directions to the Wal-mart makes you look like an ignorant punk.

Anyway, man up

90 Michael May 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm

No. It is a sign of a limited vocabulary or lack of discipline and self-control. Many others here claim that there is a time and a place for it. I totally disagree. If you cannot express yourself in a situation in a proper manner then you need to seek help. Society has never benefited from the use of profanity.

It has become more common to hear women swear mainly because men stopped showing self-control, or more importantly respect for women, by using profanity in their presence. I can still remember when real men did not swear in front of a lady and to do so could earn you a quick expulsion or a busted nose from more chivalrous gentlemen. Swearing is like anything else, get enough and you become desensitized to it. This is proven by how the “acceptable” words on television keep changing for the worse.

91 Kris May 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm

“Just using a four letter word because your puny neurons cannot come up with something better is the practice of curs and swine (like most rappers).”

That statement is more offensive than most of the profanity-laden expressions I’ve heard in my life.

92 Brent July 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Getting a little salty around your buddies when you’re having a good time is one thing. Cussing in mixed company or within earshot of children is pretty crass.

93 Daniel October 27, 2009 at 4:26 am

I’d say that swearing in and of itself is neither inherently manly nor unmanly. It all depends on the context:

While amongst like-minded friends, a light peppering of your speech with colorful words can lend a very strong hand to its humor: “Did you see her? She was stacked like a brick shithouse.”

To swear in mixed company, or because you simply can’t develop a more eloquent phrase, is not manly at all: “Hey, motherfucker! Come back here!”

Sometimes, however, there are certain colorful words or phrases one can use to immediately convey that you mean business, and they are as such more appropriate, and can be considered manly, if not downright poised: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

94 Rob November 17, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Words are just words. Context and culture are what make them have significance or not.

English profanity is all about words wrapped up in puritanism and christian mythology. Swedish profanity is all about devils.

They’re just words use them to communicate or shock, as the situation merits.

95 Sean November 17, 2009 at 10:50 pm

A true man knows when a curse will be manly. When on a pub crawl with sailer types, not cussing will make you look aloof and soft, not manly at all. With a quieter group, one would control his tongue and speak elegantly and expound upon manly feelings with appropriately more precise words

“What about when your sailer friends meet your quite dinner party friends,” you ask. Here you prove your manliness and self control to both groups by telling your sailer friends “Don’t speak like that in front of the ladies/my mother/ these respected gentleman!”

96 Shannon November 18, 2009 at 3:54 am

Perhaps in very specific and charged situations. Almost all of the time, being manly means maintaining discipline over every area of our lives, even our mouths. Seeing some slovenly youth spewing verbal filth in front of ladies makes me want to injure his physical person.

97 Mike November 18, 2009 at 7:17 am

I personally believe that swearing, like everything it seems these days, is best in moderation. I find that by only swearing in the most extreme of circumstances, it tends to have the greatest effect. A perfect example was while recently swapping out the porch screens for windows, My ladder slipped (while I was on it) and smashed one of the panes. As i pointed out to my stunned 13 year old son who was assisting me, plummeting towards glass on a ladder is an acceptable time to exclaim ‘Oh Sh#t’.

I saw one reference to the Bible early on. As a a dual doctorate biblical scholar, let me tell you that when Jesus was kicking over the tables in the temple he wasn’t calling these guys ‘Jerks’. ‘You pit of vipers’ and such was translated to be palatable to gentry, and stood for some much more down to earth language. He was, after all, human, and didn’t hold back in His cursing when appropriate.

98 Lucas November 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm

There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It’s dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that.
- Mark Twain

everything, swearing included, in moderation

99 Martin T. December 1, 2009 at 4:42 pm


Manliness is a matter of self-control, especially in your words. If you cannot control your speech, you cannot control anything else about yourself.

BTW: there’s a word describing those who can’t control themselves: CHILD.
And my response to them: “Grow up, please.”

100 Ruby January 6, 2010 at 7:57 am

A better question might be is it manly to loose your temper. How much does a man swearing away and throwing his wrench look like a 2 year old screaming and throwing his toys? Not that a good primal scream doesn’t do us all a little good once in a while.

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