Monday, June 27, 2011

Swearing in Fiction, Part 3

Last week I posted a clip from My Fair Lady and asked whether this was a legitimate use of swearing.

As a whole, it probably is. I see two factors at play:

First, Professor Henry Higgins is not a Christian, and even more, has little regard or respect for anything or anyone. Therefore, nothing constrains him in his use of language; he has no reason not to swear.

Second, the use of “damn” here is used to show an extreme emotional disturbance. There is little else that could be said or done to show his unusual agitation in such a short, confined space.

Also notice that the language is reserved for the moment of most extreme emotion. While the professor could have easily been a character who would swear every other sentence, he used this type of language only here (as far as I remember), giving it more impact.

So from this we see that swearing can be an effective way to reveal extreme emotion. However, it is only effective if limited to the point of greatest impact.

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