For an average AHS student, cursing is just another way of approaching school life and the emotions that accompany it.
They can be seen and heard everywhere around the campus. They’re in classrooms, in hallways, in the cafeteria, on your phones, and even among your classmates. They aren’t people or objects—they’re curse words.
At schools, curse words can be commonly found in the vocabulary of a typical student, and American High is no different. However, curse words don’t just appear in someone’s mind one day. Even cursing has an origin story.
“[I started in] third grade, maybe. I wasn’t swearing like a sailor like I was last year,” recounted a student who prefers to remain anonymous. “It just happened. It wasn’t that bad, and then I just got worse. And then middle school happened.”
From this introduction to curse words, students usually start to pick it up and carry it throughout their school years. The grade in which the students are exposed to cursing may vary, but elementary school and middle school are the usual birthplaces of such habits.
“Most people have talked about their friends cursing in elementary. I feel like nobody in my elementary school cursed,” said Kezia Skariah (12). “Brookvale was a super small elementary. [In middle school], I was like ‘Whoa, people can say the f-word and not get in trouble? What?’”
In most cases, cursing is not used just for the sake of cursing. Students usually have a reason behind it, though it may not always be explicitly stated.
“It’s like a stress-reliever,” described the student who wished to stay anonymous. “It also tells people that I’m really pissed or just tired.”
Despite curse words being a regular presence at American High, not all students use them. They may not feel comfortable using them, they might have been brought up in a relatively curse-free atmosphere, or they just think that it’s not a proper way to express how they are feeling.
“I was one of those really big goody two shoes kids. I wouldn’t even say stuff like ‘stupid’ or ‘shut up’ because those were bad words to me,” mentioned Skariah. “Even though my boundaries are [now] looser, they’re still tighter than everyone else’s because I had tighter boundaries when I was younger.”
Sometimes one might use an alternate “clean” version of a curse word in order to get around the negative and possibly offensive definition while also communicating the emotion he or she is feeling.
“You have those replacement curse words. Instead of the f-word, you say “frick” or something,” explained Skariah. “It isn’t [better], but it makes me feel better about myself because I was taught that the f-word was a bad word but I was never taught that “frick” was a bad word. I know that it’s still the same thing, but I don’t feel as guilty saying it.”
Whether a student curses or not, he or she is sure to experience different teachers at school with different thoughts on cursing. Some teachers may instill a filter over the words in their classes while others may be okay with them being used.
“For me, the most important thing is that we get the work done. I want people to feel that they can express themselves. With English, often times, there’s a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and emotion that a text can bring out and that students can bring to the text,” said Mr. DeMartini, who is an English teacher. “While there are certainly some restrictions [with cursing], I tend to be more lax than most in order to facilitate that sort of energy and authenticity.”
Just because he is less strict, however, does not mean that it is a free-for-all. There’s a difference between tolerance and regulation.
“If someone is cursing out a fellow student, then that’s an issue because there’s malicious intent behind it. It’s a word used to create injury to someone else. If it’s just something off the automatic speech pattern, I’m not too worried about that,” elucidated Mr. DeMartini. “Even if the intent is innocuous, if I can tell someone’s bothered by it…I do want to nip that in the bud so that people aren’t being offended.”
On one side of the spectrum, teachers are aware of cursing being a way to communicate one’s emotions and loosen their reins on the use of curse words. On the other side, the teachers who possess this same awareness tighten their hold.
“I certainly can’t speak for [other teachers], but I would imagine the thought process is that you want to facilitate a professional environment, and generally speaking, cursing is frowned upon professionally,” said Mr. DeMartini. “We’re at work. The job of your high school years is to get an education. [You] need to treat it like a workplace with those standards of decorum and formality.”
Whether people like it or dislike it, cursing is not necessarily immoral behavior. All students have their own preferences for vocalizing their inner thoughts, with none of these preferences being the only “right” one. At the end of the day, it is used by some and hated by others, but is just another form of human expression.
Caption: At AHS, students usually carry out conversations with their friends dictated by curse words, whether it is in class, during lunch, or after school. “We, in America, have a very crass culture. We aren’t very formal with our language in general, and it can be challenging to make that code switch from the way you speak at the rotunda to [the way you speak in] the classroom,” said Mr. DeMartini.