There and Back Again: A Writer’s Tale, by a Repeat Student

by Mark BallouMark Ballou

Mark is an IT Major who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Mark credits his parents for his life-long love of reading, and at a young age he loved writers, like J.R.R. Tolkien and R.A. Salvatore, who “in addition to having abbreviations for their first names, share an affinity for spending pages and pages describing the visuals in their books.” Mark is an Army veteran with nine years of service, and he has spent most of his adult life writing as a Counterintelligence Agent for the US Army, employing his meticulous style into his written work. In this essay for his Composition I class, Mark was asked to write more creatively than he had in the past, and it enabled him to revitalize his love of writing and his desire to “include my own unique voice in my writing.” Mark has lived in 8 different states and 4 different countries while serving in the Army over the last decade, but he has deep roots in New England and hopes to settle down here after finishing his degree.


For a PDF copy of this essay, click here.

When I was around eight years old, my favorite things to do in life were playing video games, and watching TV. I wish I could say that I was more intellectual than your average kid, but in actuality I was pretty typical in that sense. Fortunately for me, I had a Dad who understood the importance of a strong background in reading. So, at the age of eight, my Dad made a deal with me; I could watch one hour of T.V. for every one hour worth of reading I did, and I could play half an hour’s worth of video games for every one hour of reading I did. At the beginning of this deal, I actually hated reading so much, I would sit down with a book in my lap and pretend to read for the required amount of time, without actually glancing at a single word on the page. This turned out to be a futile effort, as my Dad would thwart this tactic by asking me to summarize what I read to him. It was because of this pop quiz at the end of all my reading periods, that I begrudgingly would spend time reading.  

I don’t remember how long exactly it took me to begin to enjoy reading more than I enjoyed watching T.V. or playing Super Sonic The Hedgehog on Sega Genesis, but it wasn’t long before I had a favorite book, Once Upon a Time on a Plantation  by Nancy Rhyne. It was a story inspired by actual events in the pre-American Civil War era, about two boys, one black, one white, living on a plantation in the deep south. The writing was fairly simplistic, but I remember the stories were told so vividly, and the settings described in such detail, that I felt completely enwrapped in the narrative. I must have read that book dozens of times during my childhood before I discovered Harry Potter at the age of 11, and the rest is history. 

Believe it or not, I remember my first real triumph in writing when I was only ten years old. Oddly enough, this bit of writing was in my science class. I had to write a story about the process water goes through before becoming rain. The paper was supposed to be one page long, and the only criteria was for me to describe the process water goes through from evaporation, to rain drops. My paper was six pages long, and told a detailed story about a water droplet with friends and family, who then became a gas, lived a life in the clouds, and eventually returned to his home in a lake via the route of a winding river. My paper was so good, it was submitted into the young writer’s club in my city, and won second place for all literature written for 5th grade and under. I attribute this early success, to my mimicry of books like Once Upon a Time on a Plantation. In Mike Bunn’s essay “How to Read Like a Writer”, he says to “carefully examine the things you read, looking at the writerly techniques in the text in order to decide if you might want to adopt similar (or the same) techniques in your own writing” (Bunn 72). When I wrote the story of the water droplet, I thought about the things I loved about my favorite book, and tried to write in the same way. I tried to be as descriptive as possible when describing the settings, and spent paragraphs describing the relationships the main character had with those around him. It was my hope that by doing this, anyone reading my story would get the same enjoyment reading my writing, as I got from reading Nancy Rhyne.  

I can’t thank my Dad enough for forcing me to read as a child. Growing up, I noticed that I was able to read through complex instructions and texts quicker and more effectively than my peers, I was more well-spoken, and writing assignments came a little easier to me. I don’t believe it would be much of a leap, logically, for me to assume that I would never have gotten the job I held for nearly the last decade without such a strict childhood reading policy.  

For the last nine years, I have been a Counterintelligence Agent for the U.S. Army. This occupation has some of the most stringent pre-requisites and qualifications of any position in the U.S. military. Chief among these abilities, is the ability to write quickly, and effectively. If you’ve ever seen NCIS on television, you’ve seen the show that follows the Navy equivalent of Army Counterintelligence. My peers and I used to laugh at that show, because for every one hour of cool things they do, they ignore the subsequent five hours of report writing that would be necessary in our position. Needless to say, having the pre-existing ability to write relatively effectively was a huge feather in my cap while attending the six-month course to train me to be in my job. 

I attended the Counterintelligence Special Agent Course in July of 2008. This course was split into two main subjects. Both subjects had operational hands on applications, but all of these things would have a great deal of report writing immediately afterward. The tricky part, was the reports for these two subjects, were completely different in audience, and therefore style. The reports for the first subject, would be sent to the Counterintelligence Coordinating Authority in Washington D.C. These reports would have to have a strict adherence to a very particular writing guide. This was due to the fact that these reports we wrote could potentially be scrutinized by defense attorneys in criminal trials. Therefore, everything we wrote had to be meticulous, structured, un-biased, and without any sense of your own personal voice coming through in your text. This was difficult for me, because up until this point, I had always been encouraged by my Mother (an English teacher) to write creatively. Writing creatively was a simple task for me, because, as I did in my childhood, I would base my style of writing on some of my favorite authors, like J.R.R. Tolkien and R.A. Salvatore. I enjoyed the way these authors spent paragraphs describing certain scenes/sequences in their stories. It was that level of embellishment and descriptiveness that made me feel like I was actually in their story.  

The second subject, differed entirely from the first in writing style. These reports would be submitted digitally to the entire intelligence community, and would be an account of information that one obtained first-hand from intelligence sources. This style of writing, while encouraged to be simplistic, and therefore easy to read, was also less strict, and was allowed to have your own voice in it. This was a little easier and more fun for me, but it was a challenge in that I had to completely change my writing styles to fit two separate audiences. This was the first time I ever had to write anything to anyone apart from an English teacher, and the growing pains were prevalent. In order to excel in this course, I had to adopt a very fluid and adaptive style of writing. In Lennie Irvin’s essay, “What is ‘Academic’ Writing?” Irvin stresses the importance of adaptive writing when he says “You need to develop the skill of a seasoned traveler who can be dropped in any city around the world and get by. Each writing assignment asks you to navigate through a new terrain of information, so you must develop ways for grasping new subject matter in order, then, to use it in your writing” (Irvin 9). It was this exact methodology that I had to learn at this stage in my writing experience. I had to learn to write in two entirely different ways, for two different audiences. Up until this point, I had only written the way I liked to write, and it had never failed me before. Now, I had to completely adjust my writing style based on the information given to me, and who I was submitting my paper to. To be honest, it was a bit disappointing, as it felt like I was no longer writing in the way that I enjoyed. 

After graduating the course, I went to my first duty station in South Korea, and I quickly noticed how far ahead of my peers I was in my ability to produce quality reports at a relatively fast pace. After getting to know my peers better, I discovered that not a single one of them ever took the time to read unless they had to, and had never read out of the sheer enjoyment of doing so. I attributed my success in writing to the fact that, as someone who read quite a bit growing up, I simply had a wider pool of indexes to draw from during my writing. Part of the way being an avid reader helps in my writing ability, is by having certain writing styles in my head when I write things down in my own words. While I know I will likely never be as good a writer as some of my favorite authors growing up, I can still refer to the way they wrote stylistically, and incorporate that into my own writing to make things a bit simpler for me. It’s almost like having to write a speech full of motivational passages and already having a list of idioms in your head that you can draw on.  

Even as I glance back over this paper, as I write it, I notice some of the same writing patterns I’ve displayed since I was writing as a child. For example, I can get overly wordy, and embellish on sentences unnecessarily, probably out of an effort to sound more intelligent. I remember my Mom would always give me a hard time about that very fact, and would encourage me to write in a way that I would normally speak. Unfortunately, her directives backfired, and my speech just became more convoluted in an effort to pair the way I conversed, with my style of writing. In an effort to fix this, I would often try to insert a bit of humor into my writing. I don’t know how exactly to describe the mental effect this had on my writing, but having a joke in my head while I wrote, tended to keep my writing more relatable when reading it back.  

For example, between the years of 2014 and 2015, every one of my intelligence reports in South Korea had the word “nefarious” in it. I noticed that a lot of people in my job field really enjoyed using the word “nefarious” so I made sure that it was in every one of my reports. Having this little inside joke with myself made me stay a bit more personable in my writing style, like I was having a conversation with someone and trying to subtly let them in on my private joke. It wasn’t until January of 2015, that a report reviewer finally commented on one of my reports regarding my continued use of the word that I switched to the word “abreast” in all my proceeding reports. 

I don’t mean to imply that a Special Agent in the United States military performing classified intelligence operations in southeast Asia wasn’t taking his job seriously. I will bring up one of my reports as an example of my writing proficiency, and will hopefully make the reader of this text feel a little better about where their tax dollars are going in relation to our military budget. Several of my reports collected multiple accolades from the intelligence community, but there was one in particular that was very well received. I had collected information regarding terrorist activity; however what made this report so important was not just the facts in the information, but the implication of those facts. Unfortunately, the implications of this information were based in conjecture, and not outright facts. In essence, I was trying to ensure the reader understood the importance of this information, despite it being largely speculative in nature. This was a bit of a tall order to achieve that type of inference in reports that were required to have just a “Who, What, Where, When, How.” I spent hours on this report trying to make sure that the gravity of the information I collected was understood, while still ensuring an unbiased and non-opinionated product. In Kathleen Yancey’s essay “Reflection in the Writing Classroom”, Yancey discusses the importance of reflection, in terms of writing. In the essay, Yancey discusses the process of reflection. “When we reflect, we call upon the cognitive, the affective, the intuitive, putting these into play with each other: to help us understand how something completed looks later, how it compares with what has come before, how it meets stated or implicit criteria, our own, those of others” (Yancey 120) While I was writing this report, I was juggling all the things Yancey mentions in the above passage. I was comparing this report to what had worked for me in past reports, as well as trying to adapt to a new situation, while ensuring it continued to meet the required criteria. This was a test that I was able to pass successfully, as my report received accolades from multiple intelligence agencies, including the upper echelons of the Central Intelligence Agency. Because of my success with this report, I started to incorporate some of the things I learned while writing it into the way I wrote all my future reports.  

I have noticed, since returning to a field in which writing is encouraged to be more individualized, and less militarized, that my style of writing is not the same as it was before I joined the Army. Writing in a style that is supposed to be more succinct and efficient, than creative and expressive, for nearly a decade, will undoubtedly have an impact on the way you write. For me, I am happy to be returning to an environment where your own voice is encouraged to come out in your writing, and I don’t have to put hidden words in my reports, just to make sure a piece of my personality exists in it. 

Works Cited 

Bunn, Mike. “How to Read Like a Reader.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol2, edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky, Parlor Press, 2011, pp. 71-86. 

Irvine, L Lennie. “What Is ‘Academic’ Writing.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing Vol. 1, edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 3-17. 

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Reflection in the Writing Classroom..” (1998) All USU Press Publications.120. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/120. 

It All Begins With a Dream 

Photo of Eileen Rileyby Eileen M. Riley 

Eileen is an English major from a military family near Fort Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. Her interest in vintage fashion led her to research representations of women in early 20th century advertisements for the Maidenform bra for her Composition II class. Impressed by the beautiful artwork she discovered in these depictions, Eileen was intrigued by the portrayals of women in roles that were traditionally held by men. Her essay explores how “these ads fed women’s desires for the gender norm dictates of that post-war time in America [and] went beyond these norms by depicting aspirational scenarios.” Eileen lives in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and works full time as a legal specialist in the financial services industry. In her spare time you will find her enjoying photography, biking, historical biographies and music.


For a PDF copy of this essay, click here.

Most women have aspirations to improve their lives that can be put into three categories: (i) modest improvements on what may brighten an ordinary day, such as a new lipstick, a bunch of flowers on the table, a glossy magazine, or time spent with a loved one, (ii) aspirations on a grander scale such as a new career, travel, or taking up a new sport, and (iii) fantasy that is limitless and attainable only in one’s dreams. In the dream, one can become whomever one would like to be, regardless of the practical limitations of education, socio-economic standing, and intelligence quota. On a Monday, you can be a political candidate. Tuesday may find you throwing out the first pitch of a World Series game. Wednesday, you may decide to be an artist, and Thursday you may just want to take a stroll. Friday, you may be perched out on the deck of a schooner. Saturday, you may be a toreador, and Sunday, you may want to rest, or you may want to be an interior designer. The possibilities are limitless, and Ida Rosenthal, the immigrant feminist at the helm of the Maidenform Company, recognized the opportunity to fuse the consumer driven desire to embrace a new feminine “look” with dreams. To market this new look, Maidenform launched the “I Dreamed…” campaign in 1949. It became one of the 20th century’s most successful ad campaigns, lasting 20 years, until women began burning their bras in 1969. This was a woman-to-woman ad campaign, created by women for women. While these ads depicted women, in traditional female roles mired in beauty and fashion, which some characterized as objectifications of women, there was another side. The ad campaign also depicted women in aspirational roles that were, at the time, decidedly male, such as “[a]mbassador, editor, private eye, and a toreador” (Bust Magazine, 2017). In the United States of 1949, one would likely characterize a woman in the role of an ambassador or a private eye as pure fantasy, but Maidenform thought it was ok for women to dream. Each dream ad placed the Maidenform woman front and center, and in charge of her dream. Her dream was depicted in the text, for example, “I dreamed I was a fireman in my Maidenform bra.” Each Maidenform woman wore only her Maidenform bra on top, Maidenform Election Adwith the rest of her clothed in a feminized version of the uniform a man would wear; shapely red knickers in the case of a toreador, or a fire helmet in the case of a fireman. This woman-to-woman campaign, as depicted in print ads, was consistent in its messaging, always using the tag line “I dreamed…”, which further enhanced its brand recognition, thus, the dream ads became synonymous with Maidenform.

Ida Rosenthal was a business woman, but she was also a dreamer who refused to bow to convention when she immigrated from Russia to the United States. With her feminist underpinnings, Ida began her American dream in Hoboken, New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century. While most immigrant women went to work in factories, garment factories were especially desirous of female employees because of their ability to sew, Ida aspired to something more. Despite pressure from her husband, Ida resolved that she would not work in a factory. “Instead she purchased a sewing machine on installment and started making dresses out her home. In 1912 she employed six workers, selling her dresses for up to $7.50 each” (Synycia 18). After an especially brutal winter, Ida decided that an urban setting would better suit her and Manhattan beckoned. Not only did her customer base grow, her pocketbook expanded as Manhattanites paid up to $225 for one of her dresses. It was during the early 1920s, that Ida partnered with an English immigrant turned couture seamstress, Enid Bissett. Their partnership, which planted the seeds of the woman-to-woman culture, and their dress-making business expanded, as did their vision as to how a woman’s shape could be remolded to improve their physical appearance.

This was their rebuke of the boyish looking garments popular for women in the early part of the 20th century – whereby a woman’s bust was flattened by bandages wrapped around her chest to compress her bosom. One popular slogan widely advertised by the Boyish Form Brassiere Company was “Look Like Your Brother” (Osborne 9). Ida and Enid thought it ridiculous that women should emulate a boyish look, and they used their skills as seamstresses and their superior knowledge of a woman’s body to create a modern brassiere that would celebrate the curves of a woman’s bosom by providing a natural uplift, and as recognized by some doctors, allowed for better posture and less constricted inhalations. What was initially patterned together to enhance the look of their frocks eventually became the commodity that launched Maidenform, with a legion of female customers eager to slip into the new invention. A curvy woman herself, Ida trademarked the “[v]ery feminine name ‘Maiden Form’ in direct contrast to the ‘Boyish Form’ bandeaux made fashionable by the slim silhouette of the flapper” (Synycia 20). She was well ensconced at the helm of the company when World War II ended, and the U.S. economy and consumerism were booming. As men returned home, women were encouraged to leave their factory jobs to allow for these men to re-capture their roles as providers. So, after working two jobs – keeping the home fires burning and working in the factories – women left their factory jobs, leaving behind their denim overalls and head scarfs, to return to domesticity with all of its feminine trappings.

During the war years, Americans rationed everything in sacrifice to the war effort. In terms of femininity, women eschewed silk stockings, painting a thin line up the backs of their legs to replicate a seam. Likewise, clothing was recycled to within an inch of its life. Skirts were narrow and shoes were sensible. All that changed after the war, as society, fed by the new post-war consumerism, encouraged women to embrace their femininity, and their curves. “Fashion is ever evolving, enhancing some body parts while de-emphasizing others” (Synycia 19). This was particularly so when, in 1947 Christian Dior revolutionized the fashion landscape with his introduction of the New Look (Osborne 16). “Dior’s new look quickly became known as the ‘New American Figure’. The silhouettes were ultra-feminine with cinched waists, full hips and bust lines, and head to toe accessories” (Osborne 16). Ida and Maidenform were ready for the fusion of opportunity and market demand, and prepared to make advertising history in the form of the “I Dreamed…” campaign, which provided women with the foundation to build the new look.

When the campaign launched in 1949 it sent shockwaves through the advertising world. This time period is an important component to Maidenform’s ad campaign as it struck at the heart of post-war culture in the United States at a time when gender norms were returning to their pre-war tradition: men were providers and women stayed home. In the post-war year’s culture, new visions of femininity, for the first time, “celebrated female sexual allure and desire” outside of the confines of domesticity and marriage (Howard 57). Howard explains that Maidenform pushed the envelope further by creating ads that pictured models clothed only from the waist down and wearing only their Maidenform brassiere above the waist, “[d]oing very public things in their dreams, such as directing traffic or shopping” (598). Each of the over 100 ads comprising the “I Dreamed…” campaign included the caption “I Dreamed” and the accompanying image told the rest of the story. For the first time in advertising history, the bra was not hidden under a blouse or a sweater, creating a separation with the mixture of outer clothing and an exposed bra. Unmentionables were out of the closet. These ads took risks by showing real women out in public, with their bras plainly visible. The campaign spoke “[t]o the postwar woman’s multifaceted desire to walk the line between the seductive and the wholesome, the free and the permissible” (Synycia 151). Further, Maidenform became synonymous with the New Look, and gave women something to aspire to beyond the confines of domesticity and middle class life. The campaign was rooted in what Synycia describes as Maidenform’s “Women-to-Women” philosophy.

This philosophy flowed throughout Ida’s company and “[e]mphasized a special, exclusive female communication – Maidenform products were projected as being made by women, for women, and as speaking to a multi-faceted female desire” (Synycia 3). This theory tacitly implied that women knew and understood what other women wanted. This was a new and different approach, and men were not a part of the dialogue. Ida Rosenthal was in the business of making brassieres that were designed to alter the shape of women’s breasts. She insisted she was simply helping nature. What she was really doing was selling her version of femininity through the dialogue of the dream campaign.

Before Maidenform launched the dream, lingerie ads were mostly published in women’s periodicals. These ads were typically illustrations, which had the effect of creating distance and privacy, suggesting that the undergarments were hidden and not for public discourse. Generally these ads showed a women in her boudoir or some other exclusively female arena. If bras were unmentionable, how could Maidenform become visible and directly marketed to the American female consumer? “One marketing study commented on the private versus public predicament stating that while Maidenform was the outstanding leader in the field, its product was not the type that establishes its market dominance by being visible to the public eye as in the case of Chevrolet automobile” (Synycia 31). In reality, women were not going to stride down the street showing off their Maidenforms. But they could in a dream.

The “I Dreamed…” campaign was created by three women from Norman, Craig & Kummel, a venerable ad agency in New York City. These ladies would bounce ideas off of one another and then make their pitch to Ida for final approval. The ads attempted to traverse “the public and the private with an inferred conversation between the female producers [of the bra] and the female consumers” (Synycia 28-29). Maidenform pushed the previously established boundaries of marketing with dreamy atmospheres and colors, double entendre, and “subtle sexuality” (Synycia 29). All of this appeared to be safe because the woman to woman approach provided the illusion of an exclusively female dialogue. But others were able to listen in. And while many of its early ads reflected the societal norms of femininity of this time, many of the ads broke the mold and portrayed women wearing all different kinds of male hats. These print ads inspired women to go beyond the confines of their limited vocational opportunities. Not only did Maidenform place these ads in periodicals that targeted fashionable women, such as Vogue, Bazaar, Mademoiselle, they reached beyond the fashionable by expanding their marketing campaign to the more domesticated women who read Ladies Home Journal, McCalls, and, Women’s Home Companion (Synycia 31). And while the dream ads were populated exclusively by women (on the rare occasion men did appear they were in the background in minuscule form), they reached for the stars when they included magazines that catered to a cross section of genders, such as This Week, N.Y. Times Magazine, and Life, as if an FYI to the male consumer. Thus, Maidenform went beyond the confines of “[a]n 18-35 year old female demographic. The audience for the Dream ads was young and old, male and female” (Synycia 32). The campaign was devised to address desires that many women previously didn’t entertain because of the strict confines of gender norms and opportunity available to them at this point in American history. And it did so in a way that didn’t attempt to demean or make women feel guilty. It asked women to “[b]elieve something to be true” (Carroll 46). The ad campaign was respectful, innovative, and fun, and stretched the boundaries of society’s view of women as just wives, mothers, and sex objects.

In focusing on dreams and aspirations, Maidenform locked step with one of the key attributes of a great campaign: giving the consumer something to aspire to. In “What Makes a Great Campaign Great? The A-B-Cs of Winning Advertising” James Forr states that a great ad “[m]ust suggest that by using a particular product…the consumer will be transformed into (or at least perceived as) and idealized version of themselves. The aspirational image is often extreme and likely unattainable” (Forr 2). The Maidenform Dream campaign, and the women behind it made advertising history. Following are descriptions of five of the almost 100 Dream ads.

The ad depicting a Maidenform’s 1953 ad of the woman who dreamed of being a fireman contained text that is laced with double entendre such as “I am the chief and the siren too, dangerous, yes…but beautifully under control.” In this black and white ad (one of the few to include a poetical narrative), we see a beautiful woman at the top of a fire pole very high in the sky. She is wearing a fireman’s helmet, and women’s gloves. With one gloved hand, she clings to the pole, with the other, she holds her helmet in place. She is smiling and in control. She’s wearing a full skirt, reflective of Dior’s new look. The skirt is striped, which at first glance is reminiscent of an awning or a circus tent. On top, she wears only her Maidenform bra. There appears to be either a plume of smoke or a cloud passing between the woman’s thighs and ankles. In addition, there is a plume above her head, suggesting perhaps, that her head is in the clouds. Far below on the street, we see a hook and ladder truck, with the ladder fully extended. In addition, there is another fire truck. There are approximately 8 very tiny firemen looking up at the Maidenform women, several of them with their arms raised in alarm. She is smiling down at them. She doesn’t need them.

In 1952, Maidenform told a woman that she would be a political candidate and win the election in her Maidenform bra. The colorful ad includes photo of a beautiful blond woman, against a black background wearing a full red skirt and her Maidenform bra. Her hands are jubilantly raised in celebration to each side of her head. She’s expressing joy at having won an election. We know it’s some kind of political election, as papers fly about the woman, and her right arm supports part of the ticker tape containing the partial phrase “PEOPLE SELECT….170,000,000,000…..” Microphones dance around the base of her skirt, as if on their own, without a show of hands, conveying that those who held them have thrown their hands up in shock. Fireworks explode in the background in celebration. One building is in the background, and is rather diminutive. The dome is slightly reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol dome, however, the shape also suggests an obelisk, which may represent the Cold War with Russia that permeated American during this particular time. She’s taken the world by storm, and it is at her feet.

In 1951, the lady ambassador entered the dream realm. Against a dark background, we see the base of an elaborate staircase. Atop the newel post is a male head. The Maidenform woman is in front of two large marble pillars that are flounced with a red curtain. She is standing on a black and white marble floor. All of this is evocative of a very formal interior; an embassy. The woman is very regal. She is wearing a fitted black skirt with a slit that is festooned with a red and white striped bustle that attaches to her hip. The bustle is attached with an eagle rhinestone (or diamond) brooch. She wears a matching red and white striped stole. In her hair is a navy-blue plume. Her lips are bright red. In between her skirt and her hair, she wears only her Maidenform bra. Her left hand is outstretched as an offering to someone we cannot see, a man, perhaps? With her patriotic colors, she mirrors the colors of American flag. On a very distant wall, what appears to be a coat of arms, suggesting a foreign setting. This ad tells us that foreign dignitaries will be eating out of her hand.

In 1951, the Toreador entered the arena. This Maidenform woman is standing front and center in this colorful ad. She is wearing red velvet knickers and matching cape, and white tights. And, of course, her Maidenform bra. It’s not clear if she is wearing a traditional bullfighter’s hat, as her hair blurs with the sky in the top of the picture, but her hair is fashioned in a subtle conical style mirroring the shape of male bullfighter’s hat. Her arms are outstretched as if anticipating the approach of the bull. Faded in the distance, are several male bullfighters, we assume this because they are clothed from the waist up. The background colors are stormy with flashes of the colors of a sunset on the eve of a storm. We can infer that the men are afraid, and the bull might not show up.

An all-girl-orchestra was the dream in 1960. The professional musician ad was black and white ad, and is unusual as it includes four women rather than one. These Maidenform women are an ensemble of professional female musicians playing the, harp, flute, cello, and the horn. The Flutist is wearing glasses, implying nerdy intelligence. She is sitting very erect. The harp player appears to have her eyes closed and a subtle smile of dreamy satisfaction. The horn player has her eyes averted to the right, it’s not clear who she is looking at or for. The cello player has her left hand on the strings of the instrument. Her posture is erect, her gaze straight. There are four different hair styles depicted representing popular styles of the early 1960s; long curled, pulled back into a tight bun, piled on top with an elaborate top bun, and a modern coiffure, short and styled. All of the women are wearing plane black skirts and their Maidenform bras. This ad is telling us that not only can a woman work, but she can be a professional musician (an anomaly in 1960).

These five ads, as well as others, are examples of the women-to-women campaign rhetoric. The Maidenform Dream ads are classic examples of wish fulfillment advertising psychology. Further, the longevity of the ads solidified Maidenform’s brand recognition. And while these ads fed women’s desires for the gender norm dictates of that post-war time in America: love, romance, fashion, and beauty, they went beyond these norms by depicting aspirational scenarios. These ads created a hunger for independence and personal achievement by deploying a campaign created by women for a product made by a woman, which in a woman-to-woman conversation, told women they could have it all; if only in their dreams.

Works Cited

Carroll, Laura Bolin. “Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps to Rhetorical Analysis” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writings Vol 1, Edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky, Parlor Press, 2011, pp. 45-58.

Forr, James. “What Makes a Campaign Great? The A-B-Cs of Winning Advertising” Quirks Marketing Research Review, December, 2014.

Howard, Vicki. “At the Curve Exchange: PostWar Beauty Culture and Working Women at Maidenform” Enterprise & Society, Vol 1, no. 3, 2000, pp. 591-618. JSTOR.

Maidenform Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Series 6: Advertising 1929-1994.

Osborne, Daniel. A Million Dreams….One Bra Maidenform, University of North Carolina at Asheville, Senior Thesis.

“Peggy Olson’s Got Nothing on the Real Women Behind Maidenform’s ‘I Dreamed…’ Ads” Bust Magazine (http://bust.com/bust-magazine) Accessed December 2014.

Synycia, Natasha. Ida Rosenthal and Her Maidenformidable Empire: Dreamy Advertising and Booming Business in Postwar United States. 2016. University of California, Irvine, PhD Dissertation.

List of Images Discussed
Editor’s Note: Images are viewable as cited by the author. Many images from the “I Dreamed” Campaign are also available at the Smithsonian Archive.

Figure 1 “I dreamed I was a fireman in my Maidenform bra,” 1953.

Figure 2 “I dreamed I won the election in my Maidenform bra,” November, 1952.

Figure 3 “I dreamed I was a Lady Ambassador in my Maidenform bra,” November, 1951

Figure 4 “I dreamed I was a toreador in my Maidenform bra,” May, 1951.

Figure 5 “I dreamed I played in an all-girl orchestra in my Maidenform bra,” April, 1960.

The Insights of Literacy

by Yasmim Alves da SilvaUndercurrents default


For a PDF copy of this essay, click here.

My retired great-grandmother was the one person I had the most contact with during the first seven years of my childhood. She was a tough woman who raised her four daughters as a single mother, against all the traditional standards of a regular woman living in a small community located at the Brazilian amazon in the 20th Century. She never had the chance to attend school, since the closest one was miles away from her home and the only transportation available was by walking. None of her family members could read or write either. Consequently, she had to work in the manioc plantations to make a living and literacy was something she would never be able to focus on. 

By the time I was born, my single mother moved in with my great grandmother and she would let me by her watch most of the time, since my mother was finishing high school and working. Later on, my mother would be traveling a lot and my great grandmother would become the biggest influence in my early education. 

As a consequence, I did not have someone to read me stories before going to sleep or anything possibly related to reading and writing. That situation made me grow as a kid who would project in my mind a mistaken idea upon literacy, not only I thought of it as something mysterious and almost like a secrete shared with only a few selected people, I also felt frustrated by the thinking of how hard it would be for me to comprehend such a knowledge and it affected my confidence upon my capacity of learning. 

Since my mother was the closest person related to me that was literate, her continuous absence would contribute to the way I saw literacy, as something mysterious and hard to reach out to. Although it certainly reflected like a set back to my development, it also made me think ambitiously about learning that challenging thing, because I wanted to attract my mother’s attention and have her to be proud of me somehow. 

One obstacle I faced was the fact that, in the city I was living, there was no public early education system. There was only public middle schools and then I would have to wait until I turned seven years old so I could attend school. 

The first time I had access to children books was by a very kind teacher who lived in my neighborhood and knew that I was not attending any educational program until I was old enough to go to middle school. So quite often she would bring me some used books that I was very grateful for, the one book I recall tracing my way to a world of imagination and curiosity, was about the Amazon folklore, its title I don’t remember, but there zere many legends about mystique entities captivating stories. 

Something to be considered is that I was the only child in my home, living under the super protective care of my old great grandmother and I would only go to school by the age of seven years old. As consequence I would grow to be an introverted and shy child. My escape from reality and the way to keep me busy was to focus on those books and imagine what was its content, some of them had pictures and drawings that was very helpful for me to create the stories I thought was written there. 

Certainly, learning how to read is not something we can do without help and guidance, and I realized that very soon. I wanted to completely understand how to decode those elegant patterns called words. So, I would do anything to catch my mother’s attention every time I got to spend time with her, she seemed to be surprised by my obsessive interest and I could see that she was appreciating my personal initiative. I knew she was tired, but as a kid I did not fully understood what that meant and being told “not today” would make me very upset. 

Finally, being able to attend school was a big event in my life. Excitement and nervousness took over myself during the weeks prior to the first day of classes. The first day of school I remember waking up two hours earlier to the time I should be there. I was very focused to what my teacher was explaining and looking forward to have homework to do. Therefore, even though I was a little behind my classmates I learned how to read really fast and soon enough I would be advanced to the class I was in, then my teacher (who I had a close relationship by then) said that I should skip one grade. And so I did with Ms. Suzane’s intervention. That grade skipped made a big difference, with that I could be placed in a class with same ages classmates. 

Just to clarify, I was living in a Portuguese speaking community, which is indeed my native language. I, personally, love to read poems in Portuguese since I was the age of thirteen and one of the things that influenced me to enjoy poetry happened during a year of middle school, in which I would be presented to poetry. And further, read like a writer, because I would need some inspirations to write my own poems. 

One of my favorite moments as a middle school student, for sure, was a national poem contest that my teacher chose me and my best friend to represent our class and surprisingly we won the contest in our school, but did not make to the national contest. The contest required us to write a poem about the place we lived giving the details about the special characteristics that made that place unique. It was an awesome way to start using writing more seriously, and since then I got really interested about writing. 

Not only did this contest made me gain interest in writing, but it also expanded the way I would see writing, since it gave many aspects to take in consideration like having for the first time a designated audience, the genre and the purpose. Such details would bring me closer to a few aspects that L. Lennie Irvin pointed out as “Academic Writing” situation in a chapter in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 1. 

One important observation that I was realizing about my writing was that it continuously changed accordingly to what I was reading and, in fact, I can see clear now that I was exercising what Mike Bunn said about reading like a writer in a chapter extracted from Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 2. Not only I was using the contents as an inspiration to create my own stories, I was also copying some styles I could notice on my readings. The poem phase of my adolescence was pretty intense, basic almost everything I was seeing and reading I could associate with the poem’s structures and create my own poem versions of many fairy tales. 

What really changed my writing style during my adolescence was becoming part of a theatre independent group, which turned out to be my favorite discourse, during two years. There I had contact with comedy and a lot of drama texts, all written by an university professor who had acted in that group years before. Between the many acting exercises we had to practice frequently, there was a writing exercise, which we had to write unique drama monologues and perform it. It definitely helped me expand my writing abilities, be more conscious about the audience reaction upon what I wrote and use reflection, such as Kathleen Blake Yancey explained in “Reflection in the Writing Classroom”. 

Being able to write made me feel fortunate and possessing a powerful tool, such a versatile method of expression was something I really appreciate during my whole life and I could not think of myself without this ability. Nevertheless, life comes to surprise and challenge us. When I moved to United States without any previous direct experience of English using, I felt really lost and underestimated in so many ways that all I could do was feel frustrated for a while. 

I felt like a child who was neglected with not only the abilities of reading and writing, but talking as well. All my self-conceit in communication and using of language was dropped so quickly that it affected my confidence and how I would think of myself as a literate person. Many thoughts were going on in my mind, like “Everything that I valued as a concrete knowledge does not mean anything anymore?”. 

This phase was a confusing self-evaluation and how to make old knowledges add up to new contexts and ways to continue the started path of learning such things as grammar and creative writing. As an autodidact, I used many available tools to learn English and about the American culture itself, such as TV shows, books and music. Obvious it was not easy (and still it is not sometimes), but it certainly changed for the best, as I needed to face this new challenge and get out of my comfort zone. It really is a matter of opening myself to different realities and being able to change how to act upon new places and culture. 

Something that I really missed was being part of a discourse that I would be expressing myself, and that changed when I saw myself in a Latin Dance Club and fell in love with dance right away, I felt tuned and connected with a group of people once again, and only by the fact of interacting with diverse people contributed to my writing relearning process, as I had people to write text messages and have face-to-face conversations. Not only that all, but doing something I love is just incredible itself, it affected positively in my social life as I was becoming a more outgoing person and I remember identifying with a quote I read from an autobiography book I was reading at the time. Maya Angelou’s wrote “Dancing liberated me and even made me feel as if my body had a reason to be.” I could not use better words to describe it.  

Works Cited 

Angelou, Maya. Mom & Me & Mom. Random House, April 2013. 

Bunn, Mike. “How to Read Like a Reader.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol2, edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky, Parlor Press, 2011, pp. 71-86. 

Irvine, L Lennie. “What Is ‘Academic’ Writing.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing Vol. 1 edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 3-17. 

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Reflection in the Writing Classroom.” (1998) All USU Press Publications. 120. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/120. 

A Close Look at the Function of Slang 

Ana Radonjic Sabbaghby Ana Radonjic Sabbagh 

Ana is an undecided major, born and raised in Boston to Serbian and Lebanese parents. Writing has always been a passion of Ana’s, and she created this research essay as a final project for her Composition II course. She notes that “it was a topic that became increasingly interesting the more I researched it. I was thoroughly surprised by the complex history and function of slang, and I gained a new perspective on the role of language in our daily lives.” Other than writing, Ana’s biggest passion is traveling, and she loves discovering new places, meeting people from all around the world, and learning about different cultures.


For a PDF copy of this essay, click here.

We encounter slang on a daily basis, whether it’s through spoken word, text messages, social media posts, or the slang-ridden Internet. There is no doubting the prevalence of slang in our everyday conversations and interactions, however what I’m interested in is discovering what role slang plays in our everyday lives. Why do we use slang? What does it achieve? In other words, I want to know the function of slang. Many people view slang in a negative way, and even consider people who use it heavily stupid, uneducated, or lazy. I, however, think there’s more to slang than what meets the eye, and in the following, I will attempt to illustrate the significance and function of slang. 

Slang is known as “very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language (“Slang”). Linguists have struggled to clearly define slang, but what they have come up with so far is that slang is “a linguistic phenomenon ever present and consistently changing” (“Slang”). Linguists Bethany K. Dumas and Jonathan Lighter claim that if words and phrases meet the following criteria then they are considered slang: “1. Its presence will markedly lower, at least for the moment, the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing; 2. Its use implies the user’s special familiarity either with referent or with that less statusful or less responsible class of people who have such special familiarity and the use of the term; 3. It is a tabooed term in ordinary discourse with persons of higher social status or greater responsibility; 4. It is used in place of the well-known conventional synonym, especially in order (a) to protect the user from the discomfort caused by the conventional item or (b) to protect the user from the discomfort or annoyance of further elaboration” (Dumas & Lighter 14-15). This is the most concise definition of slang I came across, and I believe it covers every possibility of what can be considered slang. It also implies situations where slang is used, which will be helpful in starting to understand the function of slang. Some examples of common slang words and phrases that are used today are “extra” (used when someone is going over the top in a situation), “salty” (used to describe someone that is angry or bothered), or “throw shade” (to insult someone).  

Before considering the function of slang, it is necessary to consider the significance of language in general. I think the following aspects of language can be directly translated to slang and used to explain the importance of slang, seeing as slang is an integral part of language, and it is a form of language. Anca Sirbu explains that “language is essentially a means of communication among the members of society” and that “common language is the one of the most important features of a community” (Sirbu 1). Furthermore, she states that language is “a tool that conveys traditions and values related to group identity” (Sirbu 1). Seeing as Sirbu talks about language in relation to society, community, and groups, indicates that language has a far greater significance within a group than it does on an individual level. The fact that language is related to group identity is extremely important to consider when it comes to slang, because slang has a strong association with groups. Professor of Linguistics, D.W. Maurer, explains how: 

When an individual applies language in a new way to express hostility, ridicule, or contempt, often with sharp wit, he may be creating slang, but the new expression will perish unless it is picked up by others (Maurer 1). 

It can be concluded that slang only emerges if it is used by a group. Once groups have acquired certain words or phrases, and start using them to communicate with other members of the group, those certain words and phrases will become more known and popular.  

Slang is also connected to the identity of a group. As Sirbu says, language is a conveyor of a group’s tradition and values, and Mauer explains that if a creator of a slang expression/word “is a member of a group that finds his creation projects the emotional reaction of its members toward an idea, person, or social institution, the expression will gain currency according to the unanimity of attitude within the group” (Mauer 1). The fact that slang will only “gain currency” within a group if it matches their attitude is an indicator that slang can be used to express the identity of a group. An example of this can be found in any new generation. As generations come and go, so do certain phrases and words, but there is a reason that slang associated with one generation, is usually not found in the next. Daily Arts writer Sam Rosenberg reminds readers that in the 1950s, “an age swept up in conservative values, young people used “swell” as their very own colloquialism” (Rosenberg). The 1950’s followed WWII, and people were doing their best to recuperate. They had hope for the future and were “content, but many others felt ill at ease because of the speed at which the world was changing” (Shmoop). In order to cope and mask their troubles, people “embraced religion and visited psychiatrists in unprecedented numbers” (Shmoop). “Swell” doesn’t exactly mean that everything is just perfect and amazing but rather that things are okay. I think the fact that “swell” was commonly used during this era, shows that life wasn’t particular the best it could be and there was some troubles, but it also wasn’t as bad as it was during the war, so things were simply fine. Since people in the 50s were trying desperately to distract themselves with things like therapy, and religion and pretend that everything was okay, it makes sense that people were going around telling each other that everything was just “swell”.  

With the change of times, came the change of slang words. During the “lively era” of the ‘80s and the “grunge scene” of the ‘90s, words like “cool,” “groovy,” “wicked,” and “sweet,” became popular (Rosenberg). The new slang words used in the ‘80s and ‘90s expressed the newfound identity of the generation. It was a livelier generation, and therefore the slang words associated with the generation were livelier and more creative. The 70s saw a surge in the Rock and Roll Genre as well as Disco music which “prompted the opening of hundreds of dance clubs around the country,” and “people became free thinkers, questioning government and demanding that their voices be heard” (“70s Culture”). No longer were people pretending everything was okay, they were fighting back, speaking their mind, and pushing against conservative ways. Their livelier demeanor can be seen through the slang terms they used. “Cool” and “groovy” are far more livelier words than “swell” is, because they are more enthusiastic in their definitions; they’re a way of saying something is awesome or excellent. People used “cool” and “groovy” to express genuine interest in something. The 90s are known for being ridden with lust, sex, and drugs, which suggests that people during this era were completely going against conservative values, and weren’t concerned with what was considered morally right during the time. It only makes sense then that “wicked” became a popularly used slang term, seeing as it means evil or morally wrong. Since the 80s and 90s weren’t as conservative as the previous generations, the slang words associated with the previous generations were no longer an accurate representation of the new one. Therefore the old slang expressions disappeared, and new ones that did match the attitude and expressed the generation’s collective identity formed.  

While the above example shows slang’s role in a groups expression of identity, it also exemplifies how slang can be an expression of modernity. Modernity can be thought of as “the self-definition of a generation”, as well as up-to-date and contemporary times— not to be confused with the Modern Era (Snyder). I consider technology to be a good example of Modernity. It is constantly evolving, adapting to contemporary times, and it also defines generations. The 80s will always be remembered for the Walkman, the 90s for the Web, and the 2000s for the iPhone. Similarly, slang is always up-to-date with the times, and as we’ve established it also aids in expressing the identity of a generation. Since generations acquire and form slang that expresses aspects of their generation, I believe that slang is in fact part of a generation’s “self-definition”, and thus slang can be a representation of modernity. Modernity is constantly changing due to its relation to present times, just as slang is constantly changing, because it too, is related to present times. Conversely, modernity is not antiquated; it’s a “departure from traditional styles or values” and the remote past (“Modernity”). This can directly translate to slang, because slang deviates from the past and goes against traditional styles and values.   

One instance where slang expresses modernity and is used to go against traditional styles is in 1954, during the “postwar years” (Fisher 1). During the Royal Tour of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, a controversy occurred when the Queen reportedly said the phrase “‘this must have cost a packet’” after she was gifted a diamond and brooch at a state dinner (Fisher 1). “Cost a packet” is a phrase used in British English, which means to “cost a lot”. In other words, the Queen was expressing that her gift must have been very expensive. Seeing as this was a slang phrase, many people were shocked that the Queen, the epitome of tradition, would use this expression. An Australian magazine called The Argus responded to this controversy by assuring people that “she had said it, and further noted that ‘she is a young woman, modern in her outlook, and, naturally enough, given to using the phrases and expressions of the one for a young women to use’” (Fisher 1). In this incident, the Queen’s slang use is being connected to modernity, and the magazines response is suggesting that a modern outlook can be achieved by using slang. Additionally, the positive tone of the response implies that the magazine is encouraging young woman to use slang phrases and expressions. In other words, the magazine is encouraging the idea of women deviating from traditional styles, in this case traditional vernacular, by using slang.  

Apart from the incident with the Queen, and in addition to slang expressing modernity, slang also played an integral part in liberating women and giving them a voice during the postwar years. Slang words during this time mainly referenced “male experiences”, such as “grazing, the gold rush, bush life, sport, gambling and the military” (Fisher 1). Women were predominantly excluded from slang references, and slang use in general (Fisher 1). They were expected to be “guardians of correct speech”, and were looked down upon if they used any informal language (Fisher 2). However, in the 1940’s, “the emergent teenage culture provided a new space for girls to use slang terms along with boys” (Fisher 2). Slang started being associated with teenagers, and magazines started using slang in order to address teenagers. Eventually, “more respectable publications” started using slang to address the youth, “which indicated that teenage culture had become mainstream and that the use of colloquial language was seen as a normal part of adolescence” (Fisher 2). The emergence of teenage culture and the acceptability of their slang use made it more acceptable for middle-class women to use slang. Slang “came to be considered an important part of speech” which was “a significant aspect of performing modern middle-class femininity”, and it was “promoted and reinforced by women’s magazines” (Fisher 3). One particular magazine took things a step further and encouraged women to make their own slang terms, saying “women must use their own brands of today’s English, not copy the ones men have developed for themselves” (Fisher 3). Women reacted to these magazines by sending in letters, and “the letter pages of women’s magazines were a space within which readers could formulate a distinctive identity as modern middle class women through their use informalities and colloquialisms” (Fisher 3). More importantly, “the language used in these letters therefore worked to create an imagined community amongst readers, which evoked the kinds of conversations women could have over their fences or in their living room” (Fisher 3). The magazines started a conversation among Women, and encouraged them to take control of their femininity, and fight against the belief that women should not use slang. Through these letters and the ongoing conversation between women that was evoked by the magazine, new slang words were created by women that expressed women and their experiences. Slang words like “wifey, coz (cousin)…girlie (daughter), only (only child), hubby, sonny, and Miss Pious”, were created (Fisher 4). These slang words evolved from the stories women told about their everyday life and experiences in the letters that they sent in to the magazines. Women were able to use slang to break through standards, and to liberate themselves from traditional styles. Additionally, by creating their own terms and expressions, slang enabled women to have a voice and use language that represented women, and to finally bring femininity to Australian English. This example shows how slang can liberate a group: by differentiating them from other groups, and giving them their own unique voice.  

Now that we’ve seen what slang can do for a group collectively, it’s important to consider what slang can do for members of a group. Consider once more Sirbu’s claim: “common language is the one of the most important features of a community” (Sirbu 1). Sirbu specifically says a common language is of great importance within a community, in that it’s the fact that a community has a language that everyone understands, that makes language a significant part of a community; it provides a commonality between groups of people. I think slang can be considered a “common language” within a group, because each group has particular slang words and expressions that is common in their group, and that all members understand. Considering slang is a common language within a group it can then be deduced from Sirbu’s claim about common language; that slang in an important feature of a community.  

An example of where slang proves to be an important feature of a community/group is on college campuses. Just as it differs from group to group what particular slang they use to communicate with each other, every college campus has slang particular to their own campus. A study on campus slang found that in order for students to effectively communicate with each other and cooperate with each other, “the first important thing is to speak one common language, that is, campus slang” (Wang 4). A group can have more of an understanding for each other when they use a common language such as slang, which in turn increases the level of communication and cooperation. My personal research resulted in similar findings, with 60% of respondents saying slang can be used for agreeability between individuals, and establishing friendliness between one another. Slang offers commonality to a group or community, and establishes the similarities between members of a group, therefore increasing the cohesiveness of a group. 

Another finding during the study on campus slang was that members use slang simply because it’s fun and creative. The study explains that because the formation of slang entails creating new words, and new meanings out of words, that slang provides college students with “more space for the imagination and creativity” (Wang 3). Similarly, Professor of English and studier of slang Michael Adams says, “There is creative value in the creation of new language among different social groups” (Adams). Surprisingly, only 3% of respondents to my survey said that slang is used in order to be creative. I believe this response is due not to the fact that people don’t think slang is creative, but rather that people don’t use slang with the conscious purpose of being creative, or being seen as creative. It is without question that creativity is strongly associated with slang, because the formation of slang entails innovative, creative, and original thinking.  

Another important factor about slang is that it is often times found in humorous situations, and usually used to convey humor, lightheartedness, and casualness. While observing a particular conversation between three young women over the social media app Facebook, I noticed that the intention behind the majority usage of slang was to be humorous. Consider the following interaction between three members of a group chat:  

Person 1: (Persons name), shut the fuck up what r u trying to do 

Person 2: (Person’s name), you need to chill  

Person 3: ahahahahah damn didn’t mean to start beef  

The term “start beef”, is a humorous way of saying “to have a grudge with another person” (“Beef”). In this example, slang is used to alleviate the tension in the conversation by inserting humor. Consequently, it makes the conversation more lighthearted. If Person 3 had answered something like, “I apologize, I did not mean to start a problem between you two”, it would just add to the seriousness of the conversation and most likely increase tension. In addition to my observations, the survey I posted resulted in 58% of respondents saying slang makes conversations and situations more humorous. Humor aids in making a conversation more casual, and makes situations more relaxed. Therefore, I think the presence of humorous slang allows individuals to let their guard down. This relates with my own research, where 73% of respondents said that slang makes conversations more casual and relaxed. The combination of the humor and casual tone that can be achieved by using slang takes away any stiffness and tension in a situation.  

A specific example of how slang can be used to make conversation more casual is in regards to talking about taboo subjects. Slang “serves to change the level of conversation from formal to informal, allowing users to handle awkward social situations. Slang is often used to discuss semi-taboo subjects, such as: drunkenness, sexual organs and activities, drugs and drug use, ‘elimination’ and ‘bodily waste’” (Hess). While I believe that slang can make awkward conversations easier to navigate because it takes away some formality from the conversation, I also think it makes it easier to talk about the above taboo subjects because completely new names are given to them. That way people can talk about taboo subjects without ever directly needing to say taboo terms. For example, it’s a lot easier to casually talk about genitalia by using slang words, rather than using the scientific terms. What way would you find it more comfortable to ask a friend about drunkenness: How intoxicated are you currently? Or, how hammered are you? I’m guessing the latter, because it allows you to ask about a taboo subject without explicitly needing to say anything. Additionally, an overwhelming 82% of respondents to my survey agree that slang makes it easier to discuss the taboo subjects stated above. Considering all this information, I think slang acts to take away stress associated with formal situations, which in turn relaxes individuals, and makes communication easier, and more casual.  

It is clear that slang is extremely complex, and has a significant role in our daily lives, as well as significance in what it does for our daily lives. There are many important functions of slang, some subtle and some obvious. I see no reason to believe that slang use entails laziness, stupidity, or for lack of a better term, uneducated. In fact, I believe individuals should be impressed with what slang can achieve. My ultimate belief about slang is that it is an impressively powerful tool that we use to break barriers between one another. Consider once more the women during the post-war years who used slang to break the barriers between themselves and men through the use of colloquial language, or the conversation between the three girls where slang was used to break barriers by cutting the tension and inserting some lightheartedness in the situation, and also the fact that slang allows people to break barriers by enabling them to talk about awkward subjects in a casual way. Additionally, the fact that slang establishes agreeability and friendliness with one another, takes away tension in situations, and allows us to cooperate with one another, further proves how slang is used in order to break barriers.  

I’ll leave you with a personal experience, that didn’t make sense to me until my newfound understanding of slang. I am half Serbian and half Lebanese, but I have always been more in touch with my Serbian counterpart. Though I was born in America, Serbian was my first language. I’ve noticed over the years when travelling to Serbia, that my sister and I have a very easy time conversing with and connecting to adults. We’re able to fully understand what they are saying, and they are able to understand what we are saying. We’ve acquired many meaningful relationships with adults from Serbia, whether they are our aunts and uncles, friends of my mom, neighbors that live in my grandmother’s apartment, or even the cashiers at the local markets. What’s strange however, is that my sister and I have gone to Serbia every summer of our lives and we still haven’t really connected with our cousins, which are the only people we encounter there that are our age. This always confused and frustrated me because no matter how much time we spent with them there was always a disconnect, and we just weren’t able to become close with them. It took me years to realize that this disconnect was due to language or more specifically, slang. My sister and I had an immensely hard time understanding what they were saying, and this confusion only occurred when we were talking with our young cousins, but never with adults. It soon became apparent that it was their slang use that confused us, as we weren’t familiar with Serbian slang. We learned Serbian through my mom, and the only person we talk in Serbian to throughout the year is with my grandmother during our weekly phone calls. We learned how to speak Serbian by only listening to and talking to adults, and therefore we never picked up any of the slang that is popular among the youth in Serbia. Looking back at our conversations with our cousins, I’ve realized that we spent a significant amount of time asking what certain slang words they used meant, as well as them trying to clarify those slang words to us. Our conversations consisted mostly of talking about the Serbian language itself and what certain slang words mean, rather than actually talking about meaningful topics that could help us to get to know each other. My sister and I often didn’t understand their jokes seeing as a lot of them involved slang words, and eventually they stopped directing their jokes to us but rather with one another, because our reactions were often blank stares. Similarly, my sister and I started having more and more side conversations between just ourselves when in the presence of our cousins, because we found it awkward trying to have a conversation with them, seeing as it had failed so many times before. To this day, I feel like I barely know my cousins, and every time I see them it feels like we have to introduce ourselves to each other all over again.  

I now strongly believe that if we understood Serbian slang, my sister and I would have been able to break through the barriers between us and our cousins a long time ago. We would be able to joke around using the same slang terms they do, we wouldn’t need to ask them to explain the slang words/phrases they use, and they wouldn’t hold anything back in fear that we wouldn’t understand what they are saying. Additionally, our conversations wouldn’t just stay at the surface, as if we were merely acquaintances rather than family. We never had an understanding for each other because our vocabularies for slang were drastically different. Now, I’m not saying that people who belong in different groups and who are familiar with particular slang can’t interact and having meaningful connections with people from other groups who have their own set of slang their familiar with. I just believe that it’s hard to fully understand each other, if we don’t have the same understanding of particular words and phrases. Perhaps this is why older generations are always talking down the slang that is used by the younger generations, simply because they don’t have an understanding of the slang they use. A common language between people is extremely important in order for cooperation, agreeability, and understanding, and without it, a significant disconnect can occur.  

Works Cited 

Adams, Michael. “Why Slang is Good for You.” Audio blog post. The Takeaway. Public Radio International, 26 Oct, 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2018.

“Beef”. Urban Dictionary,www.urbandictionary.com. Accessed 31 Mar. 2018 

Dumas, Bethany K., and Jonathan Lighter. “Is Slang a Word for Linguists?” American Speech, vol. 53, no. 1, 1978, pp. 5–17. 

Fisher, Catherine Horne. “Let’s Talk it Over: Colloquial Language and Women’s Print Media Cultures in Australia, 1950–1966.” Outskirts 36 (2017): 1-18. ProQuest.7 Mar. 2018. 

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The Good Samaritan: The Role of Religion in One’s Morality 

Kamla Javierby Kamla Javier

Kamla is an Economics major currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. Kamla’s essay, created for her Composition II course, began as an exploration of morality. She set out to examine the stereotypes against non-believers in order to better understand the development of the moral compass and the role religion plays in morality. She writes: “In this day and age where all kinds of people can freely express their opinion, both hurtful and helpful, I also wish to communicate my own beliefs through a logical presentation of information.” Kamla wanted to voice a position that is accepting of all people and “hopefully open a new perspective towards those who distrust non-believers,” since her own initial belief was that religion must play the largest role in one’s moral compass, as was the case for her. While writing this paper, however, she concluded “that there is so much more to morality than just a given set of actions.” When not in class, Kamla enjoys watching movies — she enjoys a love-hate relationship with the horror and thriller genres. She is also a fan of mystery and fantasy movies and loves a good plot twist.


For a PDF copy of this essay, click here.

In Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37 of the New Testament, the parable of the Good Samaritan was told by Jesus himself. In the story, a Jew was robbed, beaten almost to death, and left on the road. A Jewish priest passes by the poor Jew but did not offer him any help; so did the Levite. It was the Samaritan who attended to the needs of the Jew, brought him to a nearby inn, asked the keeper to continue looking after the injured man, and shouldered the expenses. The most interesting part of this story is that historically, Jews and Samaritans had a hostile relationship, even going to each other’s temples and vandalizing them. The Samaritans were practically condemned by the Jews, while Levites and Jews shared a good relationship. The reason why this parable has appealed to the emotions of many people is that although the Samaritan had no reason to stop and help the injured man, he still did. The story teaches us that kindness and moral goodness might come from the most unexpected people, and those from whom we assumed aid – they may not deliver after all.

Morality is one of those ideologies that cannot be quantitatively weighed and is highly judged on a case by case basis. In Moral Instincts, cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker discussed multiple aspects of morality including its roots and varieties. Pinker briefly stated that moral goodness is “justif[ied] with our religions.” True enough, religion seems to be an essential identification tool that people use to distinguish themselves with. Moreover, moral sense is a heavy burden to carry on its own and that’s why “the concept of morality would have to be bigger than any of us and outside all of us” (Pinker 2). However, if one does not associate himself with any religion –such as atheists, agnostics and those who are simply unaffiliated – does he then possess less morality than a theist? Since Pinker did not dive deeper on this aspect, I am going to challenge the notion that morality is justified by one’s religion and by doing so, I will also imply that a lack of religion doesn’t warranty immoral behavior either.

But what is morality? In it’s most basic definition, it is the distinction between good and bad, right and wrong. From there, it varies from person to person depending on their culture, tradition, upbringing, experiences and of course, religion. There is no one-size-fits-all definition that exists for morality. However, out of all those listed, religion and morality intertwine the most. In fact, religion has hugely impacted our sense of moral compass that “it is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious” (Waal qtd in Bloom 187). Paul Bloom in his paper Religion, Morality, Evolution discussed the connections and origins of morality and religion. With the close link between the two, it is not hard to see that a negative perception towards atheists (those who deny the existence of a god), agnostics (those who say there’s no way of telling if there is at least one or not) and the unaffiliated (those who simply don’t want to be associated with any religion) would come naturally.

When we think about serial killing, incest, and necrobestiality, we also think of hate and lust. How can religious people –whose central dogma revolves around love, karma and the like – commit such acts? One answer that people resort to is that immoral acts are carried out by non-believers. In Is Everything Permitted? People Intuitively Judge Immorality as Representative of Atheists, a study done by Will M. Gervais, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky, situations similar to those above were presented and participants were asked to identify the religion –including the option that “[name of the character] doesn’t believe in God”- of the person involved. Results showed that in all three situations, participants selected the person to be an atheist and even atheists themselves identified the lead character to be also an atheist. There seems to be a perception that non-believers are more inclined to behave immorally. As Will mentioned, “to an observer who thinks that religion enables people to inhibit immoral behavior, learning that an agent engages in immoral behavior may be sufficient to lead the observer to intuitively infer that the agent is not religious” (Will 1). Simply, religiosity can exude trust while lack of it can exude distrust and disgust; in an even more unfortunate philosophy, it is vice versa where a trusted person is assumed to be religious and a distrusted person is assumed to be non-religious.

Then, what if the same moral act is done by both a theist and an atheist? Or better yet, what if the same immoral act is done by both a theist and an atheist? The study The Social Cost of Atheism: How Perceived Religiosity Influences Moral Appraisal by Jennifer Wright and Ryan Nichols, professors of psychology and philosophy from College of Charleston and Cal State Fullerton respectively, sought after public opinion on these questions. By presenting participants different situations that deal with infidelity and charity, results show that “a non-religious person behaving immorally was regarded as less anomalous – and behaving morally as more anomalous – than a religious person” (Nichols and Wright 110). Doing the wrong thing is righteously an atheist’s actions, but when the atheist does good, it is not quite right either. Furthermore, because such behavior is considered expected, atheists are thought to be less remorseful compared to their religious counterparts. Some people think that since atheists reject the idea of God, they must also reject His teachings and therefore sinning is in accordance with their lack of religiosity.

As mentioned above, if a religion prohibits a certain act, then whoever commits the act is a sinner and therefore the person is also immoral and non-religious. However, controversial issues that concern morality such as gay marriage and abortion on which the Christian church has a clear stance on, atheists and agnostics show minimal contrasting views compared to other religions. In a research done by the Pew Research Center, American Religious Groups Vary Widely in Their Views of Abortion, data on abortion was aggregated. They collected people’s responses whether they are for or against abortion. The research included 25 religious affiliations including atheists and agnostics. The overall data presented that 87% of atheists and agnostics are for the legalization of abortion (Pew Research Center). Meanwhile, Christian denominations such as Catholic and mainline Protestant show only 48% and 35% support respectively (Pew Research Center). Catholics and Protestants may have a lesser percentage as the church’s stand on pro-life is well known. But, if atheists’ and agnostics’ stance on the issue is a sin to the church which makes them less of a moral being because of their lack of belief in a punishing God, or because they support the murder that is abortion, then non-Christian religions such as Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, wouldn’t show 83%, 55%, and 82% support respectively (Pew Research Center). There is obviously a negative connotation towards non-believers. However, another research, Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage, from the Pew Research Center showcased a different kind of perspective. The data assess whether or not people from varying backgrounds are for or against gay marriage. The findings show that there is less than 20% gap between atheists and Catholics that are in support of gay marriage (Pew Research Center). This gap has been consistent throughout a decade or so and tells us that they don’t share the exact same opinion statistically, but there isn’t much difference either. These controversial issues may be largely judged from a religious perspective but at the same time, the two sets of statistics prove that a non-believer’s perspective doesn’t differ extremely to that of a believer’s.

Stance on social issues doesn’t indicate one’s religiosity but still, some people think that without religion, morality is not possible. Consequently, they are skeptical about atheists and the like “because people intuitively assume that atheists in some way lack a perceived necessary component of morality: religious belief” (Will 2). If that is the case, then religion is a condition of morality. But the argument is invalid as there exist exceptions, such as the good Samaritan. So, why then are theists dubious about non-believers?

First, is the idea of not following any rules that have definite rights and wrongs, such as the Ten Commandments and the Noble Eightfold Path, seems as if atheists and agnostics don’t live by an order that guides their moral compass. Will suggested that people are “uncertain regarding whether or not atheists know which acts are immoral” (Will 7). But, second, it is also a possibility that non-believers do know the distinction between moral and immoral behaviors but lack “an external motivational structure incentivizing morality (e.g., heaven) and disincentivizing immorality (e.g., hell)” (Will 7). Third, the idea that atheists, agnostics, and the like do not believe in a supreme being that watches over their actions and so, doesn’t encourage them to do good or even more so, doesn’t inhibit them to commit immoral acts. Bloom said that “the increased generosity that one finds when people are exposed to religious primes is sometimes attributed to the notion of a supernatural watcher” (Bloom 194). But, if these three points are the reasons why people choose to be virtuous, a reconsideration of what morality really means is needed.

I sat down with Professor Gary Zabel, a philosophy professor teaching Moral and Social Problems in UMass Boston, and talked about religion, morality, and atheism. Professor Zabel was a Catholic until his adolescent years when he decided to not affiliate himself with any religion. When I asked him if morality is possible without religion he said that religion has certainly influenced the lifestyle of its believers, even for himself as he still carries the teachings of his Catholic family, however, “doing something because an authority told you to do so is not morality but fear” (Zabel). Professor Zabel makes an important point; the fear of not obliging, or the fear of punishment is not what morality is. If we justify our moral goodness because it is what a supreme entity commands, then we follow blindly out of mere obedience. Morality should be done out of so much more than a plain reward after a good deed; it shouldn’t be excluded to people who don’t share the same beliefs, and certainly, it shouldn’t exclude one’s self, “you cannot make yourself an exception. You have to consider yourself as one among many” (Zabel). Professor Zabel admitted that he follows the basic principle, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Furthermore, morality can be as great as what the good Samaritan exemplified – going out of his way to help a Jew, but that fact didn’t even matter anymore; he only saw an injured man that badly needed help. If the renegade Samaritan aided the beaten Jew, then non-believers can also do good. If the priest and the Levite ignored the beaten Jew, theists can also be immoral.

Atheism and agnosticism don’t have to be perceived poorly. Alain de Botton, a philosopher and author who gave a talk on one of TED’s conferences, discussed a new kind of atheism – atheism 2.0. De Botton admitted that the secular life is not perfect and believes it is nonsense to completely reject religion and not benefit from any of its good characteristics. For example, religion has sermons while secular life has lectures and differentiates in a way that a sermon’s goal is to change lives while a lecture’s goal is to give information (de Botton). Between the two, it is the lesson from sermons that have a lasting impression on its listener because the messages are emphasized over and over again (de Botton). Another example is art; in the secular world, art is for art’s sake, while in the religious world, art is used as a tool to reinforce divine figures and concepts (de Botton). There are many more aspects of life that religion does better than the secular world because the way their ideologies are delivered is a “highly effective mechanism” and that is exactly why there is nothing wrong with picking and mixing the best parts of religions even when one doesn’t believe in the entity (de Botton). Atheists do not have to live a “less meaningful life” as people would assume (Nichols and Wright 95). In truth, science is completely incompetent in the emotional realm; it doesn’t tackle morality and that’s why people turn to religion for their faith. Anything that gets more complicated, such as evolutionism, is often not favored when an all powerful and omnipresent God exists out there. But, religion isn’t only about deities – it also revolves aspects in which the secular world can always learn from.

The relationship between religion and morality is indeed, a strong one. However, the notion that religion is requisite in order to tell right from wrong and do good instead of bad, is misinterpreting the beauty of morality. After all, the difference between an atheist and a Christian is only one God when compared to other religions that believe in many more. It is not to dismiss, however, that religion is irrelevant. Religion has an undeniable and immense impact on anyone that chooses to believe in it, but even without having to suppose the existence of a God, “religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they are not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone, they’re for all of us” (de Botton).

Works Cited

American Religious Groups Vary Widely in Their Views of Abortion. Pew Research Center, 22 Jan. 2018. www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/22/american-religious-groups-vary-widely-in-their-views-of-abortion/. Accessed 28 Apr. 2018.

Bloom, Paul. “Religion, Morality, Evolution.” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 63, pp. 179–199.

Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage. Pew Research Center, 26 June 2017. www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/. Accessed 28 Apr. 2018.

De Botton, Alain. “Atheism 2.0.” TED, Jan 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oe6HUgrRlQ

Gervais, Will M. “Everything Is Permitted? People Intuitively Judge Immorality as Representative of Atheists.” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 4, p. e92302.

New International Version. Biblica, 2011.  BibleGateway.com,  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV

Pinker, Steven. “The Moral Instinct.” New York Times (1923-Current File), 13 Jan. 2008, p. A32.

Wright, Jennifer, and Ryan Nichols. “The Social Cost of Atheism: How Perceived Religiosity Influences Moral Appraisal.” Journal of Cognition and Culture, vol. 14, no. 1-2, 2014, pp. 93–115.

Zabel, Gary. Personal interview. 1 May. 2018.

Profanity and Perceptions

by Elizabeth Lefrancois

Elizabeth LefrancoisLizzie is an Exercise and Health Science major from Blackstone, Massachusetts. Assigned by her Composition II instructor to research an aspect of language that interested her, Lizzie chose to research swearing, which was never allowed in her home. Lizzie’s research enabled her to “open [her] eyes and see much more than a lack of vocabulary” when she heard others using profanity. She explains, “I felt as if I was programmed to think that swearing was this terrible thing that no one should do, and, because of that, I never thought about the positive side of this language.” Lizzie’s essay explores why people use profanity and how others perceive those who swear; she analyzes the different perspectives of language through the lenses of age, relationships, and gender. Lizzie enjoys most physical activities, but especially running with her 11-year old pug Lucky (whom she will often push in a stroller while he naps).


For a PDF copy of this essay, click here.

Profane language has been described as “socially offensive language,” which is also recognized by many other names, such as, “bad words,” “foul language,” “swearing,” and “cursing” (“Profanity”). It is often considered rude or disrespectful in most contexts, yet people still choose to integrate it in everyday conversations. This left me confused, as a majority of profane language is described in a negative way. Why then, do people choose to use this language? And how are these people viewed by others? 

A common answer to the first question posed would be that swearing occurs as reaction to a problem or negative circumstance. It allows the user to express these “negative emotions” regarding particularly to anger and frustration. But, with more research I have found that there is more to it than just that. People tend to use profanity because it allows them to express emotions in a more understandable way. It is easy to distinguish what a person is feeling simply by the tone of their voice or the expressions they use, but, by adding swears to these reactions, such as “that’s fucking awesome,” instead of simply “that’s awesome,” it helps others to determine the extent of the speaker’s feelings towards the subject. In my own research I have found that nearly all of the interviewees use swearing to do this exact thing. One particular interviewee stated that, “[swearing] gets the point across [and] explains what I can’t,” (Robeau). I understand this as adding a shock value to the subject, which, in turn, adds emphasis, allowing for a better explanation of the speaker’s feelings. 

Another reason why profanity is used is because it aids in building interpersonal relationships. This specific way of communicating allows people to subtly “feel at ease” with one another and develops “relationship[s] to the extent of being able to speak to each other like [friends]” (Baruch 155). This means that this particular language helps break tension when a person is in a social circumstance. A better explanation could be a situation where you are on a packed shuttle heading to school or work. The driver suddenly stops as a car cuts off the bus, causing presumably unwanted physical contact between you and a stranger. Now, this could be an awkward situation, especially if you are face to face with this person and no other interaction has taken place. But, if the stranger states something like “wow, that guy’s an asshole,” it gives an outlet to dismiss the uncomfortable situation, because it acknowledges the predicament while also posing it as an accident. In a variety of interviews that I have conducted pertaining to this matter, I have found that most of the population tends to swear when presented with a similar social circumstance. For example, a 19 year old interviewee explained that, “[swearing] diffuses the situation… I feel more comfortable because the attention of the situation is redirected onto something else,” (Hartsgrove). This is important especially when used in the correct context. This could be a variety of things, such as to tease, joke, relieve social tension, or to emphasize important points, which essentially “breaks the ice” so to speak, when among strangers or even colleagues. Simply put, “It can be used as a tool to gain ground among peers, make tighter bonds and create a good reputation” (Finn 23). This is key to any social situation, as it encourages easier communication between the individuals.   

Along with clarity and relieving awkward situations, profanity can aid in other social gains, particularly relating to reputation. It has been found that “statements containing swear words [are] seen as more believable” which then strengthen relationships, allowing for “mutual trust and understanding” (Johnson and Lewis 107, Baruch 155). To clarify, this pretty much translates to; swearing can make a statement appear more honest, and in turn, the person who says them is perceived as honest as well. I found this very interesting, considering the common stigma around profanity. Growing up, I have always been told that swears are unacceptable and force people to see you as unintelligent and untrustworthy. My research has shown very similar beliefs. One interviewee explained, “My parents have always associated swearing with sex, drugs, and rock n roll… essentially, everything they wanted to protect me from” (Thibodeau). This shows the subconscious embedding of the negative view we tend to have towards swearing. However, research from the University of Cambridge, Maastricht University, Hong Kong University and Stanford University has found that not only is this statement true, but there is actually a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty. One of the researchers from the University of Cambridge explains, “If you filter your language when speaking then you’re probably also filtering what you’re saying as well. Someone who does not filter their language… is more likely to be saying what they think to be true, so are being more honest and genuine from their perspective” (Blair). So if swearing has so many benefits, why do people refrain from using them?  

One reason for hesitancy would be because this language tends to be associated with masculinity, limiting the use by females. This is because it is thought that swearing “goes hand in hand with other traditionally ‘male’ pursuits… such as binge-drinking and pornography” and actually “destroy[s] the benefits of the equality [that] so many [women] have worked towards,” (Kupfermann). Even though I do not agree, this particular article states that women who choose to use profanity are working against equality by conforming to an area previously dominated by men. These ideas prevent the previously mentioned social benefits, simply because of sexist opinions. To dig deeper in this topic, I asked a variety of people what their personal opinions were when regarding first women who swear, followed by men who swear. The overall finding was a clear distinction between the opinions of older and younger people as to what is offensive and what is not. The older group tended to think of the language as “disrespectful” and “unpleasant to hear,” and also regarded younger females who swore as “unlady-like” (Lefrancois). In contrast, they regarded men or boys who swear as more acceptable. When discussing this topic with the younger group though, it was found that they regularly swore within their friend groups and were overall unfazed by the use of these words. It amazes me to still see this shaming of women associated with the use of profanity, especially from older generations who claim to have simply “not been raised to think of it as okay to do” (Tancrell). Even when presented with actual data which proves the positive effects of profanity, people tend to be set in tradition, rather than embracing different ways to communicate.  

Another reason would simply be because of context or lack of understanding. For example, if a person is unable to recognize appropriate times to use profanity, they could come across as “less intelligent or attractive, or [could be] thought of as rebellious, unstable, [or] disrespectful” (Finn 23). It is important to be able to recognize when these words can be applied in order to correctly use them. Both groups of interviewees recognized that there are times that profanity must be avoided, particularly around children, respected elders, or in a church-like setting. But other times can be difficult to decipher because of varying opinions of individuals. For instance, some parents may forbid profanity in its entirety, while others may use it themselves. It is important to consider the other person’s views, and what is socially acceptable for that particular instance when choosing language for the situation.   

At the start of my research, I understood the idea of swearing usually regarded as something to be avoided, as it has an overwhelmingly negative reputation. When continuing to immerse myself in the topic though, I find that this is simply not true. There are so many benefits, especially pertaining to relationship building when choosing to integrate swears in everyday settings. Although I do not swear, I find it fascinating that there are so many unseen (or maybe more accurately described as overlooked), benefits to using profane language, especially because of the largely negative view of it embedded to my understanding since I was a child. Now knowing what I do, I actually think that swearing should be encouraged, in order to get rid of the negatives addressed in the paragraphs above. Obviously, I am not saying that everyone should start cussing at anyone and everyone they come in contact with, I also think that it is really important to consider the context of where and when you should swear, if you would like to. But, I now perceive these conversations in a lighter view and have a better understanding to the appeal of profanity as a social enhancement rather than a prohibitor.

Works Cited

Baruch, Yehuda. “Swearing at Work: The Mixed Outcomes of Profanity.” Journal of Managerial Psychology. 2017. ProQuest Central. Accessed 5 March 2018.

Blair, Olivia. “People Who Swear More Are More Honest, New Psychology Study Finds.” Independent Co, 6 Jan. 2017. Accessed 20 April 2018.   

Finn, Eileen. “Swearing: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.” ORTESOL Journal. 2017. ProQuest Central. Accessed 5 March 2018. 

Hartsgrove, Adriana. Personal Interview. 21 March 2018. 

Johnson, Danette. Lewis, Nicole. “Perceptions of Swearing in the Work Setting: An Expectancy Violations Theory Perspective.” Communication Reports Vol. 23, No. 2, July–December 2010, pp. 106–118. Google Scholar. Accessed 3 April 2018. 

Kupfermann, Jeannette. “How I Loathe the Women Destroying Equality by Swearing Like Troopers, Says Writer Jeannette Kupfernann.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 10 Nov. 2016. Accessed 20 April 2018. 

Lefrancois, John. Personal Interview. 26 March 2018. 

“Profanity.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 February 2018,  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/profanity. Accessed on 4 March 2018. 

Rasmussen, Jeffrey. Moely, Barbara. “Impression Formation as a Function of the Sex Role Appropriateness of Linguistic Behavior.” Sex Roles, VoL 14. Google Scholar.  Accessed 3 April 2018. 

Robeau, Alex. Personal Interview. 22 March 2018. 

Tancrell, Melissa. Personal Interview. 21 March 2018. 

Thibodeau, Megan. Personal Interview. 28 March 2018.