A fella in Bakersfield emailed me this note two days ago:
“Love the fact that you’re promoting cycling, and the $0.00 per gallon concept is brilliant! Kudos to you, and hope you make some serious money off of it. However, hate the fact that you use profanity on your website – that’s really uncalled for. Why not get rid of it? Nothing wrong with making cycling family friendly, plus I suspect you’re clever enough to come up with witty things to say without using it.”
Here’s what I wrote back:
Thanks for shouting out, and for digging the ZPG idea. I dig it too, though I can assure you, making serious money on the idea is not part my plan.
Having lots of fun, though, is… and that’s sort of the reason for much of the profanity. But let me make my case better: I’m a trained writer. I studied it in college, got a master’s degree in journalism, and have written for many big publications. And then, just like that, I burned out on it — at least on parts of it. Everything started to seem so dull and formulaic, and much of it became soporific to me. Now, I don’t wanna type everything in UPPER CASE, or use a million !!!! exclamation points, and become some sort of ranting lunatic [like so many in the blogosphere], but I do wanna make my writing more real, more honest, more human. And since I’m an adult (and since most of my readers are adults), I use the words shit, fuck, ass, and whatever else I can come up with.
Bear with me: I don’t think there are any “bad” words. I think it’s possible to write (or say) extremely derogatory/vulgar things, but I don’t think the problem is the array or curse words out there. Sure, the words help. But it’s the sentences, and the intent behind them, that hurt. Now go back and look what I’ve written. Most of it’s a parody of something I’m fed up with. It’s opinionated — and maybe even rude — but not belittling, or insulting. In fact, I don’t even think it’s inappropriate for kids. Language has power only because we give it power. Someday, we’ll have used up the power of the words fuck and shit, and we’ll come up with some replacement… and then another.. and then another…. endlessly reinventing some “naughty” word.
So, the way I see it, getting rid of particularly words isn’t the way to go. Cycling is (and always will be) family-friendly — and if my website forces some parent out there to have a discussion about language and appropriateness, I’m all the happier for it. And in the meantime, I hope it keeps most everyone else out there laughing, and maybe even thinking about what the fuck we’re saying.