I was having one of my odd moments of just sort of wondering about questions I really don’t care the answer to; this particular one is “why do rappers swear so much?”
Well, from poetry, swearing makes a lot of sense. For example assume A and B are your rhymes, and numbers indicate syllable counts of words.
2 4 3 2 1 A
5 3 2 1 1 B
Now in the proceeding rhyme, you’re solid. Twelve syllables each line and a tidy rhyme at the end. But what if it looked like this:
2 4 1 2 1 A
6 3 2 1 1 B
Well then the top line has ten syllables, and the flow is all off. Just in regular poetry I know that’s not supposed to happen (though often does.) But what if we slip in one “Fucking” which we will label as “Swear”
2 4 SWEAR 1 2 1 A
6 3 2 1 1 B
Now you have a nice clean (kind of) 12 syllables per line again. There are swears of one syllable through… Jesus, I just thought of one with nine that was ridiculously vulgar. They string together quite nicely. And most of these words can be used as nouns, verbs, or adjectives. They are designed to ride other words; these words are literally designed to be superfluous to the conversation. That makes swears an amazingly versatile writing tool.
Also, swears are words of the common man. I don’t mean swearing makes you common; just that everyone high and low knows these swears. Because of this, and because most of them were designed at a time people couldn’t read (none of these words are new, read “The Pearl” (not the Steinbeck novel) some time and you’ll be shocked how accessible Victorian profanity is) so they are short, punchy words with simple ending construction like “hit” “uck” “unt” “itch.” Basically, because they’re simple, they rhyme with a lot of words, including ones of more complicated or intellectual construction.
True, there are quite a few rappers who don’t swear, just like most poets don’t. But I gotta tell you those people are working a lot harder than we are. Look up how many words rhyme with “Shit” or “Fuck” or “Bitch” in a rhyming dictionary some time. Not even counting near rhymes, it’s a God-damned lot of them.
So next time a rapper tells you that all these “Mother-fucking people” are eyeballing him, instead of going “Is all that mother-fucking really necessary?” Instead think “Wow, he must have needed four syllables.”
It’s a sign of good craftsmanship.