To paraphrase the incomparable Stephen King:
“Talk, whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character. In the end, the important Q has nothing to do with whether language is sacred or profane; the only Q is how true it rings on the page and in the ear.”
I mention this because whenever I hear someone use the word “heck,” I wince.
As in, “What the heck!”
Or, “You scared the heck outta me!”
Or, as I heard Rachel Maddow preposterously declare recently when describing a raucous Donald Trump rally,
“Several varieties of heck broke out.”
Is she kidding? Could there be a more ungainly turn of phrase than that?
You can actually feel the awkwardness when people use “heck.” They know how stilted it sounds. They’re aware that it’s juvenile, that it doesn’t really work or suit them. Still despite the discomfort many use it anyway too cowardly, even in the year 2016, to spit out “You scared the shit outta of me.” or “What the hell.” or heaven forbid “What the fuck.”
Let’s be quick to also note, however, that anyone who gratuitously drops F bombs every other word is not cool, just vulgar.
But if the use of the vernacular comes from someone with command of the language who knows how to be selectively and effectively profane (and most don’t) , and if profanity is the best choice, which it sometimes is, well, then no matter how facile you may be with the language, in those instances profanity becomes poetry. You might not like to use the word “fuck”, but sometimes you’re just stuck with it and it becomes a “heck” of a way to enrich the language.
There, you see how false and empty it sounds? I can barely get it out even in ridicule.