Well, for one thing, a world without profanity is the very definition of fantasy – and not the good kind, but the syrupy sweet, black-and-white kind. Grimdark posits a world or worlds in which our “heroes” are morally ambiguous. To the Grimdark reader, this feels more authentic and is more reflective of the world in which we live.
Go ahead, google “Percentage of people who use profanity.” You’ll see it’s well upwards of sixty percent and, in some estimations, even as high as seventy-five (for men). Transitioning from a world in which we hear a fair amount of profanity into a world or worlds in which it never occurs can be too much to ask. But what about unicorns, you say. There are unicorns in fantasy but not in the real world (spoiler alert), and yet we have no trouble accepting that. I would argue there has to be some realism in our fantasy, or it becomes unrelatable. Adjusting the language seems the obvious place to start. Also, the judicious use of profanity allows us to make the coarse characters coarser and the refined characters more refined. Also, profanity is natural.
While scholars argue about its exact age, textual evidence tells us that the “f-word” is hundreds of years old. Hundreds. We’ve been using it for so very long that it’s become a part of the fabric of who we are on some level. Trying to pretend it isn’t part of our language limits our language, makes us, ironically, less expressive than we are.
I used to dislike David Mamet’s earlier plays for their excessive use of swearing. As I got older, I came to see how swearing can define a character. Watch Glengarry Glen Ross and see how Al Pacino uses profanity to seduce, whereas for Ed Harris, it becomes the primal scream of someone who lacks the tools to say more. Profanity also offers a way for a rough man to fit in with other rough men. And there aren’t many successful fantasies in which the protagonists are fops.
In the end, the profanity in Grimdark simply offers us an additional choice. Like the myriad ways in which coffee can be enjoyed, you can now take your fantasy without or without profanity. How is this a bad thing?