Far be from me to cast any stones. I am not saying my language is pristine. I can’t say that when I stub my toe I say “Oh, goodness, that certainly hurts”; or when wroth about something that I say “I am extremely put out” instead of using some of the more powerful Anglo-Saxon expressions in my arsenal in order to punctuate my pain or righteous indignation. And further, because of the ubiquity of profanity, I find it difficult for these words not to invade my thoughts with greater frequency as time goes by, much to my dismay. But the growing acceptance of the cruder aspects of the English language in situations that in the past were not considered acceptable bothers me. I realize that this puts me in the minority and don’t expect much (any?) support on this issue but feel it is something worth pointing out.
I had been considering for some time writing a post on this topic, but could not think how to do so without sounding like a sanctimonious reactionary. But then I ran across the following letter to the editor in the Anderson Valley Advertiser; which for my money (1 buck) is the best newspaper I have ever seen (even though they are guilty in my mind of violating the very issue that this post is about). Anyway, the following letter says what I want to say far better then I ever could:
A political staffer’s casual use of the word “whore” (“Brown’s phone flub may give Whitman an opening,” SF Chronicle, October 9) calls attention to the increased levels of bleepable words in current social conversation.
While the Whitman camp’s reaction was overwrought and I’m not so sure the word is profane, it’s not a bad thing that notice was taken. It’s becoming rare to sit down in a café, stand in a market line, or enjoy a social gathering without being assaulted by various terms formerly confined to certain rough environments.
Some say that we shouldn’t care about those words, that objecting is prudish. But words have power to evoke imagery and emotion to either eliminate discourse or pollute the social environment.
To be sure, the provoking pugnacity of dirty words can at times add color or force to selected messages. That’s lost when the words become common. The saying, “You get what you put up with” applies. The more we put up with profanity, the more likely we are to bear it everywhere — in media, at dinner tables and business meetings and, of course, from children.
For the most part, profanity pollutes our social environment, leaving little room for respect, civility and kindness.
Thank you Maureen.
Let me just add that I think these words when overused become poor substitutes for real communication. The complexities and nuances of the English language are infinite in possibilities. Yet more and more these few words allow us to avoid thoughtful exchanges of ideas by carelessly substituting them for thoughtful discourse.
Oh, and you can stand on my lawn anytime.