PEPER COLUMN: Crying foul over rough language
As a teenager with my family at a restaurant, my father politely but firmly asked some guys using profane language at a nearby table to be a little more respectful because “there’s a lady present.” I was embarrassed then, but recall it quite differently now. What’s happened to us and how we talk “to” and “at” each other?
Most of my life has been spent in locker rooms and newsrooms. Both places can be volatile, earthy environments. In those places of stress, disappointment, anxiety and deadline-driven mania, salty sentiments can peel the paint off the walls. Those profane pronouncements, though, seem no longer restricted to specific areas where testosterone trumps common decency.
The words have crept into music, and to a lesser degree, even the TV sitcoms.
We may have reached a point where certain words that were once off-limits are so regularly used, nobody notices. If that’s the case, then the problem isn’t them, it’s us.
What the ?
Experts tell us that swearing and cursing exist in all languages. Men, more than women, are most often the offenders, but that, too, is changing.
Words that once were heard when somebody was really mad, or extremely upset, or violently irritated are now uncommonly common.
Don’t get me wrong, when a hammer hits your thumb or a golf ball takes an unlucky bounce out of bounds or some guy on a cellphone swerves into your lane, there are only a couple of suitable responses and none of those would be “my, my … I wish that hadn’t happened.”
One language expert even says that swearing relieves physical pain and recommends it. The reason? It’s a healthy release.
Sticks and stones
Here’s the problem. Everyday language has become so out of control that we’re all bombarded by many who use these words just to make conversation. It might be at the mall’s food court, waiting at the grocery store checkout, ordering a frappa/mocha/latte/venti/chai (OK, now that is offensive) or even while just walking on the sidewalk.
Words that were once “off-color” or inappropriate or not for mixed company are now raining down from all directions.
Does it say anything about us or is it no big deal and just how it is?
We all know that children use potty language until they learn better. Teenagers also start testing boundaries by using words that stretch the limits of acceptable verbal behavior. Most of that corrects itself with time.
The use of some of these words, though, so casually and cavalierly indicate something’s been lost in our society. You know what it is? Respect. For ourselves and each other.
It’s way beyond Rhett Butler’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a ‘bleep.’” That utterance seems tame these days.
To some extent, maybe we’ve all become tone deaf to certain words. It won’t change, though, unless we decide that it should. Whether it’s a dad who’s not afraid to stand up for his family or just a friendly “hey guys, how about we watch the language here?”
Too many of us opt out. We prefer not to say anything or start anything. We just go along to get along.
It doesn’t have to be confrontational, just an honest response birthed by conviction. In order to stand up, it takes a backbone.
I’m just sayin’ …
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com