Friday, April 22, 2005

A Green Light For Blue Language?

As long as kids have been kids, there have always been some that took great pride is cursing like the proverbial sailor. When I was a child, most kids didn't use much foul language. And those that did never did so in the presence of adults. Today...things are different:

Kids might be punished when they swear in front of their parents, but the penalty is usually milder than liquid soap, especially if the children have heard the same words from Mom or Dad.

I have spoken about swearing to entire student bodies at high schools and middle schools. When I ask the students how many of them swear, more than 90 percent of the boys and girls shamelessly raise their hands. I ask them if their parents swear. More than 70 percent of hands shoot up.

Does it matter? Our language evolves along with our culture. The rigid and repressive mores of the 1950s have been replaced with informality. Some say our relaxed culture - from casual dress to casual sex - has gone too far. Others are content with the freedom to do as they please, say what they want to say, use whatever words they want to use, and give their individual rights precedence over the rights of others.

What about the parents who prefer not to have their children swear? What can they tell their kids? How can certain words be bad if they are said on TV, in movies, at ball games, and at their friend's house? Are they just harmless words, forbidden by outdated social conventions?

Maybe curse words are now widely accepted - or tolerated - but they are still unpleasant. They have lost some of the harshness, but still convey a tone and attitude that adds to our stress and weariness by the end of a long day of hearing them.

Once, when I was about 12-years-old, my mother overheard me say something inappropriate while I was cutting the grass. I can still remember the revolting taste of the Irish Spring. I counted myself lucky. If mom had told my dad it wouldn't have been soap that I would have had to worry about, but a Certain Piece of a cut branch...
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