I work a night job that has me traveling dark country roads for several hours each night. The nightly shift begins with our entire crew gathering in a warehouse to pick up the product that we distribute.
The crew is a diverse group, black and white, male and female, young and old. In the hour or so that we spend together there is a lot conversation passing back and forth throughout the working area and the language tends toward crude.
Anyone who has read any of my dozen novels will know that I am not a prude. Some of my fictional characters use words and descriptive phrases that would make a Marine drill sergeant blush. And I am not objecting to the fact that the “F-bomb” is the most frequently used adjective, often prefaced with the word “mother.” My problem has to do with another aspect of the discourse.
Often on holidays or during the Summer when school is out some of the crew will bring small children to work with them. My concern is that having the little guys present does not change the language being used.
The event that brought this home was when a crew member had his first grader with him and one of the ladies said with a smile, “he’s getting his real education here.” The reply was, “too much so. He has to go to speech therapy because the school says some of the words he uses are not appropriate.” The lady then said, “that school needs to get real, kids are gonna talk like everyone else.”
When it comes to the use of profanity I admit that I sometimes use words that cannot be broadcast on the radio but I do so consciously and for shock value or to emphasize a point. Words not only mean things, used in context they should also invoke specific emotional responses. This purpose is lost when there are no boundaries.
I am not advocating a return to the censorship of the last century, a time when public obscenity was a crime but we do edit our writing to fit the intended reader. Why not edit our speech to fit our listeners before we all begin to sound like a massive collection of Tourette’s Syndrome victims.