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.
Well said. The other day, I heard a school child tell another kid ‘to go suck a d@@k. I eye’s nearly popped out, I was so mad that I gave him a firm telling off. Now where did he learn that, I wonder?
Perhaps a better question might be where can he go in today’s society to avoid that sort of talk?
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Oh, how I wish people would go back to avoiding any cursing in front of children! My grandchildren were visiting and someone in a restaurant used a very foul word. I said something and the young man tried to tell me it isn’t illegal. I laughed and told him it is in Michigan! I told him about the man who was dragged into court not long ago for swearing in front of women and children. The young looked worried and was very quiet the rest of the meal.
It was not that long ago that obscene speech in public was a criminal act. Not anymore. I did a search for “obscene utterances” and was amazed by the sheer volume of case history upholding the “right” to be offensive in public. I suppose the best we can do is to ask the speaker, “do you kiss your loved ones with that same mouth you talk with?”
I’m saddened to see Michigan dumped that law in December of 2015.
Well said and I agree with you. I drop the F bomb on occasion and sometimes it actually happens in front of the kids. But I try not to swear in front of them. I also tell them not to use words like that and explain what they actually mean (literally and the meaning). They pick up swear words everywhere but I want them to be conscious and know what they actually say and that it is inappropriate. I’m pretty sure I will never get close to what you are talking about and I hope that my kids will not hear words like the ones you probably talk about for a while… I’m a bit shocked about the lady and her approach. But I guess it all comes down to her upbringing too…
Upbringing, yes, and freedoms. In this case freedom to offend. Here in America, when most forms of censorship were ruled unconstitutional, people followed the natural human tendency to push the envelope. Now we are at the point where a child in elementary school using inappropriate language in given “speech therapy” rather than being censured. Don’t tell him that he is wrong because a large and growing portion of the populace doesn’t consider it to be wrong, merely out of place.