Monday, September 13, 2010


Once upon a time people used language with respect, deference, and even a little bit of awe. I adore the scene in My Fair Lady where Henry Higgins denounces Eliza Doolittle's deplorable vocabulary. And she wasn't even using filthy curse words! But our society has lost so much appreciation for healthy communication that it must resort to the same handful of loathsome obscenities for virtually all its dialogue. There are literally millions of words aching for the opportunity to make themselves useful, but I consistently overhear the youth of today resort to a single 4-letter word to describe:
an adjective of shock
an exclamation of joy
a noun of filth
a verb for jesting

Really? You can't come up with something even slightly more original? The real shocker is that these same boys and girls feel their awesome use of vocabulary grants them mastery over the English language. Well, I guess children will push the envelope of appropriate behavior in their ongoing battle to define themselves. Except, where are these children coming into such consistent contact with flippantly abusive language?

Oh, that's right... adults.

For every teenage boy I hear spouting off defamatory curse words to establish his prowess with the Burger King drive-through waitress there are at least half a dozen adult men and women doing the same thing. 


And, might I add, shame on them.

Remember the old school rule of thumb for mixed company: If you can't say it to your grandmother then maybe you shouldn't say it? I want to bring back that rule. I am tired of knowing that the only place I am  guaranteed to hear civil language from the beginning of an exchange to the last is the President of the United States' State of the Union Address, and my children's puppet shows. Just about everything in between seems fair game.

Now, before anyone slings me with mud for being an overly demanding moralist let me elucidate my gravest concerns. I do not become personally irate when I inadvertently overhear a private conversation which uses words I find vulgar and distasteful. I have my doubts about the honor of such vocabulary being used in public places where it can be overheard, but really it isn't any of my business. My issue arises from the shameless manner in which recognized curse words are bandied about as though every human over the age of 14 desires to be initiated into the fraternal bond of coarse slang.

I do not.

I do not want a five-minute conversation to qualify as grounds for "language-intimacy." Frankly, if it involves the use of unnecessarily graphic or odious jargon then a lifetime of conversation does not qualify it.

Professor Henry Higgins to Eliza Doolittle:
Eliza, you are to stay here for the next six months learning to speak beautifully, like a lady in a florist's shop. If you work hard and do as you're told, you shall sleep in a proper bedroom, have lots to eat, and money to buy chocolates and go for rides in taxis. But if you are naughty and idle, you shall sleep in the back kitchen amongst the black beetles, and be wolloped by Mrs. Pearce with a broomstick. At the end of six months you will be taken to Buckingham Palace, in a carriage, beautifully dressed. If the king finds out you are not a lady, you will be taken to the Tower of London, where your head will be cut off as a warning to other presumptuous flower girls! But if you are not found out, you shall have a present... of, ah... seven and six to start life with as a lady in a shop. If you refuse this offer, you will be the most ungrateful, wicked girl, and the angels will weep for you.

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