Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rated R: may include language inappropriate for children under 17

I had the beginning of an interesting conversation with my parents about curse words. We didn't get very far because they just assumed I was being argumentative and that we just shouldn't cuss. Period. But that's not the thought that was in my head.

It goes back to that 'random rule following' again. Why are certain words 'bad' and others that mean the same thing ok? Or at least to a degree. If a child calls another child a 'poopy-head' he's probably going to be told it's not nice to call names, made to apologize and sent back on his way. But if he calls the other child a 'shit-head' he's going to get spanked, or detention, or grounded. But it's the same thing. Albeit neither one is nice - but that was the point. The child was mad at the other child, so he called him a name. Why is one considered so much worse?

And many parents, including mine, encourage their children to use these substitute words. Don't say damn, say darn. Don't say shit, say shoot. Don't say fuck, say fudge. But if I'm just subbing a word, my intention is still the same. To make a derogatory statement about the other person or thing - or just yell out in anger, pain or excitement. So if you think it's wrong, than it all should be wrong. And then we're forced to bottle up raw emotion. The fact that even the most prudish person will probably curse when the old hammer on the thumb occurs shows that it's a natural and appropriate word for certain situations. Or if we understand that sometimes expletives are needed because we're mad or frustrated, then all are ok. Just like anything else, we just have to learn how to use them correctly and in moderation.

For the most part, I don't swear much, so it's not like I feel the need to shout swear words from the roof types, I just think we need to reevaluate what's "bad."

Now using words that actually ARE offensive.... a racial or ethnic slur, not acceptable. And most people will agree on that. Some folks do still use them just because they're bigots, others think they're using them 'ironically' or because 'that was ok when I was your age.' And those people are wrong.

Words that are used to make a negative association about a person by relating them to another group of people. Like calling someone or something retarded or gay - also not acceptable. But the kid on the playground probably will get the 'poopy-head' punishment not the 'shit-head' punishment for saying either one. But when you think about it, which is more offensive to society overall... calling someone who is a shithead, a shithead or calling someone who is a shithead, retarded?

1 comment:

The Hamzinger said...

"Bowdlerization" or "expurgation" - that's what it's called (I finally remembered!)