Thursday, July 23, 2009


Once again, Facebook forces us to look at life's great controversies!

A few days ago, a family member publicly commented on the use of profane language in other people's status updates, and it caused a fair amount of feedback from many directions, including mine. While I can't say I'm actually offended by profanity, I prefer not to use it, and seeing it pop up on my Facebook page does take me aback a little. It's probably safe to assume I'm a fuddy-duddy.

There are, of course, some arguments "for": half the world talks this way these days; we live in a free society where speech and expression are constitutionally protected; it's only a big deal if we make it one; we need to be more tolerant etc etc. And I don't disagree with any of this--though the free speech defense has been severely abused by good old boys and city rednecks alike in defending their rights to call their fellow citizens racist, sexist and homophobic names, so I'd personally never use this argument myself. But I do agree that use of language is a choice.

I just wish everyone would choose to put more thought into it.

I've rarely been bothered by someone throwing a naughty word into a conversation. As long as it isn't excessive, or repeated by my kids, it doesn't much phase me. It's seeing it in writing that throws me for a loop. It isn't potty mouth that bothers me. It's potty keyboard!

In university, I had a wonderful creative writing professor who told us that the real reason to write is to uphold the language, because it is being slowly corroded by the masses. I agreed with him, and took his advice to heart. The real reason logging in and reading "F#*! yeah! I'm drunk!" makes me cringe is because it reminds me that there's an easy way to write something provocative and a hard way, and all too often, like with everything else in our society, we take the easy way.

It's a lot harder to express anger or excitement using words that won't offend anyone (except maybe the person you're mad at!), but in the end I believe that those are the words that will stay with people. The passion that inspired those words will be what remains with the reader, not the choice of specific words. Obscenity is a fad, something that stands out for five minutes and is then tossed aside and forgotten. Real, thoughtful language is the classic that comes out again and again to make that true, lasting impression.

I know we're not all writers, and I'm not bothered enough by saucy updates to remove anyone from my friends list. If you like to spice up your language a little, I won't love you any less for it. I just wonder where the state of our language and literature will be a few decades from now, when our kids have grown up with it, when it's normal to them, and no longer packs the punch it does today. What kind of crazy new words will they have to make up to shock their friends? And how many of them will be able to recognize the short-lived, cheap thrill in throwing out an obscenity?

Will any of them want to take the road less travelled? I sure hope so.


bmsaqt said...

I'm so glad someone finally addressed this issue...its way overdue but much needed!Hopefully a few offenders will clean up their act!
I so enjoy reading all your blog postings..and Janine's comments!

Janine said...

I am so glad that bmsaqt likes reading my comments!!... I just love reading your stories... Well I hope you won't love me any less but I have a foul mouth... Not ALL the time but a little of the time... no maybe a medium amount of time. ... oh alright alot of the time!!!
I don't write them though. I only say them.. Sometimes a good swear word works wonders for the psyche.
It clears your mind of all that is clogging it and then you can start over.
Anyway... I think "Facebook" is a swear word isn't it????