Blue is for Boys

A group of Catholic high school girls in North Arlington, N.J., has taken an oath not to swear.  Teacher Lori Flynn, a teacher at Queen of Peace High School launched the civility campaign.  She said the rationale of the program was simple:  “We want ladies to act like ladies.”

According to Queen of Peace Principal, Brother Larry Lavallee, noted that the girls use fouler language than the boys.  However, students at the high school called the program sexist felgercarb and that the school was setting a double standard.

MIT psychology professor Timothy Jay, avoiding cursing is more difficult than we think, particularly given Hollywood’s inundation of films with the F-word.  He estimates that people on average utter 80 to 90 profane words a day, including the sexual, scatological, blasphemous, and four-legged.  Swearing has become a persistent part of everyday speech, and so ubiquitous in entertainment that it’s hard not to become a potty-mouth.

My grandfather was a seaman; he knew every word in the Blue dictionary, used them, and probably invented a few.  Back in the Forties, when he was preparing merchant seaman for service in World War II, his superiors at Kings Point complained about the language he used in his classes.

“What the hell do you think they’re going to hear on the ships?” he thundered.

“Hell” and “damn” used to be bad words that decent people didn’t use.  So was “ass.”  Now they’re quite commonplace and no one gives so much as wince or blush when they hear it.  My mother, being the daughter of a seaman used them frequently.  My father seldom used profane language, as far as I can recall.  He said there were thousands of words in the dictionary – find one.

Yet Mom was the obedient wife, and even though she knew every word my grandfather taught, she only used “hell” and “damn” in our presence, at my father’s insistence.  She presented herself to him as a lady when they first met and he expected her to behave accordingly once they were married.  There was no double standard with him, though; he considered it unmanly.  Gentlemen didn’t use such language in the presence of women and children.

Still, my brothers were permitted more license than I was.  As Big Brother got into teens, they were fond of using sexual terms with which my mother was unacquainted.  This was also in the day of obscene phone calls.  Some jerk would get on the phone and say something untoward to my mother.  She would then ask Dad what the word meant.  He told her it was a word she didn’t need to know.  The next the phone rang, he answered the phone in his bass voice.  The jerk never called back again.

First Amendment, free speech rights notwithstanding, we could do worse things than curb the verbal air pollution.  We throw these garbage words around carelessly, fouling the atmosphere, and forcing our anger or immaturity onto innocent people who had been going about their lives peacefully and happily.  Profanity has been around since the beginning, the language of the discontented and malicious.

We can’t stop other people from swearing.  But if we give a damn about our culture, we can watch our tongues and not permit our children to adopt the cursed habit.  Just because we all do it doesn’t make it right.  It’s about time Society washed its mouth out with soap.

 

 

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Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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