Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shocking. Simply Shocking.

My favorite youngest aunt read yesterday's post about shocking words and responded with a link to an excellent National Public Radio story. Here, go read it while I have a cup of coffee.

All done? I am, and the coffee was excellent, thank you.

So what do you think? Do you agree with the article's thesis that kids use profanity because they hear it, and continue to use it because it causes a reaction (either laughter or, in my case, a slight attack of the vapors)?

I can promise you that I grew up not hearing profanity on The Farm. In fact, in spite of recalcitrant livestock and thumbs hit with hammers and the general cantankerousness of some days, even mild profanity was so rare as to have been made part of the eulogy I gave at my mother's funeral:

"... in all those years of raising five of what must have been the most smart-alecky of children, we only heard her swear once--and that was after she backed over the harrow and punctured the fuel tank of the car. (Much Older Sister and I were delightful eight- and nine-year-olds, who poked each other, wide-eyed, and whispered "Mother said 'dammit!'")

My father was similarly circumspect in his vocabulary: I once heard him mutter something under his breath about a singularly unhelpful store clerk, and thought "that old heifer" must be the worst possible thing one human being could call another human being.

There was no giggling about childish imitation of bad language in our house, not ever. As a junior high kid I decided to model myself after the sophisticated ladies on the soap operas who, when provoked, responded with a languid "Oh, good lord." My mother heard me say this exactly once, and my protestations that "it's not really swearing" were unsuccessful. "Oh, really? 'Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain' was, what, a mis-quote?'" (It was unwise to argue with my mother when she had God on her side.)

Now, some five decades later, I have heard (and I admit, occasionally used) a lot of profanity in my life. It rarely shocks me; my reaction is more one of distaste. It's kind of like seeing a large zit--I suffer a momentary internal cringe, then move on.

Except when it's kids, kids who have not made a choice about whether they want their speech to be zit-laden but are merely imitating what they hear in their music, in their movies, in their homes.Then? Ewwww.

I'm sorry these kids didn't have the experience of growing up with my parents' sensibilities. Then they'd know the worst swear words I've ever heard:

"Dammit" and "that old heifer."

No comments:

Post a Comment