Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Curse of Language

With the current loss of good manners in our society, a subject which I've talked about in an earlier post on the end of civilization, one thing that I didn't touch on is one near and dear to my heart ... language. There is little doubt that language has been degraded in a number of ways in recent years. I'm not talking about slang here, which has always been part of the vernacular, and most of which has either fallen away over time as useless or absorbed into general usage. Neither am I talking about street talk, which is a problem of its own and probably better dealt with in a separate posting. No, what I am talking about here is the proliferation swearing that has now become an acceptable form of communication.

Back in the old days, the late George Carlin used to talk about the "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television".
You still can't say those words on Network television, but they have certainly made their way into cable. George himself used them on an HBO special or two over the years. Radio, like broadcast TV, still has the FCC looking over their shoulder and issuing both rulings and fines in a vain attempt to maintain a modicum of decorum, but mostly in vain. Their rules have been modified over the years so many times that what would have drawn that agency's ire only a few years ago are now heard on the air regularly. (Besides, they are a government agency and therefore models of a lack of consistency or common sense.) As for the use of such language on the Internet, you have only the limits of your imagination as to what's OK. Even here in the blogging world the level of swearing is up to the writer / moderator / editor of the blog. They not only control the language used in their own postings, but the level of cursing that will be tolerated in the comments.

Don't get me wrong. I am far from a saint in this regard. I was taught to swear while still in my teens by a boss whose every other word was a more than a little off-color. George was an inspiration in my impressionable youth of creative cursing (and a generally belligerent outlook on life), and in switching gears as I went from what was permissible language at work to what was permissible at home. Heck, cursing was cool, having the combined qualities of being forbidden, dangerous, and obscene (everything a teenage boy could ask for). Even as a young adult, swearing was a significant part of my life. I was working every day with machinery that was attempting to devour me a little bit at a time (it actually got a piece at one point). When not cursing the equipment that was supposed to be providing me with a living for failing to perform to my expectations, I was cursing my fate to any who would listen over the wounds that this equipment inflicted upon me.

I find these days that the fires of my youth have somewhat cooled and I have little or no use for such language. Good behavior and good manners have disappeared from so many aspects or our lives that I find myself clinging to those few that remain. This doesn't make me better than others, just different (and probably older). Neither does this doesn't mean that the need for demonstrative expression doesn't come to me from time to time, but that I now seek a different outlet. Instead of profanity, I normally attempt to use something more clever to express my thoughts (sometimes failing miserably). Instead of calling someone a "bastard" as an example, I state instead that "their parents were never married". Instead of saying the "shit hit the fan", I say that the "natural fertilizer hit the oscillating rotator". Admittedly it isn't much, but it makes me smile and does help to pass the time.

Perhaps we can all try to be a little more creative in expressing ourselves. Words, do in fact, mean things; and the need to choose them more carefully is something that we all should be concerned with. Language is one of the things that supposedly separates us from the beasts (and can be a lot of fun). We need to revel in that separation and take advantage of it. We need to find ways to express ourselves without losing the constructs of polite society and common decency. We need to abandon the "Curse of Language".

(... and for those of you who disagree with me, up yours) :-)

5 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Tim,

Or, as an Italian friend of mine succinctly put it, Inna you endo...


(Well, that's how HE said it. Of course the accompanying gesture said it even better.)

;-)

Tim Higgins said...

HT,

I am impressed! Multi-lingual cursing ...

I can only curse in English, though once upon a time I could do a bit in Latin.

I never considered that to count though, as it was a dead language.

Roland Hansen said...

Et tu, Tim?
Brittania est peninsula. Italia est insula.

Hooda Thunkit,
Question:
Do you know what the Italians call Minnesota?
Answer:
Uppa U S.

Now onward and upward. I really must like frozen treats. I constantly hear myself exclaiming "Oh, fudgesickle!"

Roland Hansen said...

Ops. Pardon the *#$!)* boo-boo in my comments above.

Correction as follows:
Brittania est insula. Italia est peninsula.

Those were the very first sentences I learned in high school Latin class. They sure have come in handy!
I wonder what Julius Caesar exclaimed as his "friends" stabbed him. Perhaps it was "Oy Vey!"

Tim Higgins said...

Roland,

Shakespeare said the old Julius said "Et tu Brute". (Like how I connected the British and Italian references while answering your question? Yeah, I was equally unimpressed.)

Look at it this way, Latin is rarely used, but you can translate quarters for people.