#edify: profanity

fiddlesticksThe first curse word each of my children heard came out of my mother’s mouth. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of the curse words you might find in the Bible.

She wasn’t angry. or frustrated. or hurt in any way. She wasn’t speaking passionately about anything of significance. It was just a passing thoughtless comment. I’ve said in a previous post that

“I grew up with a mom who used “colorful” language. nautical colors.

It’s not like I’ve never used colorful language myself. I freely admit that I sometimes cuss in my head. Sometimes it leaks out of my mouth or my fingertips, like in THIS post, from back in 2013. My language has not been – and probably will not be – consummately color-free. Even so, I can honestly say that in my immediate family, profanity isn’t something we regularly weave into our lives.

Of all the places we go, we hear curse words at Walt Disney World the most.

Casual replacement of the word “stuff” with the word “sh!+”
Telling children to “get their “a$$” over here!” or that they’re “going get they’re “a$$ busted!”
Calling a woman a “b!tch” – sometimes in front of her own children. or her parents.
And then there’s “shut the F#¢« up” and
the tired overuse of “F#¢«ing” as an adjective.

While this language is commonplace for some, it’s startling to us. There’s an inward flinch. Our outward response is almost always silence. Because we’re articulate like that. Meanwhile, the silence feels awkward.

word Im searching for I cant sayHere’s what I’ve observed:

If profanity is a normal part of your vocabulary, and you use it with someone who doesn’t, it doesn’t facilitate camaraderie, it creates distance.

Sometimes it leaves a lasting impression.

If you’ve decided that including profanity in your everyday vocabulary and conversations is no big deal, I’m going to pass along some unsolicited advice:

A good rule of thumb is not to use profanity with anyone until and unless they use it with you first.

And NEVER use profanity with children. Just don’t. Sure, it’s possible they’ve grown up saturated in it and are desensitized to it. But it’s also possible that profanity hasn’t been a part of their everyday life and using it with those kids doesn’t make them feel more comfortable with you. It makes them UNcomfortable. If they respect your authority as an adult, they won’t tell you they are uncomfortable.

Consider this possibility:
From a kid’s point of view, you, an adult, have perceived power/authority over them.
When you cuss, they feel that telling you it makes them uncomfortable is the same as telling you that you’re wrong.
They might believe that telling you that you’re wrong would be disrespectful.
Distance has been created. They are intimidated by you.
Intentionally or unintentionally – that intimidation is an abuse of power over kids.

Years ago, I told my kids my view of profanity: It’s often used to emphasize something, but in reality, one of things it most emphasizes is a lack of vocabulary and creativity. Using profanity, besides being unprofessional, is just plain lazy. There are so. many. words. available for use.

So, if you’re looking for some creative alternatives to colorful language, I offer these for your consideration:

One thought on “#edify: profanity

  1. Mine: sugar and spice, foo-bunnies (usually when I bang into something), flibberty gibbet. The only “regular” word I use sometimes is crap and that’s when I’m supremely frustrated. Like when I got off the wrong exit in Philadelphia with Laura and was basically chanting it. Laura was “MOM!!” (because, really, we don’t use the other ones out loud so it was a big deal)! 🙂

    With school, they’ve heard everything. And I agree about the distance. One of the gals in Laura’s art school uses those words as a matter of course and they make her feel VERY uncomfortable and she shies away from this gal partly because of it.

    Like

Your insights are welcome! (profanity and sarcasm, not so much)

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