I have this futuristic vision.  A young parent, delighted at the toddler’s first words, calls Grandma.    “Mom, baby said his first f-(expletive deleted)-ing word.  It was f-(expletive deleted)!  Isn’t that f-(expletive deleted)-ing wonderful?”

Grandma replies, “Sure as s-(expletive deleted)!  Maybe little Johnny will say Mama soon.”

A few days ago, Steve and I walked the dogs south of our house, going past a big cul-de-sac surrounded by unfenced yards.  As expected in a family neighborhood,  a pickup football game was in progress.  The boys and girls ranged in age from about nine to maybe fourteen.  In the time it took us to move past the game, one young boy said the F word three times and punctuated it with a couple extra equally pronouncements.

At least once a term, I have occasion to haul a student aside and tell them they can’t talk like that here.  The offending and offensive student is often both embarrassed and amazed at being chastised for what he or she considers normal conversation.  Usually I initiate the exchange because another student reported the profanity.  It is obvious salting conversation with expletives if NOT always okay, not even among the younger generation.

A gentleman in my writing group doesn’t use profanity in the mysteries he writes.  It is his opinion that a well-written conversation can be authentic without seeding it with foul words.  The phrasing and pacing can suggest the tone and the readers imagination contributes, too.

On the flip side, I have another writer friend who told me with some seriousness that if she took all the profanity out of her novel, the word count would fall from 100,000 to 60,000.  I bought the book.  She didn’t exaggerate by much.   I didn’t read it because of her choice of adjectives.  How many different ways are there to use f-(expletive deleted) in a sentence?

There is also the allegation that speakers/writers who habitually use profanity instead of less offensive language do so because they are too lazy or too linguistically limited to come up with more socially acceptable or creative terms.  That’s a (expletive deleted) thought.

Am I capable of uttering expletives that should have been deleted?  Most certainly.

Have I ever cursed for lack of a better word? Yes.

I’ve even used foul language a time or two for the shock value.

I even think that sometimes a bit of profanity is necessary to add a realistic flavor to a character’s dialogue.

I’ve always said the s-(expletive deleted) is a nurse’s favorite word and is not really a curse anyway.  It is, in truth, a fact of life.

The point?  Perhaps it’s time to be more responsible in our use of language.  While people have a right to their own speech pattens, accidental listeners have the right to an environment free of pollution. If the acceptability of profanity as a normal part of speech continues, perchance it won’t be long until baby’s first word rises in a blue cloud and our president addresses us as fellow (expletive deleted) Americans.

GEB

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