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Blue Streaks: Does today's society suffer from a profane strain?
The News Enterprise | 18 May 2003 | JACOB BENNETT

Posted on 05/18/2003 6:34:55 AM PDT by SLB

It was a pristine day at Freeman Lake Park: A mom pushed her baby in a swing, a little girl watched the fish she caught flop on the dock, man's best friend chased down a Frisbee and carried it back in his teeth.

Ash Stevens, who had been hanging out with a group of friends, broke the silence when he noticed a pal approaching.

"Oh, s—-!" Stevens yelled to his friend.

It's not a word you'd expect to hear in a place so peaceful, but no one seemed to care. Stevens thinks he knows why.

"It's part of today's society, man," the 28-year-old said.

Damn right, most people will agree, whether they like it or not. From TV to radio to school hallways, people are swearing more and using worse words than ever before, observers and innocent bystanders say.

Some say the trend isn't a big frickin' deal, but not Jim O'Connor. The president of the Cuss Control Academy and author of the book "Cuss Control" is a sworn protector of vulgarity-free speech.

"It's a decline in civility," O'Connor said. "There are still many people who are offended by it. Not everybody does it, not everybody likes it.

"It's not just words, it's the tone behind them. People are rude. We're rude to each other. That includes not just swearing but (things like) butting in line."

O'Connor admits that compared to violent acts, cussing is a minor offense. But it's frequently committed. If you see violence on TV, you're not necessarily going to go out and commit a violent act, but if you hear someone you admire cuss on TV, you might pick up the habit.

As teenagers strolled through Towne Mall tossing out the occasional obscenity, a group of elderly gentlemen — some in fishing hats, some in dapper jackets — shot the bull at a table near the food court. Considering what they saw in World War II, they say a little salty language isn't going to hurt them. One gentleman even confessed to using a few choice words himself.

"Well, I'll tell you what. I mashed my finger once and you don't want to know what I said," he said (the men declined to give their names).

His friend philosophized on the issue.

"You know why a man cusses?" he asked. "He's a person with a low vocabulary trying to make a big impression of himself."

O'Connor agreed. He lamented the limited vocabulary people use these days.

"If someone is mad, they're either ‘p——- off' or ‘really p——- off' or ‘f'ing p——- off,'" he said. "We're losing all these other words like ‘furious,' ‘outraged,' ‘livid.'"

O'Connor is also upset that things get "f——- up" instead of "bungled," and people "bulls—" instead of "lie," "embellish," "exaggerate" or "talk nonsense."

It's been about seven years since Nine Inch Nails caused a stir with lyrics like "I want to —— you like an animal." It's been about seven decades since blues legend Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil so he could sing lines such as "squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg."

Is either phrase, when its real intention is considered, any better or worse?

Allan Futtrell, chairman of the communications department at the University of Louisville, argued probably not, though he gave Johnson points for creativity.

"Saying ‘squeeze my lemon' is more clever than saying "squeeze somebody's butt or their t—- or whatever," Futtrell said. Using a metaphor takes a little bit more talent — it's easy to make people laugh with simple cuss words.

O'Connor agreed. "That borders on fun, rather than offensive," he said.

Futtrell's moral of the story about immoral songs: People's thoughts aren't changing, but the way they express them is.

History lesson: People used to cuss all the time until Queen Victoria of England started censoring commoners. Even Shakespeare's work was sanitized. Since then, people have been constantly rebelling against the queen's puritanical restrictions.

Futtrell said kids and girls talk more slangily and saltily. And on that pristine day at Freeman Lake Park, two girls — one on a bike, one walking beside her — made their way through the park dropping f-bombs as if they were on the Enola Gay.

Jessica Humphrey, 18, wouldn't reveal what she and 14-year-old Ashley Callahan were talking about, calling it "personal stuff nobody's allowed to put in the paper." Callahan thought their vulgarities were no big deal.

"I've been doing it since I was a little kid, and that's because of family," she said. "When you live around it, it's not a big deal. I don't care if my parents see it, it's not a big deal."

Callahan first cussed around her family when she was 10 or 11: "It slipped." Her mom told her not to do it again or she'd get her mouth washed out. She did it a couple of years later, and nobody cared.

"In 1950, girls didn't talk that way," Futtrell said.

People always get riled up when boundaries are pushed, then get comfortable as the changes become commonplace, said Dean Nason, a sociology professor at Elizabethtown Community College. For example, he named Bart Simpson's catch phrase "eat my shorts" and the display of some of the actors' derrieres on "NYPD Blue," which got people's panties in a bunch at the time but draw shoulder shrugs now.

"It's just going to be left up to each person and their own value system," said Nason, who noticed that reality shows are pushing the limits of good taste without using bad language. "The mainstream is willing to embrace the pushing of boundaries. Is it worse to hear language, or do you want your kid to see adults eat bugs on TV?"

The place where people need to be careful is when they're around children, Nason said. What's fine for adults to see isn't all right for little eyes, he said. Case in point: the Miller Lite commercial where, after a catfight, one girl asks another, "Wanna make out?"

"As an adult, I might even think that's clever, but I don't want my kids to see it," Nason said.

But cussing is fine for adults, the senior citizens at Towne Mall said, with a few exceptions.

"Ain't nothin' bothers me no more — as long as he's not cussin' me," one of the men said. "That's when his freedom ends — when my fist meets his face."

Taming one's tongue

Tips for controlling swearing, from the Cuss Control Academy:

1. Recognize that swearing does damage.

You probably swear because it is easy, fun, candid, emphatic, expressive, breaks rules, and somehow partially reduces anger and pain. But the negatives outweigh the positives. You really don't win an argument by swearing. You don't prove that you are smart or articulate. Swearing doesn't get you hired, promoted or romantically connected.

2. Start by eliminating casual swearing.

Pretend your sweet little grandmother or your young daughter is always next to you. Use inflections for emphasis instead of offensive adjectives. Be more descriptive instead of using the "s" word to describe everything from objects, work and the weather to the way you feel, the way someone looks and the way something smells.

3. Think positively.

Look to the bright side. Develop a can-do attitude. Worry only to the point that motivates you to prepare for the problem, then hope for the best.

4. Practice being patient.

When you are stuck in line or in traffic, ask yourself if a few more minutes matters. If so, and you have no control of the situation, plan the rest of your day or do the thinking that you say you never have time to do. Talk to someone, even a stranger in line with you.

5. Cope, don't cuss.

We live in an imperfect world, yet our expectations continually increase. Each day can be filled with aggravations, delays, disappointments and frustrations. The fact is, we have to deal with them anyway. So stop cussing and learn to cope. Consider even the smallest annoyance a challenge, and feel proud of yourself for taking care of it cheerfully and efficiently.

6. Stop complaining.

Before you start griping or whining about something, remind yourself of a very important reality: no one wants to hear it! Why would they? Avoid complaining about matters that you and the people with you have no control over. For all other complaints, try to offer a rational solution.

7. Use alternative words.

English is a colorful language, but chronic cursers repeatedly use the same, unimaginative words that have been around for centuries. Take the time to develop your own list of alternatives to the nasty words you now use, relying on your own intelligence, a thesaurus, good books, and even some of the more clever TV shows.

8. Make your point politely.

Some substitute words can be just as offensive if your tone is abrasive or you insult someone. Think of the response to what you are about to say, and decide if you need to reword your statement to be more effective. Take the time to make your point in a mature and convincing manner.

9. Think of what you should have said.

It is easy to blurt out a swear word at an inappropriate time, or to bark out a tactless or tasteless remark before you have a chance to consider the impact. Think of what you could have said. After you shout an expletive, simply say the tamer word you wished you had said. If you make a statement that you later realize was negative, confrontational or rude, think of how you could have phrased the statement. Over time, these exercises will train you to think and act differently.

10. Work at it.

Breaking the swearing habit might prove to be no easier that losing weight, giving up cigarettes, or correcting any other habit. It takes practice, support from others and a true desire to be a better person.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Front Page News
KEYWORDS: cursing; cussing; language; swearing
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The man I most admired most in life, my earthly father, always said that if a man could not express homself without using cuss words he was just showing how ignorant he was. I would ask all to look inside themselves on this issue. Yesterday I heard a man on a cell phone conducting a business call outside of his p/u with his young daughter inside it. (The door was open) It seemed like every other word was cursing. What is this teaching his daughter?
1 posted on 05/18/2003 6:34:56 AM PDT by SLB
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To: Squantos; Lion Den Dan; harpseal; Travis McGee; Sir Gawain; sit-rep; Jeff Head; Alas; logos; ...

As I read this article this morning I had to recall growing up in rural Wyoming. One of my best memories is of my dad and his quiet manner. He never cursed me, his word was law without adding any flourish to it. I try to copy his style in everything I do. I used to be able to make a sailor blush (sorry about that all you Navy folk) but now realize just how foolish and ignorant it sounds. Maybe I am a little old fashioned, but when I see and hear young girls using the language illustrated in the article above it makes my stomach turn.
2 posted on 05/18/2003 6:42:48 AM PDT by SLB
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To: SLB; JonathansMommie
What a wonderful article!!
I have banned my husband from using these words. We say, tinkle, foofie, shoot, crap, gosh, darn etc.
We have a 3 & 5 year old. We are raising them to be ladies.
I feel they will hear enough of this in school and it does not need to be reinforced at home.
3 posted on 05/18/2003 6:44:51 AM PDT by netmilsmom (Bush/Rice 2004- pray for our troops)
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What I find interesting, SLB, is that in face-to-face conversation everyone understands that words can "slip out," even from people who don't curse as a matter of habit. That's one thing.

It seems to me, though, that cursing on the Internet, as it's quite often done on this forum, substituting asterisks for certain letters of the word, is something else entirely. It's pretty hard to say that something just "slipped out" when you have to think about how to spell the word, asterisks or not.

IMO, those who use obscenities, vulgarities, or curse words on FR do so purposely. I suppose the reasons for doing so are different for everyone, or even different at different times from the same poster. But, bottom line, it has to be thought out to type it out, and therefore, it's done on purpose.

I should add that I speak as one who used to use such words as verbal punctuation. Now, I am of the opinion that it shows a certain level of mental laziness to curse, at the very least.

4 posted on 05/18/2003 6:54:56 AM PDT by logos
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Manners are the grease that allows civilization to function smoothly. The more coarse and vulgar we become as a nation the harder it becomes for people to get along. As a former Chief Petty Officer I think I can cuss with the best when it is called for but in most cases it is not only not needed it is counter productive. Further, if one does not normally use vulgar language it has far more impact when in a truly extreme situation one resorts to it.
5 posted on 05/18/2003 7:04:01 AM PDT by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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"It's part of today's society, man," the 28-year-old said.

"Man"? That word's still a part of our groovy society?

Several years ago I noticed a trend in the local college rag--cursing had become vogue in the student columns. I'm not talking about tossing a g-d or two into the article to spice things up; no, these kids were using the full-on F bomb. I noticed that the less a columnist had to say, or if the topic was uninteresting, the more F bombs I would see. My observations of the college rag support this article's assertion that cursing is used most often by the dull and un-inspired.

6 posted on 05/18/2003 7:06:00 AM PDT by randog (It's always darkest before the dawn--a good time to steal the neighbor's newspaper.)
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To: logos
I'm guilty...

Having been raised in the military around the combat vets of WWII and Korea and then Vietnam for me..
I understand the use of curses..its quick its easy its expressive of severe emotion during periods where nothing less would convey the message as quickly or as effectively...

Cursing is crass crude and something I dont need or want to hear from my daughters or grandchildren...
If I had a son...I probably wouldnt want to hear it around his mother or around chidren or women
(I even punched out a guy in a restaruant for his refusal to stop cursing around a group of elderly women)

Yet I am guilty of cursing...lately have gotten worse...I am at a loss at what to call a terrorist or a politician or an actor or news pundit who defends the brutal murders of children by blowing them to pieces..embedded in the structure of a bus....after seeing only the pictures of the remains...I curse them...and those who support them...

Maybe because I cant cry over my keyboard and cant express that .....the anger natually comes out in curses.. and I slip into old bad habits too easily...laziness..

Dont imagine God is happy about for his Sons sake I should try to curb my tongue...
There are alot of things I know to do and dont...cursing is one of them..
7 posted on 05/18/2003 7:06:20 AM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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This is not "Front Page" F***** news, ya know..

You F*** Wad!


8 posted on 05/18/2003 7:09:00 AM PDT by Jhoffa_
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To: joesnuffy
Don't feel pregnant, I do it also..

We're not supposed to. I can't quote scripture and verse right now (I don't have it in front of me) but it is a no-no for sure. Believe me, it's in there because I have read it.

I am working on it. It's usually when I get hurt or very angry.

Then it kind of slips out. I do it in teasing sometimes also. You know, like "guy" ribbing and stuff.

But, that doesn't justify it.

9 posted on 05/18/2003 7:13:47 AM PDT by Jhoffa_
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To: logos
Marge: So what did you children learn in Sunday School today?

Bart: Hell.

Marge: BART!

Bart: Well, you sure as hell can't expect me to say we learned about Hell without saying hell, can you?

Homer: Kid's got a point.

Bart: Hell, yeah!

Marge: errrrrrrrrrr

Bart: hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell, hell...

Marge: BART! Stop swearing! We're not in church any longer.


What bothers me about this clever scene is not the swearing. It's the fact that this a cartoon - something long used to attract children viewers. I'm more bothered by all the swearing on "South Park" and, to a lesser degree, "The Simpsons" because children are part of the target audience. The grown up in me enjoys the humor and sometimes their point of view. I can laugh at them like everyone else. But there's also a part of me that's really bothered by the course language on cartoon shows. It mainstreams them to children who have yet to understand that foul language has consequences.

10 posted on 05/18/2003 7:18:01 AM PDT by Tall_Texan (Destroy the Elitist Democrat Guard and the Fedayeen Clinton using the smart bombs of truth!)
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This is all symptomatic of the loss of our language. At a glance, even the author uses 'cuss', vulgarity, profanity and obscenity as synonymous and then lumps such as 'damn' in with them. Even laudatory posters don't know the difference between crap and a vulgar obscenity.

Obscene - "disgusting to the senses" according to an older and not-PC dictionary. Does one imagine that a sewer treatment worker finds his stock in trade disgusting? Thus, 'crap' and 'sh!t' may be vulgar and obscene but not...

Profane - "not concerned with religious purposes" as would be God damn or any other vain calling of the Deity. 'Damn' is a fine and versatile vulgar anathema.

These are all 'vulgarities' as is most speech. The objective is to raise the quality of vulgar speech and writing beyond the necessity of using offensive vulgarities.
11 posted on 05/18/2003 7:21:24 AM PDT by (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
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To: Tall_Texan
Remember the South Park episode where they even kept a running count of one cuss word being used over and over. It made a good point about how these words are overused on TV and in life for shock value but lose that shock value very quickly. I'll try to stick with "aw shoot", myself.
12 posted on 05/18/2003 8:00:43 AM PDT by Moonmad27 ("Run free, Samurai Jack")
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To: harpseal; SLB; wardaddy
Agree as to a place and time, albeit it rare these days as a civilian :o).............. reverting to slang , or action verbage as I like to call it, is (IMHO) a verbal replacement of the physical application of justified violence upon a target one can not legally reach out and apply in person..........

Stay Safe !

13 posted on 05/18/2003 8:11:55 AM PDT by Squantos (Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.)
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To: SLB; Jeff Head; harpseal; wardaddy; maica
This hits home. It's difficult to go to the public stretch of the Pacific Ocean 2 miles from here and bring my kids (11 and 7) because under-thirties on the beach (only them, exlusively) will yell "F-Word That!" and "F-Word You, Mother F-er!" t each other as casually as if they were saying "Wow Man" 2 decades ago. I have almost been involved in fist fights over this, when I asked them to cool it around children. Half the time I get "F--- You!!! Hahaha!!!"

This society is plunging down a toilet in so many ways.

In my novel I've drawn a line. No F-word. If folks think that's corny, so be it.

14 posted on 05/18/2003 8:45:48 AM PDT by Travis McGee (----- -----)
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To: joesnuffy
My problem is teens and 20 somethings who loudly yell the F-word right around children, and don't care at all.

If you ask them to cool it, they say, "F-YOU!!" in front of your kids.

Hit him, go to jail. He knows it. I have been nose to nose with these creeps, trying to get them to throw punch number one in front of witnesses, but they're cowards.

They even wear t-shirts out here that say "Mother F--er!!" in huge letters. My wife came out of a religious store here in San Diego Friday, and we were greeted with a 20 something wearing a black t-shirt that had "MOTHER F---er!!" as the punch line in 2 inch tall letters.

I didn't see it, I was going to our other car. (We were getting First Holy Communion gifts for my daughter, of all things, while she was at shchool.)

My wife said "that shirt is really not appropriate to wear in public."

The scum's reaction? "Then don't look!"

Some of this society needs a 5.56mm enema.

15 posted on 05/18/2003 8:53:37 AM PDT by Travis McGee (----- -----)
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To: Travis McGee
My wife said "that shirt is really not appropriate to wear in public."

We've opened the public sphere to private behavior--not just cussing-- and made the private public.

Courtesy is in decline. Public places have become arenas and people impose themselves by cussing, barking into cell phones, playing radios, etc. It all seems related; we are losing our identity as a people.

16 posted on 05/18/2003 9:25:21 AM PDT by tsomer
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All of you have made excellent comments. I especially like your comments on how our society used to be. I miss those more "innocent" and polite times. Today's young people don't know what our society used to be like, because our "boomer" generation ruined so much of it with it's "if it feels good, do it" philosophy.

Stopping cussing can perhaps even be related to the "broken glass" theory of crime prevention that was used by Chief Bratton and Mayor Giuliani in NYC. The theory, as propounded by Prof. James Q. Wilson, is that if little crimes, such as breaking windows, panhandling, or urinating in public, are not enforced, then larger crimes will soon follow. If you allow petty thefts, then it creates an atmosphere of lawlessness where people then move on to bigger crimes. The NYC crime rate dropped dramatically when they decided to get tough on ALL crimes, including the small ones.

Even though cussing would be only a small "crime" in my life, it is one for me to control. And the discipline and mental awareness that is created when trying to control it will help me to avoid committing larger "crimes" (sins) in my life. Just a thought.

17 posted on 05/18/2003 9:26:43 AM PDT by DeweyCA
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I put some blame on the first reality type show that was on MTV. "On the Road" or "Real Life" I don't really know. I skim this stuff to monitor society's decline. It put a group of gen-Xers together in an apartment, or on a road trip, and cameras caught their never ending whining and moaning about their petty problems, with lots of beep, beep, beeps. Daytime TV has the demonic Jerry Springer beep-a-thon. Cops is 30 minutes of beeps. Survior and all the spin-offs are beep-ridden. And then there's the Simpsons and South Park, difference being these are scripted. I think the reality shows with cameras rolling while people use obscene language has had a monumental effect on youth and language. I imagine the "Adult" rated video games contribute. I don't think I want to know! :(

I used to enjoy what I considered "Adult Entertainment". Now I am offended by the fact that kids are seeing stuff on TV; even commercials, that I would consider "Adult" if not pornographic!

18 posted on 05/18/2003 9:33:56 AM PDT by madfly
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To: DeweyCA
I have taken up a crusade to return to polite times of yesterday. The hooligan across the street cranks his stereo up on his car so it litteraly bounces. I have talked to his brain dead parents with no result. I now simply crank up the weedeater or chain saw. Music to my ears.
19 posted on 05/18/2003 9:45:28 AM PDT by SLB
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To: Squantos
Like when driving....we can't shoot them all.
20 posted on 05/18/2003 10:06:02 AM PDT by wardaddy (Your momma said I was a loser, a deadend cruiser and deep inside I knew that she was right)
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