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    Wednesday
    Aug152018

    The Normalization of Profanity

    Profanity has always been used in our society, but in fifty plus years, I’ve not seen the casual acceptance of so many four-letter words in conversation, social media posts, media, and correspondence as exists today.

    Profanity used to be something we’d apologize for; words and phrases that “slipped out” in a mood of exasperation. The overt use of profanity used to be a sign of an unsophisticated class, a rawness, rudeness, or an unwillingness to conform.

    More commonly used by men, women would refrain from openly using profanity. Parents would refrain from profanity in front of their children. Parents used to threaten to wash their kids mouths with soap, if they caught them using profanity. Now they exchange profane remarks with their offspring.

    Profanity was spoken privately, behind-the-scenes among the most visible, prominent, and successful – not publicly used. We certainly would not write something for public consumption with profane words. Well, that world is long gone.

    Profanity is used assertively, loudly, and often today in casual conversation, and most do not apologize for doing so. In fact, a younger generation uses profanity like they’re merely picking another flower in the garden. It’s just another color to add to conversation. I think this practice has weakened our use of language, our discourse, and in an odd way, weakened the impact of profanity itself.

    What used to be shocking and an extreme expression of feelings and would jolt us all to attention is now more routine. For me, hearing profanity out loud still makes me wince, and when the words come out of my mouth, it makes me wish I could pull them back.

    Not long ago I listened to a live speech by a prominent author laced with profanity, and my appreciation of him sank. I wondered why this was necessary, and why a person with such a wonderful platform would pollute his message with so many four-letter words. Despite my impression, the response to his talk among my colleagues was “He’s amazing!” Somehow his foul language seemed to make him more real and relatable.

    So, this is where we are. We often relate to the profane, much more than the profound. We’ve taken language that used to be off-putting and made it the norm. I’m convinced this doesn’t serve us well, and it’s something that I won’t be embracing. I know this is against the tide of our society, but I believe the use of profanity should be rare and not routine. Call me a square and out of step with the times, but that’s my position. Like Clark Gable’s character, Rhett Butler shockingly said in the 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

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