Vocabulary Problems

Today, I was getting a fast food meal at a local restaurant and a bunch of teenagers came in. Now I will admit they looked like they were the bottom of the intellectual charts, but that is judging based on appearance. I don’t want to be accused of that prejudice, especially when I plan on judging them based on another set of criteria. (Yes, I am judgmental. and before anyone tries to quote Matt 7:1 at me; READ it in context.)

Anyway, I am getting a refill of root-beer, and–before I go on, I want say swearing doesn’t bother me badly. I don’t like it; but most of the time, I don’t actually notice swearing and cursing. I worked in a call center and was cursed out many times. But these kids were cursing every other word, LITERALLY! They said something to the effect of “PROFANITY the PROFANITYing the PROFANITY” I heard less than ten words and almost that many curse words. I was really tempted to say something to them, but they weren’t talking loud and they weren’t upset; they were talking quietly and I was just unfortunately too close. They just had mouths that only learned their vocabulary from bad movies and poor comic books.

I realize now that I consider swearing to be the expression of a mind that cannot or does not wish to clearly express its thoughts and feelings. A person that has to use curse words to express themselves can’t be expressing much. One event stands out in my mind as the time I truly learned this fact. When I worked at a grocery store as a teen, I was a lunch. Which meant I ate at the tables around the store’s deli for the half-hour I had off. A cashier and the bouncer like guy that worked with the money were there too. Now, I had for a long time admired the bouncer guy; he hunted rattlesnakes as a side business. To a teenage guy that is cool, not to mention that he looked like he could bench press a small car. The cashier had bought a new type of salad dressing and was trying to get the guy to try it. He didn’t want to try it. She insisted and the fellow decided to use profanity to insist he didn’t wan to try it. I remember thinking, “He cussed out salad dressing.” That man lost all coolness I thought he had.  What kind of person curses out salad dressing? My answer, one with a very limited vocabulary.

Now, don’t for a minute think I am just saying cursing is just a sign of poor vocabulary. It’s also sin. But I am looking at why people curse, not why it’s wrong. I see basically two reasons people curse: they are cannot express themselves emotionally without cursing and they think that cursing is cool.  

Today, people do not learn to think and therefore don’t learn to express their thoughts. Imagine a person frustrated by the inability to accomplish something. Today he would say he feels, (PROFANITYed) over, or equally crude, profane remark. A couple hundred years ago, Thomas Paine reflected on the difficulty of a fight,” Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” I realize the average Joe will lose a vocabulary contest verses Thomas Paine, but the point still stands. If you cannot express yourself, you are likely to fall back on the very poor prop of profane speech.

Unfortunately, our society classifies certain speech as “adult” rather than “profane.” This makes kids think that saying those horrible, blasphemous words are part of the process of becoming adult. Not true, because nothing shows the horrible immaturity of a person better than using foul speech to enforce weak thinking and bad behavior.  Kids think that since that cool guy in the movie or CD used certain words to describe his mother, friend, or enemy that the kid should do the same thing. The person that thinks swearing is cool has forsaken decent conversation for obscenity; and, most likely, their pride will lock them there. It’s a pity too. Thinking people will have so few people to talk to.

I tell my student this, “Think before you speak.” It’s a good habit. If all of us would practice good thinking, profane speaking will be a much smaller problem.