I just finished reading an interesting study by a leading university that determined many people who cuss when frustrated are actually better adjusted to easing their distress and tension. In other words, some of that is healthy. The big problem is where we draw the lines. There are some acceptable cuss words besides “oh darn” and “shucks.”
What I call “dirty talkers” say a law would be against their civil rights. They are probably right from a strictly legal point. Let’s face it, the quality of a person’s speech is a matter of intelligence, taste and thoughtfulness…not laws. The dirty public language trend that started about a generation ago still bothers me and it did so 10 years ago when I wrote the following column in 2008:
I’ve never claimed to be an angel, however, in the matter of foul language in mixed company, I toe the line of social decency. Maybe I’m an “old fuddy-duddy” to some of the younger generations, however, foul offensive language has increased.
We all are aware of what a majority consider unacceptable and disgusting talk nowadays coming from kids in high and even grade school. Don’t know why? Do they get it from their parents? From gutter-talking entertainment “celebrities?” Who knows? I’m guessing the kids do it as a matter of “peer acceptance,” part of showing they are “with it.” My advice is to clean up that habit before they hit the job market, because professional managers and most older folks, including me, ARE NOT IMPRESSED.
In “olden days,” ladies didn’t cuss, at least not in mixed company. A sincere “damn” or “hell” was sometimes acceptable. Most laboring men cussed, but gentlemen weren’t supposed to do it in mixed company. I got my mouth washed out with soap when I was five for repeating just one of the “naughty” words my cowboy uncle had used during a five-minute soliloquy, delivered after a horse kicked him in a bad place. That whole episode turned out badly because, during the mouth washing, I bit my mother’s finger, which elevated the punishment into a spanking.
Being raised in a world of cowboys, hardrock miners and loggers offered unlimited opportunities for expanding a young man’s “anger expressions.” Working in the Forest Service on trail crews and telephone lines gave me a high school diploma in expressive oral “frustration relief.” From there, the U.S. Army infantry training and overseas duty provided a master’s degree in advanced “dirty words,” many in foreign languages.
Having attained that advanced proficiency, I worked towards a PhD, spending considerable time with fellow men in duck blinds and hunting camps…mostly before first wife Iris took over supervision of my general behavior after I was 30.
This background on my education is written to show the dirty talkers why I am judged their public mouthings as embarrassingly pathetic… amateurism.
G. George Ostrom is an award-winning columnist from Kalispell.