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What'd I Say

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Since joining the Church, I've tried to change my language somewhat. Part of this is adopting a significantly different peer group that doesn't appreciate constant F-bombs. Part of it is a feeling that language that coarse isn't useful in inviting the Spirit or communicating in an articulate manner. And part of it is simple enculturation.

I've been swearing more over the last six months or so than before that, but still significantly less than before I joined the Church. So, progress, incrementalism......oh, whatever. I still swear.

Now, you typically can't find a Mormon that isn't telling you how much worse the world is getting in every single way possible. One would think that there's no point in even doing any good, as any good act will immediately be followed by six bad ones. But, in the case of profanity, there is a case to be made.

I'm not offended by most profanity (with one exception, and not the F-bomb), but it really is becoming a lot more acceptable to curse in the media. Any profanity at all was unacceptable in the 1990s for sports announcers, while anything short of the seven dirty words or "bitch" (when referring to a woman or an annoying man) is generally ok now. Network TV is somewhat more accepting of profanity, while cable is a lot more open to it. Music is also a little more accepting of it, although I think this has a lot more to do with the genres that are being played on top 40 radio than any real shift in how much profanity is actually being used.

When reading the Newsweek article about the Church on msnbc.com, I saw a banner ad at the bottom of the page for Critical Acclaim, a progressive site that seems to largely link to other progressive sites (I don't actually know, as I didn't visit). The ad featured a famous antiwar sign that read "Bombing for peace is like f***ing for virginity".

Now, this is a famous sign that is a representation of what was probably the best synopsis of why Vietnam was a bad idea that the left came up with. But one wonders: is this language generally acceptable now? Previously, flipping someone off was referenced in print news as simply "an obscene gesture". Interesting that MSNBC and GoogleAds would incorporate this ad into a random selection of ads to appear on a given page, especially given that the story was a religious piece.

So, you'd think that I'm in agreement with the idea that the world is going to heck in a handbasket on the profanity issue? Well, kind of. It actually seems less acceptable to swear in some environments than before. For example, our department here at OU has received occasional complaints about professors and GAs swearing in lectures. Not a huge deal, but unheard of a few short years ago. I wonder if a lesser taboo surrounding language really has made swearing a little less "cool".

It would be interesting to see if there actually does emerge a meaningful counter-trend on profanity. I sure hope not. I love me some Ludacris.

4 Responses to “What'd I Say”

  1. Anonymous Daylan Darby 

    I sure hope you meant "TAs swearing in lectures" - I didn't hear many GA's swearing in conference! 8-)

  2. Blogger D-Train 

    Yeah, I did mean TA. But the institutional lingo here is "GA" for graduate assistant. I didn't really consider that most people would read that as "General Authority", being that most of us around here are either Mormons or down with the lingo.

    I wonder how many general authorities swear in their private lives?

  3. Blogger RoastedTomatoes 

    Nice post! One thing that makes this topic complex, of course, is that what counts as swearing is completely determined by social convention. So, for example, the word "golly" now strikes us as silly and innocuous in the extreme, but it's a contraction of "God's body" and was thus once a criminally-punishable blasphemy. Thus, as society becomes more accepting of a particular bit of profanity, it simply stops being profaned--and society is back to where it started from...

  4. Blogger Arwyn 

    That swearing is determined by social convention is one of the biggest arguments I hear in favor of it. I used to monitor a chatroom, and people hated me for being the language nazi -- our rules stated no swearing above a G-rated level (which means, basically, no swearing), but folks would get really angry at me for enforcing the rule, saying that the words were just words and I was only offended by them because I was conditioned to be.

    "Social convention" used to be that swearing was a lower-class function and a vulgar thing -- that polite and upstanding members of society refrained from it.

    Now, "social convention" seems to be saying that swearing is acceptable on most levels of society. I wonder if there's anything good and positive in that...

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