Thoughts on salty social media comments, the F-Bomb and the definition of profanity

When it comes to profanity, I’m not a prude, in fact far from it. I also want to add that my ears will not wilt and my eyes won’t melt if I hear or read a curse word.

I worked 20 years in the coal industry and spent time daily around men who, as my late mother Geraldine would say, ‘could cuss a blue streak.’ Admittedly, I’ve also uttered my fair share of curse words.

But, lately I see a change in the way people talk that troubles me. While my detractors will say I’m just old, I believe it goes hand-in-hand with the world we live in where everything is right and nothing is wrong, everybody wins and nobody loses and some people feel compelled, liberated or they’re just plain old stupid enough to believe they can say or write anything, anywhere, anytime – and that includes the F-bomb.

In recent months I’ve witnessed, in restaurants, at convenience stores, at ballgames, people who seem to believe that it’s their right to fill the air with expletives even when children are within earshot. I grew up in an era when men were often warned to ‘watch their language’ in front of women and children. These days some of the women and children need to have a bar of Lifebuoy shoved in their mouth.

One of the most glaring areas involving profanity involves social media. I recently read a post on Facebook where a young teenage girl that I know made a post, obviously trying to make a point. And there for all the World Wide Web to see was the F-bomb used over and over again. Unlike the iron-heads dropping the F-word in mixed company inside businesses this example just made me sad.

My first reaction when I read the post was to go on a rant that I often see on Facebook’ and threaten to remove all those who post inappropriate comments. After thinking about that for about three seconds I realized that would be a self-righteous, holier-than-thou move on my part. And given my life-list of mistakes and personal failings I clearly and definitely have no reason to put myself on a judgmental pedestal. So, instead of ascending to my Ivory Tower and ridding myself of all social media potty-mouths, I decided instead to offer some advice.

First, I want to note that on social media I see more young people than older folks posting inappropriate things. But, regardless of age I want to point out that going on a profanity-laced tirade is not cool, impressive or a way to show your intelligence.
But, in all fairness to youth and the trials of growing up, let me offer a challenge. The English language is a wonderful, marvelous, fun and challenging thing to learn and expand. And there is no greater satisfaction that being able to get your point across than by displaying a vocabulary that does not include a single expletive.

On the other hand, trying to make a point with a string of curse words is juvenile, childish and weak. It’s also just downright boring. So, my advice for young folks on social media is expand your vocabulary, learn a new word and what it means every day. It also would be a good idea to install a speed-bump between your brain and your keyboard.
These instances of people dropping the F-bomb in public places reminded me of an incident I witnessed many years ago while working in the coal industry. There was a group of guys underground at the ‘dinner-hole’ and one miner was on a rant telling a story and every other word was an F-word or an MF-word with an assortment of other salty curse words sprinkled in for good measure.

When he finally finished an old miner who had quietly listened asked the ‘cusser’ a simple question: ‘Do you know the definition of profanity?’ With a dull look on his face the man who had filled the air with curse words said ‘#@$%# no.’
The old miner told him, ‘profanity … is ignorance made audible.’ And again with a dull look, the cusser said ‘I don’t get it. Showing the power of words, the old miner simply said, ‘of course you don’t.’

Obviously, since I still remember that definition 40 years later, those five simple words left a lasting impression on me. Oh, the power of words!

While I hold on to the belief that there is hope for young people to learn that social media is not the best place to air their dirty laundry in a curse-filled tantrum, there will always be those, for shock value or pure stupidity, who will continue to fill the air – regardless of where they are or who they are around – with foul language.

To that group, I simply say again that ‘profanity is ignorance made audible.’

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