Of all things Language

As mentioned in my previous post I’ve been reliving the good parts of my teen years by watching Simon & Simon. The old 1980’s detective series where the men were smart men, they were men’s men; the women were smart and pretty. The bad guys were caught, the guns were still just 6-shooters, only the really bad guys had machine guns and almost never used them, and the fights were fake. Obviously fake.

In the past 30 years acting has gotten more realistic, the lines are less stiff and delivered with a greater authenticity.  It all seemed real back then and the shift to greater professionalism (I’m not sure that is the word I’m looking for) has been so subtle we didn’t even notice it. In fact, unless you go back and watch shows from 30, 40, or more years ago you don’t realize there has been a difference. It’s like it’s always been.

But it hasn’t. One most notable difference is the language. The only “bad” words used on network television in the 1980’s was an occasional “Damn!” or “what the hell…”.  And our ears were horrified to hear those words.

If you went back 30 years from that moment, you’d be running into 1950’s television. You’ve entered the land of “Leave It To Beaver”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, and “I love Lucy”. The time when you couldn’t say such horrifying words like “pregnant”, using “damn” or “hell” as curse words were unheard of completely.

Now those two words and their milder-Christian counterparts, darn and heck, are considered tame.  Now we hear such epithets as “son of a *itch”. You know that phrase seems to apply to everyone, family, friend, or foe. It appears it can be used to express great affection or even greater condemnation. If someone does something stupid they are one. If someone does something great, they are one too. Apparently, like most things it’s all in the delivery.

Like being in the south and hearing “bless your heart” and knowing it really means “You’re an idiot.” Maybe. Kind of like that.

We can’t say a complete sentence without “f-this” and “f-that”.  Everyone says it. Well not, every-everyone but we are being led to believe that “everyone talks that way”. I remember a few years ago hearing a little girl, a LITTLE girl, a little GIRL, less than 10 years old yell that down the street. My momma heart cringed. My little girl heart cringed and wept for this sweet child who has heard those words often enough in her life to have no fear of shouting them down the street at her friends.

A friend recently referred to his cooking as “damn good”. He was specifically talking about chicken and chili. Now, you must know something about this woman. I grew up hearing every cuss and curse word there was, I’ve had many shouted at me. So many words, so many times I’m not even phased by them anymore.

Unfortunately so is most of the rest of the world. Words that used to be relegated to drunken sailors on shore or ship, words spoken only in back rooms over billiard tables by men with a taste of expensive cigars, cheap whiskey, and cheaper women. Words fit only for men.

There was a time when women were protected from such crude language. That isn’t the case anymore. And women can match cuss word for cuss word. And all without blushing. It’s odd, women are still greatly offended by bodily noises and are so embarrassed when a less-than-ladylike burp escapes their lips, but they think nothing at all of letting crude speech cross those lips.

The English language is laden with words, it is awash with adjectives, and yet so many of us chose to use the same scanty words over and over.  We pride ourselves on being an intelligent race, class of people. I mean, we’re from the United States of America! We’re the Land of the Free and the Brave.

And the stupid.

I’m sorry, that was (mostly) uncalled for, but think for a pair of seconds. Why use the same microscopic words over and over? Why? Why don’t we extend our vocabulary to include words like objurgate, imprecate, anathematize, and excommunicate?  Why not enhance our speech with words like abyss, ordeal, pandemonium, and blazes? (By the way the first 4 words are all synonyms for damn, the next four words are synonyms for hell.)

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Proverbs 25:11