Earlier this spring, a Progress staff member overheard two younger people walking down Main Street near our building just cussing up a storm for lack of a better description.
Around the same time, another newspaper employee recalled a group of young people in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot having a shouting match over someone’s “%% cigarettes,” which apparently someone else had taken.
These reflections brought to mind another day when the editor spotted an adult at the Roper Park playground wearing a t-shirt that contained the queen mother of all obscene words – and in great big letters. Indeed, a parent/guardian apparently felt no qualms about wearing to a kid’s playground at a county park a shirt with the “f-bomb,” as it is called.
Fans and parents have complained in past years that the language heard clearly at field level during high school football games would shame a group of sailors.
Curse words date back to the middle ages at least. The idea that profanity has just reared its ugly head is no more accurate than the belief that teen smoking, drinking and sex never happened back in the good ol’ days.
As far back as the 1600s, old William Shakespeare used the occasional “Fie” to spice up his iambic pentameter. And, if you can wade through the Old English, The Canterbury Tales rival anything on HBO for salacious content.
But while the words have always been part of the language, it does surely seem profanity is more common in public today than it was a decade ago. Going back two decades, even the more hardened juvenile delinquents grasped the idea of some control limits on when and where to let certain words fly.
Today, it seems the noted torrents of foul-language come more and more from young people who appear genuinely ignorant of the social guidelines heretofore. Many cussing speakers we’ve witnessed appear oblivious that when addressing adults you don’t use certain synonyms for bad, really bad and horrible.
“Ah, Mr. Principal, that idea #$%,*” no longer arrives as a shocker.
Not that we’re all dandified Southern gentlemen or women at the newspaper, but it’s awkward to be in the presence of children or ladies when you hear people in public, neither angry nor arguing, who let fly with four-letter words as casually as normal folks might discuss the weather.
At one point in Georgia, state law criminalized any cussing in front of a dead body. And while it may still be on the books, that law is no longer applied with any regularity, based on our crime watch reports.
It is also illegal in Georgia to use profanity in front of children. But again, it’s not readily enforced, as there aren’t enough jails, judges or cops to round up everyone who let’s fly a few vulgarities.
There are those who would argue lack of etiquette doesn’t mean general low morals. Rather, it just means the speaker is unrefined or un-educated, as teachers used to advise those who favored off-color expression. And compared with some of the problems young people face, using foul language is hardly something to start a new non-profit to battle.
But it is distressing to see how many young people have been brought up learning or have learned from social culture to disregard the old unspoken rules regarding inappropriate language that could be offensive to others.
And maybe it is no big deal anymore, but it sure doesn’t sit right to hear all the words that ten-plus years ago would have resulted in a serious whipping or a screeching classroom halt if uttered. These days, those words pop up as frequently as gosh darns used to.