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Vulgar Language Demeans Our Society

The January 6 House Select Committee hearings have yielded shocking revelations, but one of the biggest disappointments for me is learning that many of our highest-ranking officials and their staffers have extremely limited vocabularies. I’m talking about the ubiquitous use of the f-word. What was once the most incendiary “naughty” word, one that is exceedingly demeaning to women, was once so socially unacceptable it doesn’t even appear in many dictionaries, and that was universally condemned in our society, now represents every form of speech, and is used liberally in the course of business and routine conversation. No one seems to be bothered.

It is perplexing that while many of these people earned degrees from prestigious universities and have built illustrious careers, they fall short in their abilities to express themselves by other than repeatedly using the most vulgar word in the English language. While English developed over 1,400 years and now comprises about one million words, in a mere ten years or so that bounty has been rendered irrelevant by the preference for one short, easy to spell utility word that everyone knows and that can be used to punctuate any thought and to express surprise, contempt, shock, anger, and amazement.

I feel sorry for future speech writers who will be forced to select from inelegant f-laced quotes uttered by persons who one would think might want to create a quotable legacy. “I’m the f-ing president!” doesn’t seem worthy of history books and makes President Nixon’s cuss words on the Oval Office tapes that shocked the nation during the Watergate scandal seem tame. Can you imagine if Franklin Roosevelt had stepped to the podium and opened his famous speech with “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in f-ing infamy. . .”? Or how about including in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be f-ing self-evident…?” What has become of the implied responsibility of leaders to set good examples and inspire us to be our best?

Whether texting, talking, or sending emails, the f-word has crept into our everyday language and has somehow gained respectability. If not that, we’ve at least become numb to it. What happened to us as a society that this level of verbal disrespect and crudeness is now business as usual? Even in the limited characters available in a Tweet, people deem it worthwhile to spend four to seven of them on the f-word. Unfortunately, the two cities that seem to set national trends, Los Angeles and New York, are severely infected by the f-bomb contagion. Corporate leaders, movies, music, and live entertainment now routinely assault audiences with a spew of f-bombs. Is it going to become acceptable for little Susie to tell her teacher “The f-ing dog ate my f-ing homework?”

Time was when one would never utter the word in public, let alone in front of parents, elders, bosses, teachers, or anyone in the religious community. Not doing so was a form of respect. My grandmother sat my sister in a chair with a bar of soap in her mouth for much of an afternoon for saying something far less offensive. We need the next gen grandmothers now.

It’s easy to pick on the f-word but here’s the real problem: Flinging f-bombs is merely a symptom of a larger sickness. I believe this coarsening of our language and the poor example being set by our leadership is having a corrosive effect on our society. It is an outgrowth of a rising incivility, selfishness, and disrespect that is eroding our stature as a people, contributing to divisiveness, and degrading the Enlightenment ideals on which our nation was founded.

We must find our bar soap before it is too late and demand better from ourselves and our leaders.