If you're going to have a scandal or a sense of outrage, the problem as I see it is that first you have to find a pool of agreement about what is scandalizing or outrageous. Can anyone find such a pool any more?
To my taste, those who use the word "fuck" these days have no class, no rhythm, no agreement. The result is that saying "fuck" is about like saying the word "banana" 100 times fast: Blah, blah, blah. I think it's a pity, but that's just me. Dumbed-down 20-something-and-up uncouth-sayers ain't sooth sayers in my book.
Oh well, I can't fix it. But I can miss it -- the sense of scandal or outrageousness or goody-two-shoes-ism. It's easier when some things are naughty. Or maybe I mean I find them easier and somehow fun-ner.
One thing this court case gives me is what I take as permission to reprint a column I wrote in 2014 and always kind of liked:
ONE OF MOM'S LESSONS HE'LL SWEAR BY
Published March 19, 2014, in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
— On TV the other night, a stand-up comedian was camouflaging his lack
of comedic material with liberal doses of cuss words when it occurred to
far cussing had come in my lifetime.
Certainly usage and acceptance on
radio, TV and the Internet had risen from what I will refrain from calling “the
good old days” of the late 1940s. But had it really advanced or had the music
gone out of it? I didn’t really know, but I remembered ...
• The first time I came home from
grade school and used a dirty word in front of my mother, she was ready for me.
My second-grade peers had reported their own homegrown results in this realm
and those results weren’t pleasant, ranging from a verbal harangue to a
spanking to an intimate knowledge of what Ivory soap tasted like.
My mother, however, was a pretty
good writer in her time. Language was her garden and there were no weeds in it.
Good and bad, naughty and nice weren’t so much the point when it came to
language. Language was music and there were no bad notes. But there was the
matter of skill and it was in this regard that she greeted my use of what these
days is referred to as “the f-bomb.”
She sat me down ... uh-oh!
Something serious was afoot, though I didn’t see any soap in her hand.
And then very quietly and very
patiently she went through all of the dirty words and their compounds. There
were religious meanings, literal meanings, metaphorical meanings and
physiological meanings. My mother didn’t overlook any of them and did not spare
my eeeeuuuuuewww embarrassment when it came to the physiology part ... girls
and boys did that???!!!
My mother gave me both barrels and
then laid down the law:
I could use the words among my
I could use the words in front of
But I could not use the words in
front of her friends.
These were rules even a
second-grader could grasp.
But as with all initial rules and
original teachings, there were refinements to learn, both mentally and
socially, as the years passed.
• It was at 16 that I got my most
refined lesson in cussing. I had a summer job picking up trash. The guy who
drove the truck was a young man who had graduated from high school, landed his
job and had a new baby he adored. He had a pleasant disposition and I felt
comfortable with him.
But like a lot of 16-year-olds I
had gotten into the habit of using the f-bomb. It sounded — you know —
grown-up. But one day, my companion turned to me and said in the friendliest
possible fashion, “You know, if you don’t know how to use that word, I wish you
I was gob-smacked. It wasn’t as if he didn’t use the word. He did. With
regularity. But he obviously wanted to lend me a hand.
I hardly knew how to respond, so I
just began listening to him talk. And as I listened, I realized he was right:
There was a music to language and he knew the music where I only knew the
• After I got out of the Army,
where cussing was a norm, I came home and conceived an interest in Zen
Buddhism, a practice that includes a suggestion about “right speech.” And one
day I announced to my mother off-handedly that I had decided to give up
She looked at me with an honest
shock. “Oh please don’t do that,” she said. “I wouldn’t know who you are!” It
was nuts from where she sat. And as I thought about it, it was nuts from where
I sat. And so, as it turned out, I gave up trying to give up cussing.
• When my sons were both at about
the age when I had first received my mother’s counsel, they were as delighted
as I had been with cuss words. But one day, driving home with them, I had
enough. I stopped the car on a deserted road out behind the fairgrounds here in
Northampton. And I offered them a
challenge: For one minute — not more and not less — they would scream out every
dirty word they could think of. No quitting allowed. One minute. They looked
delighted. And as I restarted the drive home, I shouted, “Go!” They let loose
But after 15 seconds, they ran out
of steam. They faltered. “No!” I shouted in the spirit of the moment, “No
quitting! Keep going!” And they tried. They tried hard, but the laughter and
naughtiness and enthusiasm were spent. Twice more I encouraged them and twice
more they complied with diminishing vigor. They never did cross the one-minute
In later times, I would treat my
sons to bits and pieces of what my mother had given me in a single sitting.
They too learned some of the skills that go with the music of language. No
doubt they too will have experiences that refine their understanding.
All of which is OK with me.
As long as they don’t turn into