Ocean City Today

The curse of profanity

The Public Eye
By Stewart Dobson | Jan 18, 2018



printed 01/19/2018


I’ve never liked the idea of using profanity in news writing (fishing is different), because I believe it’s employed for shock value when a piece is poorly written.

Yet, recent events have presented me with a challenge: Did the president in a recent White House meeting with a handful of senators, say “s…hole” or “s…house?”

If he said either, it matters, because a major difference exists between the two.

The latter, obviously, is superior to the former, but, in the absence of more detailed information, we are left to guess how much greater.

Specifically, are we referring to modular (good) or stick-built (better) or design guidelines compliant (best)? Or, as has been observed as regards certain aspects of human development, brick?

It might be that the implication was, “these countries are built like a brick s...house” which, in some circles, is considered an expression of admiration.

Why that is, incidentally, continues to baffle me, since being compared to an outdoor latrine, regardless of its structural integrity, would seem to be less than complimentary.

On the other hand, the brick could have been laid in the Herringbone bond style, which would make a difference, I suppose.

Even so, one would be wise not to employ that term just anywhere or anytime.

One would not, for example, use it in an address to the garden club, unless, of course, they actually had one out back.

“It’s a pleasure to address you today, and I’d like to start by complimenting you on the lovely nasturtiums by your brick s...house.”

That’s what they call an “attention grabber” in public speaking courses.

Even though many people and countries took umbrage at whatever was said or might have been said, or was never said, it remained amusing to watch CNN news anchors and commentators struggle not to say it while the PRINTED WORD ITSELF rolled and rolled across the screen in big bold type.

The FCC-regulated broadcast networks generally avoided the word for fear of being cited for using profanity — the fine can be up to $383,038, which in the federal statutes is listed as “Deep S..., see Subsection A.”

Meanwhile, the news scroll on CNN and other cable stations, which isn’t regulated by the FCC, was in type that was bigger than a brick and mortar commode installation.

Their theory, apparently, was that anyone who watches cable news can’t read, which may be true, depending on your political beliefs.

What I do know, however, is that modern language useage has evolved rapidly in recent years to include — even on broadcast television — words that once led to having one’s mouth washed out with soap.

This approach to language hygiene, if you will, is no longer permitted by the authorities, as it might cause subsequently scarred children to avoid soap altogether as adults, thus leading to employment problems.

Besides, we don’t have “soap” anymore; we have “body wash,” and saying “I’ll cleanse your mouth with body wash, young man,” doesn’t carry the same threat level.

Consequently, we must guard against the prospect that our growing acceptance of profanity will lead us to the day when its use will become so casual that we will substitute once unacceptable words out of laziness for otherwise towering expressions of thought.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want to hear about little Johnny (yes, that little Johnny) stand in class to recite the Gettysburg Address and begin by saying: “Four score and a s...load of years ago, our forefathers …”

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