The other day Betty, a former Tiny Community College student, now a facebook friend, wrote this as her status:
The month of July can go fuck itself.
I have no idea what happened this month to make this girl get all up in July’s stuff, but I’m certain her mood wasn’t made any better by the first response she got on the post, which was:
Please change your language as I am offended by the way you speak sometimes. Remember all your friends see what you write here.
Really? No; REALLY?! You’re going to scold an adult woman because YOU’RE offended by her language? Honestly; the chutzpah of this comment really set me off. It’s one thing to be tweaked by something someone says, but to tell them to change because YOU don’t like it was just too much, so I jumped to Betty’s defense with:
I disagree, V. I’m an English teacher, even, and I say that sometimes, only a good imprecation will do.
To which some other holier-than-thou retorted with:
But if it belonged in the vocabulary don’t you think the calandar would say “F”in July… That is truly uncalled for.
Which prompted me to ask:
How is that different from the calendar saying “Glorious July”? I maintain my position that, if Betty has call to disparage this month – for whatever her reasons – and those reasons are intense enough to require the use of the expletive, then it’s entirely appropriate.
At which point, the conversation stopped.
My stance on “spicy” language is and has always been thus; they are words, like any other words. They have meaning and power, and there are times when it’s entirely appropriate – necessary, in fact – to employ them. Our fear of certain words does nothing to address the issues those words represent; Tennessee’s attempt to legislate the use of the word gay in its school system isn’t going to make gay people go away, it’s only going to make it harder to talk about (and to) them. The idiocy of taking all the incidents of the word nigger out of Huck Finn is both laughably ridiculous and, I think, potentially dangerous, as it effectively softens some crucially important ideas, questions, and assumptions that book raises – things we clearly still need to talk about.
I set a standard for my children, both academic and biological, when it comes to colorful language. My students are allowed to use those words in my classroom or in their writing whenever those words are necessary and appropriate. My thinking is that I’m there to teach them effective communication and, to that end, I want them to have – and to be able to wield – all the tools they have at their disposal. I make very clear that the inappropriate or gratuitous use of imprecations will be neither rewarded nor tolerated, but I don’t scold kids who, in the process of relating an event or opinion, express themselves through saucy language. The girls were not allowed to use profanity until they reached 14. My thinking was that, by then, they will have observed other adults (mostly me) using colorful language in appropriate ways and would be mature enough to discern for themselves when those words are necessary. Punkin’ turned 14 last month, and she’s only sworn a couple of times since then, and always appropriately. She didn’t adopt the speech habits a drunken longshoreman on the eve of her 14th birthday, either; she understands, because she’s been paying attention, that there are times and places for ALL modes of speech. Her birthday simply brought with it more options for expression. That being said, I remind both children that they are not to use those words in school and they are never to utter them in the presence of their grandparents.
I have heard people – usually people with substantial sticks up their asses – claim that profanity is the refuge of the inarticulate and feeble-minded. To them, I offer a hearty fuck you. There should be no “off limit” words, and if your delicate sensibilities can’t handle emotional, passionate speech, then perhaps you should stop listening.