• June 6th, 2020

The challenges of the spoken word

My young brother and I took a bus trip to Victoria Falls in early January. We used the promises of reliability, comfort and safety to choose our mode of travel. However, seemingly endless and unscheduled stops spoilt the flavour of the journey.
   When the mind registers an inconvenience, it is not always easy to gauge, much less to control, its responses. On the bus, for example, what was meant to be comfort soon turned out to be a prickly challenge to communication. How should I have responded when the passenger in front suddenly reclined his or her seat, in the process encroaching on my already small and cherished legroom?

Aric Jenkins wonders aloud: “So, what should you do when someone decides to lean back into your knees or laptop – especially when they don’t ask in advance?” He suggests that a ‘delicate approach’ may help calm the situation. 
   While Jenkins’ advice makes sense, real life severely challenges manners and etiquette. Aristotle said “anybody can be angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

Words certainly do not come easy. Once, I played the role of marriage counsellor. I made thorough preparations for the assignment. I thought that I was equipped, until the wife revealed her husband’s vocabulary of vulgar words. They were not soft words.

I was further shocked when the husband readily confessed to the weakness. He claimed it was the only way he could get his wife to lower her voice during their arguments. The wife meanwhile sensibly argued that the polluted words were likely to cause harm to their children. She emphasized that the words were filthy, indecorous and plain ungodly.
From the start, I found the wife cooperative. The husband was more challenging. Nonetheless, surrender was not one of my options. A scholar in child development advises on the importance of raising children “who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.”

   This is a useful signpost – teach them well when they are young. I have a general dislike for vulgar, some call them profane and obscene words. Yet they stare at me from music, reading and viewing materials. Profanity is defined as words which are offensive, rude and disrespectful.

I am therefore disturbed when I see profanity being treated as the new cool. It is not; it should not be! I find it discomforting to listen to conversations which are generously and effortlessly spiced with obscene words. They lower the value of social expectations.  

   I must confess that the subject of evolving communication methods is a complex one. For example, some of the words that I find objectionable have crept into dictionaries. 
An advertising agency has this worrying conclusion: “Depending on whether you are watching cable or broadcast, prime or

late night, reality or drama, such words are considered OK, other times strictly off-limits, and still other times acceptable if hidden with a bleep (which arguably attracts even more attention).” 

   I am relieved that certain materials carry the label, “explicit content,” and thus give listeners, viewers or readers a chance to make informed choices. But this does not seem to present a lasting answer. Age ratings still have to be treated with utmost caution, while social media delights in vulgarity. It is called freedom of expression.
In a post entitled “Dropping the f-bomb: Blogging with naughty words,” Darron Rowse says “blogging using cuss words has

become a trend for some new bloggers hitting the scene, but I’m wondering, is it really to any avail?” The dictionary defines cuss as an old-fashioned or informal swear word.

   In my view, Rowse correctly notes that “blogging without cussing gives one’s blog a friendlier, less hostile look…your blog will be appropriate for all ages of your audience.”
Elsewhere, William B. Bradshaw wrote a piece called “Profanity and grammar: lessons from history.” Part of the essay reads as follows:

 “As I sat in the theatre watching a movie that received seven academy award nominations, I was struck by the unusual amount of profanity – my mind recalled an order issued by General George Washington (the first USA president from 1789 to 1797) to his officers during the Revolutionary War.

The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, heretofore little known in the army, is going into fashion. He hopes the officers will, by example as influence, endeavour to check it.”
   All along, the public has held the view that people resort to obscene words because they do not have adequate vocabularies. 

As impractical as it may sound, it is possible to encourage our schools, communities and work places to aspire to higher moral standards in their communication.

Accordingly, I can only conclude with the following daring challenge: “it is the social environment, the parents’ pattern of discipline, the child’s habits, and emotional circumstances that determine whether or not a child will unleash a curse word.”

New Era Reporter
2019-03-01 10:15:22 | 1 years ago

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