Loss of Polite Language

When I was an English teacher, I instructed my students to elevate not denigrate their language.  I wanted them to raise their level of discourse so others would view them in a positive light.

It has become a harder lesson to teach when one observes how people speak today.  It seems that being careful with one’s words is a quant antiquated ideal.

When newly elected Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address to Congress in 2009, Republican congressman Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!”

It was so shocking that a congressman would interrupt a president while delivering his most important speech of the year that Congress voted to condemn him for making that remark.

Fourteen years later, as Joe Biden is giving his second State of the Union address, congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene yells out, “liar!” which is worse than saying “you lie.”  Other Republicans, yelled “bull—-!”

And were any of these elected officials condemned for their obscenities?  No.

Remember how solemn this annual speech by the American President used to be for over 200 years?

Since when did the House Chamber of the United States turn into a wrestling match? This special club of 535 men and women can’t be polite for 90 minutes for a once-a-year event that is televised for all to see.  They end up disrespecting their own line of work by acting like thugs.

Later that same night, I’m watching LeBron James overtake Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s all-time scoring NBA record in career points, and you’d think this guy who many believe is the greatest of all time would recognize the gravity of the situation when they stop the game to allow him to speak about his achievement, but no. 

Instead of choosing to show humility and grace, he finishes his speech on live television with his family and mother in attendance by uttering, “F—, man.”  It seemed he was speechless, so the first word that popped into his head when he couldn’t think of what to say was the f-word.

It proves that no matter that how many billions he has in his bank account, he is bankrupt when it comes to class.

I can’t imagine the NBA all-time greats like Jerry West or Magic Johnson speaking that way at that moment.   In my book, LBJ will never surpass KAJ in terms of intelligence and dignity.  That record remains his alone.

In my last column, I wrote about how certain groups these days are hunting literature from the past in order to delete words that would not be acceptable today.  I wrote that these people should focus on the time in which they live.

For example, funny how the people with sensitivities to the word “fat” look the other way when it comes to the other f-word.

Why is it okay for the word b—- to be ubiquitous in nearly every Hollywood production?  I’ve seen reality shows where the characters’ nicknames for their friends is the b-word. 

Do you know that one of the films nominated for Best Animated Short Film is called “My Year of D—-,” a slang word for penis.  The film was made by women.  I wonder if a man had made a similar film called “My Year of P—-” if that would have received the same positive attention?

When it comes to entertainment, word appropriateness is in the ear of the beholder.

Why aren’t more people outraged that a six-year-old actor says the f-word?  Whenever I’m watching a film or TV show, and a young actor starts saying foul language, it immediately sucks me out of the drama, my mind thinking about the type of parents who would prostitute their own children to say filthy things just for a paycheck. 

If the parents aren’t going to monitor it, then it is up to the writers, producers and directors who clearly don’t have a moral compass.

All the money in the world would not persuade me to allow my 7-year-old to say “f— that s—” for the sake of entertainment.

And often the adult characters in these scenes don’t react in any negative way to their “children” swearing.  I don’t get it.

“The White Lotus” had a family where the teenaged daughter spoke frankly about sexual activities using slang that would make a sailor blush.  And not a raised eyebrow was seen on either her mother or father.

That show, by the way, has sex scenes in it that would have earned it an X rating by the MPAA back in the 1970’s.

It would not surprise me if a full-blown porn film is made by HBO or Netflix very soon.

Songwriter Cole Porter said it best with his aptly titled tune, “Anything Goes.”

“Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.

Anything goes.”

That was written in 1934.