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Rhoads: Push Back on Vulgar Language



By Mark Rhoads - Bad-words-curse

As a student of English, I realize as well as anyone does that the common definition of words can change over time with slang usage replacing formerly correct usage.

For example, In the time of my grandparents, the word "gay" usually meant happy and free of care. The decade of the 1890s was often called "The Gay 90s" to reflect the happy ragtime music of the period. 

But in the last 25 years the slang usage of meaning a homosexual lifestyle has almost completely replaced the original meaning for people under the age of 45. But just because a slang word emerges into common usage is no excuse not to resist the general trend to more vulgar language.

I have to refer to a once very vulgar word I do not like that is all too common among teens and even younger children.  The word "sucks" was in my teen years considered to be pornographic and offensive.  But in recent years the word has sadly emerged as a synonym for anything that is bad or undesirable.  But I still have strong objections to adult parents caving in to vulgar language by teens, no matter how commonly used.

I am tired of the argument that we older conservatives should just "get over it" and that kids do not know the original meaning and the always-popular defense that "all the kids do it."  

There is even a group of supposedly conservative college students who have adopted as their official slogan the phrase, "Social Security Sucks."  In my defense I claim I am not just being stuffy for the sake of being old-fashioned.

Language is thought and when vulgar and sloppy language dominates discourse the culture becomes more vulgar and sloppy. Parents and teachers should at the very least try to encourage the use of proper English and a good Thesaurus to motivate students to find alternative words in the rich and expressive English language that promote elevated public discussion instead of the lowest common denominator.

There is no harm in trying to find a better word that expresses an idea in a better or more precise way.  There is harm when parents and teachers are too lazy to even try to influence language choices by teens.  It is wrong to just throw in the towel because you think the culture is more powerful than the parent.  One big duty of a parent is to offer guidance on many life choices and not just sit on the sidelines.


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  1. Mark,
    Thank you so much for speaking out on the use of vulgar language. It is used by talk show hosts, teachers, parents and especially young people.
    It wouldn’t hurt to begin to restore the dignity and culture of our society by the words we use in ordinary discourse.
    Thanks for speaking out.
    Mary Anne Hackett