Thursday, January 10, 2008

Am I the Only One Who Feels This Way?

There is a familiar philosophical discussion that goes on in our house. I won't say it's an argument, because frankly, neither myself nor Bubba can muster up enough passion on either side to escalate it that far. But it definitely showcases our differences of opinion. Here it is:

I say that context is more important than content when it comes to words. He says not necessarily all the time. For example, in the interest of not having other parents hate me in public, I've refrained from using my 'sailor speech' freely at home so as to not teach my children that these words are appropriate. I've substituted the word "crap" for just about every other 'naughty word' I would normally use except I occasionally use the word "friggin'" for some things (for example, "why is it so friggin' important for you two to fight about who sits next to the dog in the car?").

Bubba hates the word "crap." He has warned our children not to use it and takes exception whenever I utter it within his earshot. Bubba, true to his nickname, is not a shrinking violet. He married me knowing full well I could open my mouth and let fly a blue streak the likes of which would rival the Northern Lights. I think he actually found that amusing, if not attractive in some weird way. Now that we have children, however, there are certain words he despises, "crap" and "fart" being among them.

I tend to believe (and this is the logical argument I used on my mother when she forbade me to say actual curse words as a teenager) that words are nothing less than a collection of letters and pose no threat of their own until they are aimed in a certain way. Enter: context. For example, while it is not appropriate for me to call my brother a sh*thead, I see no reason why I can't be allowed to scream, "SH*T!" upon smashing my toe against the edge of the coffee table. I don't literally mean that there is a pile of excrement lying somewhere near me (although that would likely elicit the same response from me). I am simply using a self-satisfying phrase in order to express myself. Likewise, I probably should not refer to another human being as a dumbf*ck, but when I lock myself out of the car in the middle of the supermarket parking lot and peer inside the windows to see the keys dangling from the ignition, I will likely mutter, "F*ck!" Again, I am not referring to the act of coupling between two people - I am simply expressing my frustration. Bubba doesn't see it the same way. He believes that I ought to show a little restraint and respect for other people in public by not saying what immediately comes to my mind.

On the other hand, I take exception to occasions when Bubba tells our squabbling children to "shut up!" That, I feel is disrespectful and I don't want my children thinking that it is ever okay to talk to other people that way. I also want them to learn that calling people names or making fun of them is not okay. Not that Bubba does that very often, but occasionally he will make some snide remark under his breath say, when we pass a woman who has squeezed herself into a Spandex outfit the likes of which she shouldn't have worn 25 pounds ago, much less today. I think that using language in this way is much more damaging than simply saying those four-letter words we're all taught to avoid.

This discussion is happening more and more often as our eldest daughter finds herself listening to music that occasionally contains one or more of these trigger words. I've asked her to sing along until those particular words come up and then zip her lip to skip right over them. She understands that some of these words are offensive to others in public and, although she doesn't understand exactly what they mean, she is willing to play the game for now. Bubba thinks that I ought to just remove those particular songs from her available repertoire altogether until she is older.

Food for thought, readers. Weigh in with your opinion, please!

By the way, the argument worked brilliantly on my mother. Either I was terrifically convincing or I just managed to wear her down - I tend to believe it was the latter. I have a hard time staying quiet for long.... No, really.


ammogirl said...

Well, we had this conversation before. I totally agree with you. Just words. My girls know I cuss. I know they cuss--around their friends, because teenagers just do. Occasionally, they cuss around me. In anger? No. That would get them grounded. In frustration at a situation, not a person? Absolutely. Algebra is crappy and pisses people off, no matter what age you are. If it makes you more able to tackle the next problem by saying just that, by all means, feel free. Around another adult, not my sisters? NEVER.

However, there are some words that are banned in our house--stupid. hate. shut up.

Sounds kind of familiar, huh?

Words are words. I agree with you--it's not what you say, but how you say them, and quite frequently those three words I dislike are said with venom, and to other people. And that's not okay.

ammogirl said...

Oh man, subject-verb agreement and being consistent with pronouns would have been fabulous!

La La said...

I HAVE to side with you on this one! EXACTLY!

As for saying "shut up," I also agree with you. NOT OKAY.

Anonymous said...

It is all about intent. Saying "shut up!" or being derogatory or judgmental about others (I'm thinking of your hubby's snide remarks) is never cool. It is all about being loving or not toward another person. Four letter swear words are okay in moderation. Every other word being a swear word though makes you sound dumb because it doesn't communicate your thoughts properly. There is a fine line between communicating emotions and being crude though. It's that hateful attitude you have to watch out for.

Anonymous said...

I am with you on this one Kari. I think when words are used to hurt or belittle people, swear words or mean words (like shut up, your stupid, I hate you, etc.) are just wrong on all levels. Swearing is just expressing feelings. I try hard not to do it in front of my kids, usually because it make them mad (thus, this quarter jar, Hannah has started). David just gets mad at me, besides the fact he is getting old and grumpy (kidding) he says he has to put up with it all day at High School and doesn't want to hear it from me. Ummm, too bad. When I mess up or stub my toe or someone cuts me off, it just feels good and comes out.
Interestly, my friend, who is a 5th grade teacher hates all swearing, says it shows you are not intelligent enough to use better words. To that I say, bullshit.

Love ya!

Anonymous said...

Boon cussed on his second afternoon of pre-school and got put in time out. I'm not sure if that's context or content. But it makes me smile (when no one is looking!).


Jess said...

I don't have kids yet, but I'm pretty sure I agree with you. I think it's the essence of what we are expressing that is most important, the way we make people feel. If nobody is hurt, then it seems like a waste of energy to get too worked up about words.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I am 100% with you, 0% with Bubba, and that's not just because I'm scared of you.

In our house we have two rules:

1) Swearing must be FUNNY (not said in anger)

2) You must know your audience - don't offend

That being said, I would rather hear my kids yell swear words when they are upset, than to EVER call someone an unkind name. I come down HARD on "stupid" "dumb" "shut up" etc. NO ROOM FOR THAT BULLSHIT AROUND HERE!

Jess said...

Did you see this post from Carrie's friend?

Miss Devylish said...

Well.. since I learned all my cussing from you and my parents, and mostly you, I blame you completely. Ok ok.. just when I accidentally swear around your kids and then pretend Bubba didn't give me a look or that I didn't really say something and steamroller along to my next uncursing thought cuz lalalala.. I didn't hear that. Oops. But 'stupid' was said so often in my house - and often it was yelled - that that word is banned by me and if a friend uses it against me - or anything fairly similar, they are called on it immediately. But that's because it took a long time for me to learn that those things weren't acceptable because that's how I was raised. It's not ok to put others down even if you're joking. It really is awful. Now.. I would say the same about 'shut up', but I'm a big believer in aligning that w/ the meaning of 'you're kidding' or 'get out of here' sort of thing along w/ a big smile and an Elaine from Seinfeld type push that's all in good fun of course.

I think the girls are doomed to be sailors like us tho.. gotta give it to you straight at least. ;)

Deb said...

I'm totally with you, Kari. Context is everything. And how can something that feels that good, be wrong!

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