When properly wielded, foul language is like a spice added to food, enhancing and complementing the flavor of ordinary words. But when used too much (and who out there will say it's not?) and too predictably, the effect is changed; it's like dumping the entire contents of the salt shaker onto your plate during every meal. Rather than strengthening the impact of a statement, it overpowers it. Rather than getting the listener's attention, it diverts it. And rather than adding color to an otherwise bland discourse, it drenches it in the same filthy hue.
But our society has lost its sense of taste--in more ways than one--and become numbed to vulgarisms. It seems that dirty words are more commonly (and, unfortunately, more correctly) used than punctuation. Watch any movie that's not rated G, and streams of obscenity used in a very casual, often humdrum way will most likely bombard you. Or venture onto any college campus--or elementary campus, for that matter--to realize that, yes, people really do talk that way. Of course, at a time when the term "kick some ass" can be used on television commercials, what can one expect?
More important, is there any going back? Perhaps we have ventured past the point of no return and nothing short of a revolution will change the situation. There is one rebel out there trying to stir things up. Jim O'Connor thinks he has a small-scale solution to the problem, to be worked out one repentant potty-mouth at a time, and to that end has written the book Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing. O'Connor, a PR man by trade, became bothered by the increasingly widespread use of cursing in the movies and in public and decided to clean up his own vocabulary. It wasn't very easy, however, so he devised a system to help himself and, with the publication of his book, help others as well.
O'Connor doesn't preach and moralize about cursing, but instead uses humor, history, and interviews to attack what he sees as the root of the problem: attitude. Cleaning up your attitude can clean up your language, giving you a more mature, respectable, and pleasant demeanor.
The author will discuss and sign his book at Borders. So give it a try. Help cleanse our four-letter-word-obsessed culture. And if you decide that respectability isn't for you, at least pick up a copy of a good slang dictionary and inject a little creativity into your cussing.
Larra Ann Keel