Friday, February 24, 2006

Violent Vulgarity

In the news today there are some stories regarding the use of vulgar language.

In the first article, a boy, on his second offense at school for using the F-bomb was punished by his family by standing out front of their home during rush hour with a placard declaring his sin. He had the time to do this because he is suspended. Another offense and the school promises to expel him. This is creative punishment meted out by his family. I wonder what they did after his first offense. The article doesn't say. He claims to agree with the punishment. I certainly hope it helps him to internalize the discipline.

The second article calls attention to advertising for Australian tourism. Apparently, vulgar advertising has proven effective for attracting tourists to the Land Down Under. First of all, I wonder if they desire the type of people that such advertising attracts. I suppose they conclude that as long as they generate revenue, it's alright. Second, I consider that this may be indicative of a psychological effect of using vulgar language and behaving in vulgar ways. More on this shortly.

The third article is about a school play that uses the N-word and a few others. Frankly, I remember when the N-word wasn't considered a very bad word. Mostly, white kids heard it when their parents could finally afford cable and we were exposed to HBO. But they heard it from black comedians. Then you had the rough white kids who sought status by regaling the average white kids with racial jokes that used the word. Of course, there were the likes of "Good Times" and "Sanford and Son" where we also heard the reverse derogatory word "honky". I don't know about anyone else, but it never had the desired effect of offending me.

So what about vulgarities? I know that some vulgarities are curses that one may call down on oneself or others. The word "curse" is the derivation of the word "cuss". Other vulgarities are simply words that were originally merely considered rude for no other reason than they sound like, or call to mind, an unmentionable bodily function. After a few generations, they have reached a similar status as a curse. There are other vulgar words that have been coined to refer to parts of the body or acts that one may do with these parts. The purpose for these words has not been so much the shock value of a vulgarity, but more the effect of filling the air with verbal pornography because it calls to the minds of hearers sexual sin. One other kind of vulgarity is the use of a reference to God as a mere exclamatory statement. This is sometimes in conjunction with and possibly derived from the act of cursing as I mentioned above.

There are light curses and vulgarities that have been widely considered acceptable, although I wonder if they really should be more acceptable. They serve the same purpose and have the same meaning as their unacceptable sources. Examples are: "darn", "Gee", "Jeez", "Gee whiz", "Golly", "Gosh", "good doogly moogly" and "doggone". Even lighter ones have been developed as substitutes and are still in use by old church ladies. Examples are "good heavens", "good grief", "Land sakes alive", "Holy Toledo", "Holy cow", "good gracious" and "fiddlesticks". Okay, I admit it, I use some of these myself.

The fact is, any of these words from the harshest curses and lewdest verbal pornography to the nicest, yet unwitting, calling down blessings on people are merely modulations of sound waves. But, of course, I'm no mere naturalist. Therefore, I recognize that these sound waves carry with them spiritual intent. Most of the time our vulgarities are merely flippant mutterings, but there is an effect on hearers that we must take into consideration. I have no problem being called a "honky", but I have brothers and sisters in Christ whose spirit is harmed by the use of the N-word. It is not enough for me to say that they should just get over it. That's not biblical. I must take the spiritual weaknesses of my brothers and sisters into consideration. For all the words that are considered unacceptable, I must not use them. This sets me apart from people who do not know Christ and have no qualms about using such vulgarities.

The reason vulgarities appeal to some is that there is a spiritual element to them. We know that there are sociologically acceptable things to say and that there are also sociological taboos. Expletives are rebellious. Therefore, the appeal is one of overtly rejecting the teaching of morality for the purpose of self-justification. One never uses vulgarity to reject social immorality. This is why the use of vulgarities often accompanies demonic manifestations. The use of vulgarities is that of violent aggression against the minds of listeners. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words may break my spirit. However, the original rhyme is meant to encourage children to resist the violence by disciplining their minds against it. Adults are no different.

It is good that the boy is disciplined so radically, Australia should not use such a vulgar attitude in their advertising and the school play should clean up its act; this to reduce the violence against our minds.


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