By Liz Adair
Face it. I’m an old fogey. I wasn’t sure what an old fogey was until I became one. I think I realized it when one of my seminary students tossed off the word pimp one morning. He was using it as I would have used the term deck out or fix up, but I took the opportunity to define the word plainly, teach a mini-lesson on why it had not a trace of positive connotation, and state that it had no place in my seminary classroom.
I feel my fogeydom as I walk in the mall behind a group of teenagers and hear a word that got books banned when I was their age used as an incessant, casual (and meaningless), intensifier. Well, maybe not banned, but certainly put in plain brown wrappers.
I feel sorry for those kids that they haven’t been taught that there are still places where language like that is inappropriate. And I wonder at a society where we place such emphasis on clean air, going to great lengths to educate people about the danger of secondhand smoke, and yet we think nothing of secondhand smut. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful not to have to breathe smoky air—I remember well how it used to be before smoking was banned in public places—but I’d like the same protection for the neighboring sensory organs—my ears.
I said hoo-rah to myself when I read about the nun, principal of a private school, who announced a list of words that wouldn’t be tolerated on campus by naming each word on the list. I’m sure there were lots of very wide eyes in the assembly that day, but no future offender could claim a misunderstanding.
Matthew 15:11 says “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” I believe this is so. And, as secondhand smoke clings when I’ve had to stand near a smoker, I feel the grime of aural smut as I trail a group of potty-mouths.
Maybe this is what it takes to live in an age when we have tremendous freedom of choice. Certainly, when I was a teen, we didn’t have such freedom, for society’s rules were explicit about what one could or could not say or write in public, and common schoolground parlance today would then have landed the offenders in front of a judge.
Joshua declared, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” I think we manifest that choice in the words we employ to convey our thoughts.