There was a time if you used the “f” word the reaction would be swift.
It is for most people — or at least once was — considered coarse, unrefined, vulgar, and uncivil to use.
Utter it on public airwaves and it would end your career. Now it just gets a bunch of “bleeps” and the highly paid personalities who certainly should have a much bigger vocabulary to call from to express their disdain given their sizable paychecks suffer no consequences.
It has gotten to the point where George Carlin looks like a prude and Sam Kinison could do a monologue on the Disney Channel.
I confess. The days that I rarely uttered the word passed long ago. And while I don’t use it daily or mass “f” bomb in a fit of rage as some do, it dawned on me Friday that I’ve allowed it to be a part of my verbal vocabulary a little bit too much. Actually uttering it any time is a little bit too much. As a society we’ve opened that barn door a long time ago.
Certainly, my swearing off — pun intended — uttering such a vulgar word won’t change the world but it is a step toward making it more civil.
Last week was an extraordinary one even by standards that 2020 established. Yet for some reason what stood out the most to me besides the obvious was how it seemed half of society was using the “f” word to describe their reaction to events.
It was topped off just before midnight Friday with one of Manteca’s more uncouth homeless — or meth heads — storming down the sidewalk in front of the newspaper office yelling the f-word at the top of his lungs, making a reference to the “f”-ing newspaper and then repeatedly kicking the newspaper rack before continuing his journey down Yosemite Avenue.
The yelling has gotten pretty routine over the years on Yosemite Avenue as the bewitching hour draws near. The subject of their rants sometimes prompts one of us in the office to make flippant remarks to the other. But on Friday the guy screamed the “f” word no less than two dozen times.
It didn’t faze me.
While the highest court will defend your right to use the word in public in many circumstances as they did in 1971 in Paul Robert Cohen, Appellant, v. State of California it certainly wasn’t carte blanche.
The past 50 years has seen a clear shift — or dare I say — deterioration in standards of civility.
Things many would not have once dared utter in the prescience of grandparents or parents roll freely off the tongues of adults who are around young kids.
The word has lost a lot of its shock.
Back in 2005 when I complained to a substitute group exercise instructor who was a young female in her 20s that the music she was using alluded to sexual acts and even included the “f” word, her response was she didn’t listen to the lyrics but was more attuned to the beat.
Yes, it was what I’d refer to as rap crap — the garbage level of a sub-genre of rap music that glorifies violence, sexual and otherwise.
Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t believe that a woman — regardless of her age — could possibly think that such music was OK to use in a class let alone one made up primarily of females running the age gamut from 20 to 70.
Now in looking back she likely wasn’t embracing the language as much as she was really just accepting it as background noise.
Given where we are today that is certainly the case.
To a large degree we have accepted vulgarity in the public square.
That is not to say people who use it should banned, prosecuted, or even have their mouths washed out with the proverbial soap. But those who want a more civilized world should start putting less stock in opinions expressed by those punctured freely with “f” words and such.
If a commentator or a newscaster for MSNBC or Fox can’t make a point without dredging up words from the bottom of the barrel, we should refrain from giving them the time of the day even if we agree with the point they are making.
By elevating everything to a hyper level of condemnation that’s dumped with a machine gun round of explicatives that would make a battle-hardened Navy sailor from World War II blush, outrage is now the new norm.
If you doubt that, ask yourself this: If someone using the “f” word as much as they breathe how can you tell if they are really irked about something?
There are ways of making your high level of outage known without stooping to vulgarity.
Jiminy Christmas, for example, compared to the “f” bomb may not strike you as a profane word but it is.
It’s a centuries old term that side steps outright swearing with euphemisms.
It was a term Dale Pence, who for years was the head varsity boys basketball coach at Lincoln High in Lincoln in Placer County, would use when he got frustrated with a players’ behavior or what he perceived as a bad call.
He used it to end an exchange one time after an official made a somewhat questionable call.
The referee immediately blew the whistle and slapped him with a technical foul.
Pence, somewhat startled, asked the referee why he called him for a technical for just saying Jiminy Christmas.
The referee responded that he knew what he meant.
While I’m not advocating people start substituting the “f” word with Jiminy Christmas, it illustrates there are ways to strenuously emphasize a point than to sink into vulgarity using a word that has been used so often that it has about as much impact and effectiveness as holding a paper towel over your head to keep your hair dry during a torrential downpour.
Worse yet, most people just zero in on the “f” word as so much red meat either to leap on board or to be repulsed.
Given the weight of one’s tongue it should be fairly easy to hold to avoid launching a “f” bomb unless our level of public discourse has deteriorated to the point where careful thought is no longer given to what we utter and instead we are driven by spontaneous reptilian outbursts.
Dumpster fires — one of the catch-all phrases social media brought our way in 2020 — should be taken to heart.
One way to stop dumpster fires in the public square is to refrain from dousing debate with accelerant.
Given the “f” word is still a vulgarity to many people pouring it on just ratchets up the inferno.