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Auntie Says…Lay off the f-bomb

Auntie Says…Using foul language in public really isn’t cool.

One thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is the prevalent use of the notorious f-bomb in everyday situations. It used to have some shock value but now seems as mainstream as gluten-free bread and sparkling water.

I’ll be the first to admit that the f-bomb and I are well acquainted. It slips out every now and then, and it also has a way of sneaking into my fiction story writing. My rule of thumb—there’s a time and place, and you best know your audience so as not to offend. 

The f-bomb, a centuries old word, is considered obscene and ugly by many. This disparity needs to be remembered and acknowledged as it gains public acceptance in speech. In other words: not everyone wants to hear the f-bomb (or any other swear words for that matter) so a continuation in public use can illustrate an immaturity, insensitivity, and a disconnect of personal language.

A few months back I was having dinner with a young friend who’s very expressive. Well, let me tell you, the f-bomb was flying. It garnered a lot of staring and head shakes from other customers and didn’t reflect well on my friend. She toned it down immediately when she was made aware. Don’t be afraid to tell an acquaintance to refrain from such language in public. It’s been my experience that people sometimes are disconnected and don’t even realize they’re using it and would rather be told to chill than continue to offend. 

Asking someone to chill happens in the moment. Recently my husband and I were on vacation. On our last day we were at the beach—I chose to tuck in with a book, while hubby went for a swim. About ten minutes into my reading, a group of boys gathered on a patio behind me. They were about ten or eleven years old. They stood in a circle talking and every second word was the f-bomb. This is absolutely no exaggeration. I’m usually pretty easy-going but within a minute or two it was grating, insulting, and vulgar to everyone within earshot.

“Hey dudes,” I glanced back at them (and yes—I actually called them dudes). I had their attention right away as they stopped talking, turned, and eyed me. “Guys, you have to cool it with the f-bombs. You sound ridiculous and frankly, it’s getting old.” 

And, with that I went back to my book. 

They were young, we were in a public place with lots of people, they posed no threat to me, and so I made a choice to say something. Had they been a group of drunk rowdies, I would’ve made a different choice and not engaged. With these young boys though it was plain to see they were posturing and trying to act cool. After I turned back, they didn’t talk as they shuffled their feet a bit, and left. I hope my words float through those boys memories every once in a while.

My friend also had a similar experience. She was in the bank when a young mom (mid 20’s) came in with her little girl (4ish) and her grandma. The young lady was very upset about something and swore several times. Realizing what she’d said, she apologized over and over.

“Don’t worry about it,” my friend said as she continued on her way. Later she thought that perhaps she should’ve suggested to the young mom that she apologize to her daughter for the foul language and negative behaviour that she was modeling. I agree that in this particular situation an opportunity was missed.

The fact that the young mom apologized, suggests that she knows better and recognizes that she’s affecting other people. Unfortunately, she’s forgotten her daughter is soaking it all in. The young lady opened herself up to a discussion by apologizing which suggests that not all is lost. 

Language is a personal expression, but it’s also a public exposition of who you are and what you represent. Keep that in mind the next time your foul language gets away on you. If you know some young parents who apologize for their language in public but have little ones hanging on their every word—give them this column. Maybe it’ll ring a bell. 

Originally published by Black Press January 18, 2019


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