Sunday, November 22, 2009

on language

once upon a time, in a former incarnation, an old boss called me a potty mouth. shudders!!! not because i do have a mouth that would make a truck driver and/or sailor blush did i feel admonished by my former boss's phrase, but because the words, potty mouth, sounds, at least to my ears, like it came from my old 3rd grade teacher.

i confess to being such a thing. what can i say. i love language. all of it. including the gamier bits. problem today is that nicholas is all eyeballs and ears and i have to watch what i say around him. he's let slip a few choice morsels that are both repellant and funny. a couple weeks ago his teacher took me aside to tell me the funniest thing she'd ever heard in all her years of teaching. i won't repeat what nicholas said, but this woman, a very sweet person, told me that she had never heard that sort of language from a 4-year-old boy and tho she admonished the child for his choice of expression she also had to keep from laughing so hard.

that's just the thing. i believe there are no, or very few, genuinely bad words. there are insulting and hurtful phrases to be sure. language by and large is hurtful thru its intended users. even a rather bland and benign word, such as sugar, can be uttered with such force and venom by the speaker as to leave the hearer reeling.

one of my favorite lines of verse is by robert vander molen and goes like this:

that fucken fucker's fucked.

i marvel at the flexibility of the word, fuck, how it is an object, predicate, and even an adjective. a word that is operational by its very utility. it is an old word, maybe not as old as the language itself, but the word fuck has been around a long time. and in this line the word becomes part of the action and not just an idiomatic flavor of the speaker.

i have a thing for so-called bad words. last night anna and i watched role models [2008] starring paul rudd and sean william scott. not a perfect comedy but one that i enjoyed because of its colorful language and its sweet nature. nearly every sentence was salted with some expression of questionable vintage. however, the story of two 30-something goofballs who are redeemed by their relationships with troubled children, who all spoke like sailors, was very watchable because of the language married with a sweet temperament. it's what i dig.

if bad words are wrong then i don't want to be write.



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