Editorial: Choice words
Young people are swearing more in public than ever before, according to a new study. And, really, what the *&$%@!! else would you expect?
Whether it’s the off-color language that spews forth from cable television shows or mainstream movies, we live in a world awash in vulgar words. If children are exposed to more cursing at an earlier age, it’s inevitable they’ll adopt that same behavior, linguistic scholars say.
Perhaps there’s another element at work here, too. Besides expressing anger or shock, curse words also serve as “fillers” that occupy the verbal spaces when we can’t think of words to describe our thoughts or emotions in a more subtle and socially acceptable way. It’s quite possible that the use of such profane fillers also reflects another trend, the decline in reading among people of all ages, but especially the young. According to one recent study, American youngsters spend an average of seven minutes a day reading (less than they spend cursing?). Besides expanding our intellectual horizons, reading also expands our vocabularies, giving us more words to express ourselves.
Spouting curse words may seem like an act of authority-defying self-expression and a way to vent anger. And in fact, it may give us some short-lived satisfaction and relief to curse an occasional blue streak. But the less colorful reality is that when we fall back on well-worn curse words, it means we can’t think of anything more original to say.