Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Language Problem"

In a recent blog post, I theoretically pondered what it’s like for a person to be living in a world they find unacceptably tasteless, offensive and annoying.  I had to approach that scenario theoretically because I am surrounded by people who are apparently fine with everything.  The closest example I can come up with of a person who finds the world unacceptably tasteless, offensive and annoying is me.  Though I generally respond to the hopeless situation with, “Yeah, well, hmph, there you go.”  And I haplessly leave it at that, imagining the Durante-esque, “Those are the conditions that prevail.”  (Accompanied, on rhythmical cue, by airborne arms slapping surrenderingly against his sides.)

In reaction to my theoretical – because I lack concrete examples – blog post, I receive a comment from reader Mike T., who begins his response with “You’re in luck, Earl.  I just happen to be one of ‘those people.’”

Mike T. then reports that growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, his entertainment selections included “pre-1970 TV shows and movies… with contemporary cartoons and (some) game shows also permitted.  Mike T. goes on to explain that

“To this day, that is pretty much all I watch because I can be assured that there will be no swearing, suggestiveness, let alone outright nudity.”

I truly appreciated hearing from Mike T.  He provided precisely the information I was looking for and was theoretically pondering in my post.

And then Mike T’s responding commentary took a provocative “turn.”

“One of the things I like about your blog is that you rarely cross the bad-taste line.  In fact, I was a bit shocked a few days ago when you threw in a particularly unnecessary F-bomb… I’m still here, reading your musings faithfully every day, trusting that your momentary descent into edginess won’t become permanent.”

Being congenitally thin-skinned – though nowhere near Trumpian proportions – led me to reflexively delete Mike T’s comment from my e-mail – all comments appearing concomitantly among my e-mails – almost immediately after I read it.  Then, however, asking myself “Is that really the person you want to be?”, I recovered Mike T’s e-mail, and I decided to write about it.

I do not remember the context of my…


Before I forget, I want to thank Mike T. for his forgiving reaction.  I admittedly “crossed the line” – by Mike T’s standards, to which he is unquestionably entitled.  But, despite my “momentary descent into edginess”, he remains forgivingly “still here.”  

Classy.  And I admire and appreciate the gesture.

Second, what Mike T. adjudged as “a particularly unnecessary F-bomb” probably was.  A needless transgression, which I chalk up to accidental sloppiness, encroaching senility and the unseasonable (by Santa Monica standards) summer heat. 

None of which forgives the lamentable “F-bomb” inclusion.  I simply lost focus, perhaps thinking distractedly about lunch.
Third, and most importantly, though I will offer a provocative “turn” of my own in a moment, since, as Mike T. correctly observes, I infrequently cross the line into “No-no Land” – I have over the years created an unspoken but proven consistent expectation, that expectation being,

“I don’t do that.”

And then I did. 

And by so doing,

I disappointed a regular reader.   

Which I heartfeltedly regret.

A man receives “shelter from the storm” only to find an unwelcome hole in the roof.

The thing is – and here comes the provocative “turn”…

In the palette of sincere self-expression, I believe there is a legitimate value in the availability of the entire panoply of colors, including the questionably acceptable ones. 

For me, “profanity” is losing your temper, with words.  But with words, upping the emotional ante.  Those words, I herein submit, need to be protected and readily accessible.  Otherwise, you feel anger, outrage, punishing disappointment, unendurable agony, you open your mouth to respond commensurately to the traumatic event, and the only word that emerges is,


People for whom using profanity is an unconsiderable option – I get it.  I mean, for me, eating pork is literally “off the table.”  But there are other foodstuffs I can easily turn to.  (Although Ko-Jel – kosher Jell-o – tastes utterly vile, and kosher bacon is invariably not crispy.) 

In the case of “passionate reaction”, however, there is no commensurate alternative avenue.  Imagine someone experiencing profoundly intense feelings but the accompanying words meant to communicate those profoundly intense feelings are unilaterally forbidden?

I don’t know, is “Shoot!” really sufficiently cathartic?

Again, as with “offensive programming”, this is not essentially my problem.  Though I’d be equally curious to hear how on a practical level that works.

As for the infraction in question – my gratuitous – maybe in quotes though arguably not – profanitorial misstep, I propose – for myself in the future, and for others, should you be interested – the following strategy:

I recall watching a child-rearing expert, opining on the “hot button” issue concerning the spanking of children.  The expert’s advice on this troubling dilemma was the following:

“If you make the decision that you will never spank your children, you will end up spanking them exactly the right amount.”

Replace “spanking” with “cursing”,

And that is the guiding “North Star” of this enterprise from here forward.

My thanks to Mike T. for obliging me to think about this.  And my appreciation again for his steadfastly sticking around.

You’re a better man than I am, Michael T.

1 comment:

Mike T. said...

Thanks for your response, Earl, and your kind words. As you can see, I'm still reading your blog. Keep up the good work (and the lack of profanity)!