I think people know me well enough to recognize I am not about to launch into a curse-filled column here. It's just that I am sick and tired of trying to navigate the world without being thoroughly dispirited by the language we've allowed to become commonplace and even downright ordinary.
At a very large bookstore this summer we came across a window display of a city's bestsellers. Amongst the top 15 were five containing the f-word in the title. Some had the emblematic asterisk as a placeholder for the U, while others had the full word emblazoned on the cover.
When the movie 'The Wolf of Wall Street' was released in 2013 it set a new record for swearing in a film. A Canadian production bested that record just a year later. Whether or not subsequent movies set their sights on establishing a new record may be unclear, but it sure seems many are swinging for the fences when it comes to the cursing content per minute.
On the small screen, activists successfully lobbied to have a notorious stand-up comic's performance broadcast uncensored. They were fighting in particular for a word that is a euphemism for female genitalia. They won, and it was described as "a great moment in U.S. history."
And then there are the politicians south of the border. Warnings were sent out prior to a debate that there would be no broadcast delay so candidates needed to keep it clean. Half of them had already been on record swearing. One of them dropped such a series of f-bombs while talking about guns his campaign made and sold t-shirts with the word spelled out…six times. An analytics firm found the use of profanity by politicians on Twitter has gone from 408 instances prior to the end of 2016 to more than 6,000 in the years since. Some suggest it is strategic--a campaign strategy to grab attention or to appear more intense. Wow. Is this where we are at with those asking voters to put them in charge? Swear…and people will perk up?
But hey, that's in the U.S. Here in Canada, we're far different, right? Well, it turns out, no we're not. We curse more than Americans. Only 32% of Canadians said they don't swear on the job (it was 46% for Americans), and the number drops to 27% of Canadians who say they don't curse around family.
I can choose what I want to watch or read, just as it is anyone's choice regarding the language they use. But it puzzles me that we punish some--and handsomely reward others.
A junior hockey team announced they were severing ties with a player who let loose in an expletive-laden video after being suspended 25 games. Compare this outcome to Grammy award-winning rapper Cardi B who uses the same profanities in her music, her Instagram posts and--even in the classroom. At an appearance at her former high school she repeatedly cursed when she spoke. In defending herself she said it was okay to curse at the students because she's being "real." She is a millionaire many times over. Some get ridiculed. Others get rich.
Federal regulators prohibit "grossly offensive" language during particular broadcast hours and warn coarse language cannot be used gratuitously, but must be essential to the plot and character development of a program. When a table of women on a daily talk show repeatedly refer to each other as b-words, is that about plot? When TV shows feature children cursing so the adults can comment how cute it is, are we to ascribe that to character development? To me it indicates absolute lack of any character at all. But then again, if swearing is the use of offensive language, the problem lies in determining who is to be the arbiter of what is deemed offensive. We are scolded and asked who we think we are to tell anyone what words they should or shouldn't use.
So when it comes down to it, I have a say in only two functions as it relates to this issue: what comes out of my mouth, and what goes into my ears. Then again, what could be more powerful than that? That's my outlook.