I've been called many things, especially since I began blogging. But I've never been called a prude. So my choice of a topic today surprises even me a little bit, but it's something that bugs me more and more. I'm talking about the increasing, indiscriminate, and casual use of loud and graphic profanity in public... profanity that is spoken--often yelled--with no regard to who might be hearing it; not young children, not elderly people, not anybody. And I'm not talking here about "hell" and "damn."
I use profanity sometimes. Just about everybody I know uses profanity sometimes. In the TV news business, it goes with the territory; it's often a tense, deadline-driven, pressurized environment, and, frankly, it's something of a tradition. But here's the way I approach it: if I swear, either for emphasis or out of annoyance, it's in front of people who I'm certain aren't surprised or offended by it, and who at times express themselves the same way. I make every effort not to impose my flawed vocabulary on others who might not appreciate hearing those words, i.e., any strangers who might be within earshot.
As time goes by, I'm becoming convinced that this approach of mine to "contained" swearing is rather quaint, if not downright old-fashioned. In a place like New York City, where people are packed together so closely that private conversations can become community events, I see very little concern about having bad language overheard. Quite the contrary; every day I hear the most vile swear words basically being announced in public. If you ride commuter or subway trains, you know what I'm talking about, especially if you ride them at night like I do. Groups of young people flood onto the trains, often after drinking, and you would swear you'd stumbled into a longshoreman's convention. And not just young people; beered-up sports fans riding home from a game are 'effing this and m-'effing all along the line, with no thought to the people around them who have to breathe in all that blue air. I wish I could say it's mostly guys are who doing it, but I can't. My anecdotal evidence is that women, younger women especially, are spewing these words as much or more than their male counterparts.
Like many people, I've had my consciousness raised on this subject because I have young children now, and I don't want them to hear it. My boys are seven-years-old, and soon enough, they're going to start hearing these words. But I don't want them hearing them from some drunk girl shrieking profanities to her friends while they walk up the train aisle, while I'm bringing my kids home from seeing the circus.
I realize, of course, that there's nothing to be done about this. Public coarseness gets worse with every passing decade. But maybe if one or two people who read this think twice next time before making imposing their bad language on innocent or unwilling ears nearby, I suppose that's something.