George Carlin did a ground breaking skit in 1972 on the 7 words you couldn’t say on television. Swear words, that censors would bleep, or simply blank, out of any show before it aired.
And the first time I heard that skit in its entirety, it got me thinking.
(Of course it did, that’s what George Carlin always did, make me laugh first, then make me think.)
Why do people get so upset when you swear?
Well, I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, ever since my girls were little, and I was a single mom, trying to teach them what I thought were important values, all by my lonesome. It’s not an easy thing, trying to decide what to teach your kids.
So, I came up with my own plan. Of course.
And of course, my mother disagreed with me.
But it’s worked for years now, and I think my kids are fairly well-adjusted, understand the meaning and weight of words much better than most, and know how to use them correctly in most given situations.
When my EldestDaughter was little, and just starting to hear those beloved “Forbidden Words”, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I heard them tumbling forth from her own cherub cheeks, most likely, in public, at the most in-opportune moment.
And I decided to head her off at the pass.
When she was old enough to say the words, and understand that saying them got a shocking reaction out of people, I took her aside, told her that she could go into her room, look in her mirror….. and say all the bad words she wanted.
With her door closed.
But that if I heard her say them in public, she’d be punished.
In the room? Good.
In public? Bad.
Why? Because, I told her, bad words are called bad for a reason. People don’t like these words, so we try not to use them in front of others. It can hurt someone’s feelings (AH! The magic sentence for my soft-hearted compassionate child) to hear these words, especially if you use them to call them names, or when you’re angry at them.
But why do they think they’re bad, if they’re only words, Mommy?
I think that it’s more a matter of the words being hidden behind the mystery of “moral values”. People get all caught up in what the neighbors will think, and what their parents taught them. There’s a cycle of teaching that happens, down through the ages, that defines what is “acceptable” or not.
So, I told my kids, each of them in their turn, that words can hurt. Whether it’s one of the “Seven Words” or not, it’s the intent behind them that counts the most. And if you listen closely to the words that come out of your mouth, you can figure out whether or not they’re going to hurt someone, or be nothing more than an expletive, venting, with no real oomph behind it. If it would hurt you to hear it said to you? You don’t say it to someone else.
But you have to listen to the words. Carefully.
Learn about the weight of them, the effect of them, the meaning behind them, before you say them.
Be smart, think for yourself.
Not so simple all the time.
But they learn.
And yeah, my kids swear. So do I. But we do it with full knowledge of what we’re saying, and we take the responsibility for it if it hurts someone.
~Philosophy for the day, dammit.