Cutting the paper

My child bride takes English classes in a school here. The Mexican teacher is a young woman about 30 who lived a spell in Canada.

This teacher recently handed out sheets of a song in English as a teaching tool. The song is replete, incredibly, with profanity.

This surprised me since there are thousands of songs in English with nary a single cuss word. Why did the teacher select this extremely grungy one?

Because she is young and a product of her times. Profanity is meaningless to her.

I do not curse in normal conversation apart from some rather mild — and very rare — exceptions for emphasis and salt. It’s not due to religious compunctions because I am not a church person and never have been. I am, however, culturally conservative.

My wife is even more so. At times, out in public, she will overhear young women* and she will be astonished at the profanities flowing in casual conversation, which she explains to me — more delicately — since I lack the finer points of Spanish potty mouth.

Crass conversation is the new normal. Blame the cultural earthquake of the 1960s. Blame the freewheeling nature of most internet communication. Blame parents who want to be “friends” to their bratty children. Blame the demonizing of all censorship and all judgment.

There is plenty of blame available.

Someone famous once said that civilization is just a sheet of paper covering a volcano. We are slicing that sheet of paper, thinking it doesn’t really matter.

But it does matter. Language shows your soul.

* * * *

* Obscenities from women surprise her more than those from men. Me too.

33 thoughts on “Cutting the paper”

  1. “I am, however, culturally conservative” – Chalk up another similarity between you and me. Those words seem so much more powerful when used sparingly – why spoil a good thing?

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  2. Once intended for its shock value, profanity has lost all its effectiveness due to becoming so interwoven with daily communication…the sad part to me is that its use definitely limits the development of the communication skills and development of a well-developed vocabulary in young folk. Much of it started in the ’60s and ’70s with comedians who felt the need to use it to be funny.

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  3. My adult children and I have always had a very sincere relationship. There has never been a lack of conversation through various forms of communication, and profanity was not one of them — ever.
    The vulgarities that some parents allow of their children, and in their own homes, is beyond my comprehension.

    I don’t know any cuss words in Spanish because I was not brought up with them, and haven’t found it necessary to learn.

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    1. Andean: Your parenting style is to be commended.

      I will sometimes playfully use mild Spanish cuss words. It’s interesting how profanity in languages other than the one you grew up with never takes on the nasty feel of your native ones. You know intellectually that they are dirty words, but you don’t really feel it. They are just words.

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  4. Interesting that the language of today’s modern, very popular hip hop, or whatever it’s called, is so prevalent with lower social-economic areas and communities NOB. I am starting to hear a little of it now with Spanish barrio vocabulary from a few groups from the LA area.

    My observation is that it started about the time that kids where spinning their butts on the street pavement and calling that dancing. Huge fortunes were and are still made with music containing a preponderance of dirty words and suggestions to either rape or kill people.

    The anything-goes society where Johnny mustn’t be creatively oppressed for fear of his not having his self esteem, in my opinion, has created that.

    I believe the driving forces that was responsible for that were the same people who were driving Johnny to soccer practice where there would be no losing teams and everyone was validated by receiving a trophy.

    One of these days they may figure out that using so much trash talk and profanity just negates its impact. But that’s just my opinion.

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  5. If language shows your soul, then I’m a very earthy person. I curse, and I come by it naturally. My grandfather, who was one of the most cultured, elegant, decent, conservative, and well-mannered souls on earth, would’ve made many a sailor blush, and he taught me well. Sh*t and f*ck are essential parts of the English language, just as variants of chingar are to Spanish.

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    1. Jennifer: For the past few hours I have not been able to erase this mental picture of your grandfather that you provided. I see a split personality with David Niven on one side and Richard Pryor on the other.

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  6. My father told me many years ago that in his opinion people who need to use four letter words to express themselves haven’t advanced their intellect very far. He said “we can only think to the extent of our vocabulary” I thought it was good advice.

    I never heard any foul language growing up in my home or in school, it just wasn’t done back then.

    It’s funny, I never hear my husband cuss in Spanish but he sure can in English. Maybe it’s because he learned English in the 60’s.

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    1. Jackie: I heard my mother say damn once when I was a teen-ager. Just damn, nothing stronger. Boy, was I surprised. But not as surprised as I was when I joined the Air Force at 18. As you point out, it just was not done. Well, it was in the military, of course.

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  7. Ahhhh…well I was raised very conservatively by very conservative parents. Curse words or even variants of them were not allowed in our house. Of course I rebelled like any good teen ought to. But that was then. I do enjoy a good curse word when needed but do not use them on any sort of regular basis. Maybe an “aw, damn” when disappointed but that’s about it. Maybe a very occasional other swear word but not much really. My husband never swears, I don’t think I’ve heard him even once in 30 years. Our children rarely swear, just the odd “damn” but that’s about it. One thing I have never tolerated ever was using the Lord’s name in vain. I will not allow it at all. Luckily the kids know it and I’ve never heard it out of their mouths. They are 26 and 23 and I would not hesitate to stop them from saying that even now. But we were always strict parents. I don’t believe in aiming to be their friends. We are friendly, but we are not friends.

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    1. Joanne: Uncivil society having become what it has become, I don’t even consider damn a cuss word any longer. The difference between it and darn has become razor thin, pretty much interchangeable.

      Interesting that you say your parents were conservative and that profanity was “not allowed in your house.” My parents were full-blown Lefties, and there was no allowing or not allowing of profanity in our house. It simply never happened. The topic never came up.

      Speaking of cursing, I just drove to the state capital a couple of hours ago, and ran into roadblocks set up by numskull teachers who, among other things if I understand it correctly, do not want to be forced to take proficiency exams. I had to poke through not one, but two, traffic-jammed alternate routes.

      More than a bit of cussing erupted in my car.

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  8. It seems to me, excessive use of profanity reflects the lack of a well developed vocabulary.

    My parents never swore at home.

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  9. By the way Felipe, is that a personal collection of scissors or just a photo for effect — either way they are beautifully designed.

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  10. Two simple questions.

    One: What is the song in question?

    Two: Why is La Guapa Señora spending good money to take English lessons when she has such a fantastic resource at home? I’m sure you can probably run linguistic circles around her profesora, and must have a *WAY* better accent to boot.

    I think it’d be quite charming if La Guapa Señora learned to speak English with a charming southern drawl. Really.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’ve had the amusing experience of barely being able to understand so-called English teachers in Mexico. In “English.”

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    1. Kim: My wife is not home at the moment, and she has the song somewhere downstairs. I looked over it a few days ago and did not recognize it. There was no title.

      My wife, sadly, appears to be the exact opposite of someone who has a gift for languages. She has been taking English lessons off and on for about 20 years. Little has taken root. She can understand a bit, and she can respond in English even less. She gets extremely self-conscious about it and freezes up when she’s with anyone other than me. She had a similar problem with guitar lessons, which she took for a good while. Her guitar playing was so stilted that she finally did the wise thing and put the guitar in the closet. If it’s not perfect, she doesn’t want anyone to see or hear it. Guitar or English.

      When I speak to her in English, trying to get things moving, she almost always responds in Spanish, which is not very helpful.

      By the way, I left the Guapa Señora moniker on the previous website. She doesn’t get called that here. She’s just my wife or my child bride, the latter due to her being just six years older than my daughter.

      Though her English is an ongoing challenge, her many other positive traits outweigh the little matters of English and guitar.

      And I do not have a Southern accent, charming or otherwise, to speak of, though I do say yawl, a perfectly logical contraction of you and all, which the Yankees have never had the intelligence to use.

      You are right that many English teachers down here are lame. I have never heard my wife’s English teacher speak English. I have met her on the street, but we stuck to Spanish.

      Some of the things my wife has told me that the teacher said were correct English were incorrect.

      For instance, she said pretty much and very much are exactly the same degree of much.

      It ain’t, but you know that.

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  11. Being the same age as the English teacher and offended by vulgar language, I would say she’s a product of permissive parents and not media, culture etc. Or perhaps I am the pop culture anomaly I have long suspected.

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  12. I never heard my Mother swear once as I grew up, but, after she had a mild stroke, (in her 70s) one day she dropped something on the kitchen floor. Out came the “F” word, she looked at me, giggled and said, I’ve waited forever to say that word.

    On Mexican teachers teaching English, I was teaching a class in a prep school in Mazatlan, just on rudimentary English (Queens version, no you-alls allowed), I had more teachers in the class than students. Seems they get more money the different classes they can teach. I returned a week later, walked past a class, there was a teacher, regurgitating the same lesson, interesting point, she couldn’t speak English.

    My swearing reached a high point as a drill Instructor in the Canadian Army. It is epidemic in the Construction Industry, but times are changing. With the introduction of women in the trades it is not tolerated.

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  13. It is the time of Political Correctness Young Fellow. We in Canuckville take things to the extreme sometimes.

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  14. We have a fine Army, Navy also, not sure about the Airforce, I think their having problems buying planes. Why you ask? Well you never know when dem damn pesky Yankees might want more Oil, and we are closer than Afganistan, and as you may be aware, Yankee People are runnin outta money. Last time they tried invading our land, we scootered over the border and burned the Great White House down.

    As an aside, I am on a tour of Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota, there are sure some big people in this land, more on this later.

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    1. Bob: Yes, the Yanks are (like Greece and much of southern Europe) running out of money, thanks to Obama and his ilk. So perhaps you Canucks will be needing your army soon.

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