Saturday, February 9, 2013

Slang and Cussing

I'm a professing conservative(ish) Christian and have been my whole life, so believe me when I say this is a complicated subject for me. The Bible is (sort of) clear about this, Ephesians 4:29 (KJV) "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." Of course that's not really a law per se. But there's other verses, Matthew 15:18 (KJV) "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man."  That's my opinion as a Christian, one shouldn't curse or say bad words.  Though those passages aren't specific about what not to say, they're clearly broad instructions to watch what one says.  Also, in James 3 it talks about not being able to tame one's tongue, which doesn't give one license to say whatever they want.  My point is that I should be working on not using corrupt or bad language, but the question is, what does that mean?

I know it's not the best source, but there's a funny TV show on Showtime network called, appropriately, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!  The pretense of the show is this comedic duo tears apart various beliefs.  Generally, they tend to interview the extreme oposite ends of the spectrum and they (intentionally, I'm sure) generally interview the worst possible representatives on the side that they're trying to put down.  They have an episode devoted to "Profanity" in which they discuss and show, through various arguments/interviews, that the concept of bad words or profanity is a simple social convention that is outmoded or outdated.  I don't buy into this wholeheartedly, but people need to watch what they say; I don't mean walk on eggshells and avoid saying "bad words" completely.  I'm saying there's a time and a place for everything, and "bad words" are appropriate in the appropriate situation. I like the line from the TV show Firefly, "I swear when it's appropriate." Though the other character replies, "Simon, the whole point of swearing is that it ain't appropriate."  Well, I feel the way Simon feels.  Swearing is appropriate.  Just like exclamation points, they exclaim an emotion.  When you're in a meeting at work with your bosses, you probably shouldn't swear.  But, it's not that big of a deal to swear when you smash your thumb with a hammer.

What brings this up you ask...  Well, I've been reading a couple blog entries about slang.  This first one about the slang surrounding the Prohibition in the 20s and 30s, then this one about trying to teach IBM's supercomputer "Watson" slang from, last but not least this entry about the different uses of the word snow.  All this reading about slang and the difficulties behind it's proper use made me think about profanity.  They're intricately related, profanity and slang are difficult intricacies in  language, especially a second language.  As a second (and someday third) language learner I can say from personal experience, this is one of the hardest parts of learning a new language.  It's funny, because that seems like one of the first things many of my friends sought out right away when learning a new language.

It reminds me of a story I often tell about my time learning Korean.  We were in class one day and one of the teachers was leaving the school; we were having a going away party later that day for her.  Well, the word for "going away party" is somewhat similar sounding to "sex party/orgy."  One of the guys in our small, four-person class accidentally asked (in Korean), "What time is the sex party for our teacher?"  Of course, this innocent kid had no idea that's what he said!  He was clueless and so was the girl in our class, but the Marine, who fit the stereotype and knew all the "bad words" in Korean, was cracking up laughing at our poor classmate's misfortune at saying something so embarrassing.  I made a point NOT to learn all the bad words in Korean, but I was a good student and I knew his mistake immediately just by knowing related vocabulary, so I was laughing hysterically as well.  It's easy, even for good students, to make similar mistakes and using actual profanity/slang in a new language, and I still have problems using such language in Korean, I've learned some Korean profanity so that I understand it when I hear it.

This is extra complicated for me, because I'm hypocritical on this subject; I tame my tongue in the presence of my family, but at work or in deployed situations, I don't have a problem using an occasional swear word.  That's the way I feel profanity should be used, when it's appropriate, when you're angry or something bad happens.  Then, when you're around certain people in certain situations you need to control your speech.  I feel like the verses I referenced in the first paragraph are more about meanness and bad words directed at other people.  How do you talk?  Do you curse?  EVER?  Never?  Well, hardly ever?  More importantly, how do you feel about it?  Should cursing be abhorred?

I wanted to update this entry with a funny video from Messy Mondays.  These funny videos often cover a variety of topics and they had a good lesson about bad words.

Even though I'm going to redo this formatting, hopefully on the same slide, I wanted to share these photos I took as I was going down a slide at a park near Naha.  I need to set it up with the same settings on each photo and make it so the pictures are taken more evenly spaced.  Also, need to maintain spacing or have no one in front of me as I go down the slide.

To 'slide' down the slide with me, click the photo and use left/right arrows to scroll through the pictures.  I can't wait to make a better version of this, now that I've practiced, but here's my first and only attempt (so far).