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January 30, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Tom McLaughlin

For those of us who wander around the Internet and especially Facebook, one can’t help but wonder about the deterioration of the language. Words that were forbidden through my lifetime seem to have moved into common usage.


These words seem to jump from the screen and slap me in the face with their rude intrusions. They float around and show themselves in the most unlikely and unnecessary places.


One example is “I ******* love science.” This Facebook page has quotes by Isaac Asimov, an electron micrograph of a moth fly, and a picture of a bone with the quote “I found this humerus.” Nothing, anywhere on the page, even suggests this is a 13-year-old’s gutter page. There are many items I would like to share, especially with students, but I can’t bring myself to post it with that title.


The web site suggests that – if you take yourself seriously – you shouldn’t be reading the content. I really can’t understand what that could have to do with the title. Or, am I taking myself too seriously by writing about this?


I never read the fine print on anything; however, I elected to try and find who sponsored this marvelous page with the horrible title. To my astonishment, it’s The Scientist, a reputable British publication. I am not going to even try to understand or investigate why this esteemed weekly would choose a title like that one.


Except for a few American adolescents which I tolerate, most people on my Facebook list do not actually type in the words. Rather, they find signs or cartoons that contain these expressions. The problem is that these messages would be just as hilarious or pointed without the offensive language. I am not sure whether the originators are so ignorant they can’t find other ways to express themselves, or if they want to make a point, or I am taking this too seriously as The Scientist web page suggests.


I know I could just “defriend” people who use the messages containing the words, but they are friends, relatives and others whose company I otherwise enjoy. Some of them who use the verbiage are what I had perceived as conservative little old ladies who are older that I am. I don’t want to message them and say “that’s locker room language,” or “you use those words in different places” like I did and will do with my children and students.


Maybe, I am just an old curmudgeon who has not evolved with the times, and I should just accept that the words have become mainstream with no offensive connotations. However, I feel something is lost with the language when people try to connect making love with monetary policy. My estimation of that person falls by a few notches.


Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fling a book – or now, my I Pad – across the room when I come across these words in their proper places. Dialog in novels, direct quotes, poetry and humorous situations are just a few examples I deem appropriate. However, using the word for the sake of using the word – like in the title of a science web site – is offensive to me and distracts from the message.


I think I will just have to accept the inevitable, deal with it and always remember the playground adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”


…Life is good. . . . .


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