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Snits, barks and tolerance

To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

The lovely little girl, maybe six or seven, used a word which has become entirely too
common, in general conversation. She casually used the gerund version of a
particularly vile word I had heard both her parents casually utter in different
circumstances.

At the risk of being either too obtuse or obscene, I’ll say she was describing the
“barking” flowers one of her schoolmates brought to class one day.
If you can’t figure out what I mean, you have my sincerest compliments. I want to
live in your world. If you understood what I am saying here, then please forgive any
overuse of euphemism that may turn up in this column. I don’t talk like that
anymore, and I try hard not to tolerate more than a slip or two in my immediate
company.

Anyway, when the young lady’s parents heard her, they were suitably horrified, and
chided her in a socially appropriate manner. Then they made the mistake of asking,
rather sternly, where she had heard such.

“You say it all the time, Mommy,” she answered. “Daddy says it loud!”
Whoops.

I thought about that conversation of a year or so back whilst ruminating over a
cussin’ I received recently. Generally, I’m used to getting cussed at, and it took years
to learn not to respond in kind. I warn folks to watch their language, ask them to
stop, and if they don’t, I walk away or hang up the phone. Sometimes my tolerance
doesn’t extend that far.

The fellow in this case was rather explicit in his descriptors when a debate turned
into an argument. Lacking any other points on which to make a stand, he resorted to
referring to “barking free will Baptists” and “intolerant religious snits.” The fellow’s
tirade also made use of several of George Carlin’s famous dirty words, as well as the
more common vulgarities. To his credit, he did slightly soften his tongue before
using another common, blasphemous term, but it was a close thing, and I think he
meant it in his heart.

I have to wonder if his children – who were within easy earshot – will drop the same
bombs this week in school, or maybe soccer practice or dance class. After all, kids
emulate their parents, as they should (in most circumstances).

The Old Man took me aside the first time he heard me rather daringly use a cuss
word, and had a serious talk with me about it. His tone was quiet, but his eyes were
fierce. I overheard him in a heated moment, and some of my friends had proven
their maturity by using the same type of words (amongst ourselves, of course). Papa
told me that he should not have used the words he did, and apologized that I had
heard them come out of his mouth. He also assured me that if he ever heard me say
them again, things would not go well.

My mother had a more direct method. Miss Lois just tore my backside up with an
industrial flyswatter, since neither children nor gentlemen used such words, at least
not in mixed company, and after I was done being a child, I was going to be a
gentleman — or else.

That being said, there was a time I would and could rip a few colorful invectives
with vigor and skill. A change in my faith life brought that to a halt – not a screeching
halt, because old habits are hard to break, but a halt nonetheless. I still drop one
every once in a while, and feel a guilt as stinging as my mother’s flyswatter when I
do so. I am nowhere near as tolerant as I once was of movies, television and books
where I have to turn on my inner censor.

Sadly, the words once considered shockingly vulgar are now common as dirt. I have
to hide folks every day on social media for using the worst terms as easily as any
other adjective or adverb. I’ve distanced myself from organizations I enjoyed simply
because, even after a few gentle hints, folks just couldn’t stop with the language of a
drunken sailor (nowadays I guess a better poster child is the average media-infused
teenager.)

I am all about freedom of speech, and I know that nobody has the right not to be
offended. Sadly a lot of folks can’t seem to understand that there is no place in the
Constitution that says your feelings and opinions can never be challenged. In my
opinion the best response is a calm, measured example of how such offenses and
challenges can be handled — or else the victim should just be the proverbial
buttercup and suck it up, then move on. We have freedom of association too,
remember.

But with all freedoms come responsibility, as well as future ramifications for our
actions.

Even in today’s permissive society, I can’t really see most employers or decent
schools placating or tolerating a young person who peppers their language with
barks and snits as readily as I throw corn to my chickens, and with as little concern.
There are still far more folks with my attitude of intolerance than there are those
who crow about the right to use whatever language one wishes, since to do
otherwise is nothing short of oppression by old fashioned religious fanatics and
stolid, stupid, shortsighted mouthbreathing cave-dwellers who are not “woke” to
the new world.

I fully understand dropping a bad word when one mashes a finger with a hammer,
breaks a coffee cup, or when the day has heaped the final straw on the camel’s back
and the dromedary comes tumbling down.

But inserting a cussword in nearly every sentence, for no reason other than because
the speaker needs a modifier, dulls the emphasis once supplied through an expertly
expressed epithet, and it just sounds nasty. Why we tolerate it is beyond me.
Especially when a little girl with golden curls is just trying to be like her mommy
and daddy.

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