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#3026 - 05/30/00 02:10 PM Attitude to Expletives
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
I've noted that there is a range of attitudes to the use of swearing in different countries. If there were a scale, it may be the case that the average (reasonably well-educated) young/middle aged American at the less tolerant end and a similar person in Britain or Ireland at the more tolerant end of the scale.

Here, what seems to be more important is the way words are used, not the words themselves.

Another factor is the situation in which the word is used. In school, in front of children or in a place of work which is open to the public (a bank or a hospital clinic) the language is rather different to that used in a closed, adult-only environment, especially in a workplace where people are expected to be creative or undertake tasks which are difficult and personally demanding.

The word usage, which might be expected on a building site, would not surprise many people but would they expect to find some of the same words in an operating theatre (where the only member of the public is fast asleep)?

It seems that the barriers have broken down to a certain extent - the same words are spoken by lords and layabouts - the key difference is how they are said, and the underlying meaning the person is trying to express.

An example is the opening scene of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" - two people wake up and express irritation at potentially being late for a wedding. The same words, used in a modern gangster movie (almost any) - are used in a much more threatening way. Given that "Four Weddings and a Funeral" was a very popular love story reaching a wide audience is it true that we have moved away from focussing on words, which should be excluded, and focussing on the wider implications of what people are saying?

#3027 - 05/30/00 08:00 PM Re: Attitude to Expletives
Jackie Online   content

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Well, Jo,
I will offer my opinion, but ask you to keep in mind that I
am conservative, and old-fashioned at least in re: good
manners. To me, certain words are not ever used by a genteel person, unless he or she is under provocation.
There is a huge amount of oh-so-casual cursing, at least in
the movies here. (Ex. The Blair Witch Project--seemed like
50% of the "dialogue" was either f--- or s---.) I hear the
f-word quite often, even at elementary schools. But to me,
using ugly words in everyday talking is "just not done".
(I can and do curse rather freely when provoked, however!
I'd be in BIG trouble if the other drivers knew what I call them sometimes!) But(t) I think I am quite the minority--
I can't even use the (sort of) word at the beginning of this sentence, but I hear it used all the time by people from all walks of life.

#3028 - 05/31/00 12:25 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
Just the other night we viewed a video called "Mystery, Alaska" (a nice little movie about true grit and determination and manly competition) of which the story isn't relevant but the language was very blue, not atypical of Hollywood these days. There was one scene where a very young child (pre-schooler) says "f*** me" and his parents chortle happily as if to say "isn't that cute". This got me to thinking about the way profanity has changed in its general acceptability. I am of an age such that I never ever heard my parents swear, unless for a special occasion (e.g., hitting thumb with hammer). Things changed with the onset of the Vietnam War (a lot of things did) -- it was the end of innocence for the baby-boomer generation. Profanity became common in moments of anger, frustration and passion (we saw it all the time in movies). Now, with this latest generation, it has gone another step beyond; it has become almost a part of everyday (informal) speech. We hear it every night on the tube (I'm sure we'll hear the last couple of exceptions any Monday night now on "WWF RAW is WAR -- as a matter of fact I understand the f-word snuck past the bleeper last night). But our parents and, to a lesser extent, my generation continue to react very negatively to profanity, because to us it still represents passionate emotions which we feel should remain private. So it probably is a lot bigger issue here in the US; it's a 'generational thing'.

#3029 - 05/31/00 05:27 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
paulb Offline

Registered: 03/17/00
Posts: 460
Loc: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
I have almost given up going to contemporary English language movies, even though I am known as a 'film buff', because I spend so much time and effort wincing at the language used.

At least in subtitled films you can quickly skim the subtitle and the effect is lessened.

Ah! for the days when cinema was silent and you only had inappropriate music to contend with -- and that discussion continues with my friends in the alt.movies.silent newsgroup.

And, off thread, has anybody else noticed that the 'quality' of most films deteriorates as the amount of clothing they're wearing lessens.

Jackie, I'll have to join you and the other conservatives on this issue.

#3030 - 05/31/00 09:26 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
Jackie Online   content

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
>>And, off thread, has anybody else noticed that the 'quality' of most films deteriorates as the amount of clothing they're wearing lessens.<<


#3031 - 06/02/00 07:04 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
Rubrick Offline

Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
A lot of good points being made here and it is clearly what Jo (jmh) had in mind to start with - to capture the feelings of the noticeboard members towards expletives.

However, it is interesting that everyone has used an example from the film industry to emphasise their point(s). Nobody has mentioned 'profanity' in the printed media or, more importantly, in books.

True, the film industry does go overboard sometimes in their use of bad language, violence and nudity. I wouldn't wholly agree with the very general comment made that the quality of film declines when clothing is removed - after all, the most powerful scene (to me, anyway) in Schindler's List was the scene in Auschwitz when the women had to strip and were herded into the 'shower'. But I get your point. The film industry comes in many guises and 'Hollywood' ply their trade with big money-spinners full of dumbed-down dialogue, lots of action and spectacle and the token sex scenes. many other film-makers try to capture the real world and, in doing so, have to include real language which, like it or not, is part of the real world. Changing attitudes over the past thirty years have brougt us from the sanitised john Wayne WWII movies to realistic 'blood and guts' epics like Saving Private Ryan and The thin red line both of which dealt with the reality of frontline war and not what happened on the peripheries. Many recent Vietnam films were the inspiration for these two films and, doubtless, we can expect a resurgence in the War film over the nextfew years. But I digress...

The fact is that real soldiers used real bad language no matter how they spoke at home and people have to be depicted on screen as they really are otherwise film loses meaning and context. If it turns your stomach then may I suggest literary adaptations?

It is not uncommon in literary circles to use blue language and many respected (and respectable) writers have used it quite comonly. Notable are the Nobel writers from Ireland.

James Joyce (well, he didn't win the Nobel prize - but he should have) is reckoned by soem to be the greatest writer of this century. Maybe, but he is widely known to have cussed in everyday parlance.

W.B. Yeat's wasn't coy with his use of the odd bit of f***ing in public life - even when he was an Irish senator.

The reknowned poet - Seamus Heaney (who I have had the pleasure to have met) used the 'f' word many times in his poetry which he read to an audience of visiting tourists in Dublen recently. Not many were shocked.

Language is all context. Street urchins or drunkards mouthing off obscenities are foul and crude but educated people (at least inmy neck of the woods) are not chastised for swearing in public because the 'f' word is used for emphasis in conversation and the 's' word is used to downgrade something or to show disapproval. I never thought my parents (or grandparents) swore because I realise now that they wanted us to be raised clean-mouthed. Now I find they swear(swore) more than I could ever hope to. I know that it shocks some of you to hear swearing and that you highly disapprove but they are only words. The next generation will be immune to this generations' swear-words as we are to the past generations'.

After all, in the early 1900's such words as 'bloody' and 'goddamn' were enough to get books banned and the authors censured.

#3032 - 06/02/00 07:24 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
You can add one of our last Poet Laureate’s most famous poems - his subject - parenting.

I think its important to separate the way the words are use from the words themselves.

Current abuse by young people has moved away from specific words. Apparently they say "your mother ..." insert "wears short skirts/has a toyboy/.....". Much more hurtful than a rather meaningless *-off.

On the subject of films. The number of clothes don't bother me too much (although, agreed, there is a lot of rubbish around) - I tend to stay away from gratuitous violence - I can live without knives and guns.

#3033 - 06/03/00 10:45 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
juanmaria Offline

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
Although rap and hip-hop music is relatively old, only lately we are hearing it sang, and broadcasted, in Spanish.
Two years ago lots of people listened to Fugees’ ‘The Score’ and, since almost anybody understood a word, you could go with your family in your car listening a complete catalog of cussing. I understood quite a few ones but it made me laugh. When you learn those words as an adult they lack almost all their strength.
But, as I told before, we are now hearing rap songs in Spanish and, believe me, I have had to turn off the radio in a hurry, blushed as a ‘Rubrick’ a few times.
We Spaniards are extreme. We can go from burning or expelling heathens to be world’s most tolerant country.

Juan Maria.

#3034 - 06/03/00 11:28 PM Re: Attitude to Expletives
screen Offline

Registered: 05/25/00
Posts: 37
Loc: Newcastle, Australia.
Interesting turn this conversation is taking.
Rubrick, I like your comments about UK literary use of expletives.
I'm surprised Philip Davis hasn't jumped in here, so I'll run with it. I think acceptability of swearing has a strong class/gender element. I have a background in the emergency services, which have historically been male dominated and working class. Fluent swearing by both genders is usually fairly acceptable in everyday conversation when not dealing with the public. Superficially casting my mind around to other male dominated "trades" the heuristic works. Thoughts?

#3035 - 06/08/00 02:44 AM Re: Attitude to Expletives
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
Yesterday I re-read in a history book the account of the US warship-building effort after Pearl Harbor. This led me to recall the two books by Chester Himes which I had read, e.g. "If he hollers let him go". Himes worked in a shipyard at that time (He also spent time in prison). His language graphically conveys the atmosphere. I don't think the books were ever censored? Or do you know otherwise?

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