The third in my series of posts in which I give rants against trends that have developed in society since the days of my youth, the halcyon days of the seventies, when leisure suits and disco were sure signs that society was ready to be engulfed in a tide of ignorance, bad taste and general buffoonery. We have started off the series with a look at seven developments that I view as intensely annoying and proof that many people lack the sense that God granted a goose. I like to refer to these as The Seven Hamsters of the Apocalypse, minor evils that collectively illustrate a society that has entered a slough of extreme stupidity. Each of the Seven Hamsters will have a separate post. We have already discussed here the Tattooed Vermin and here the Pierced Vermin. The third of the Hamsters is the F-Bomb Vermin.
I first encountered the F-bomb in, I suppose, a traditional manner. My mother, I and my brother were outside walking. (For younger readers this was a form of locomotion that people engaged in before automobiles became a common feature of every family.) I was about 5 and quite proud of my ability to read. I noticed a word inscribed upon the sidewalk in chalk by some feckless urchin. I began to spell it, F-U-, and then my mother stopped me. She said it was a dirty word and I was not to use it. I normally found that my mother gave sage counsel, and when I failed to follow it dire consequences would usually follow, in addition to a slap from her maternal hand, and I have followed her injunction from that day to this.
Swearing in public was almost unknown when I was a lad in the early Sixties. Oh there were places where swearing was ubiquitous, most notably the military, but outside of those type of all male venues, swearing in public was severely frowned upon. All male groups would tend to have some fairly unimaginative low level swearing, but in those gentlemanly chauvinist times, almost no men would think of swearing in front of females, and if a lady happened to hear a cuss word emitted from the more foul mouthed of the sexes, his apologies would normally be profuse.
In private some amusement could be taken from vulgarities. Family gatherings at the McClarey household were enlivened by my younger brother’s innocent inability to pronounce the name of a popular ice cream topping, Smuckers, correctly, and my parents in anger could let slip a few choice words, but swearing in my household was a rare event. My Dad, a man of few words, thought swearing was “stupid” and my mother, who shared all the eloquence of her 100% Irish blood, regarded it as “boring , unimaginative, a sign of weak character, and a colossal waste of time.”
To show how relatively innocent those times were, most people were genuinely shocked by all the “expletives deleted” on the Nixon tapes. I assume that Nixon learned to swear like a sailor when he was a sailor during WWII, but even ex-military men were shocked at his vulgarity. Ironically, it was Nixon’s adversaries among the younger generation in the late Sixties who were probably least shocked by his use of gutter language. In a bid for “honesty, openness and relevance” along with other buzzwords from the Sixties, that most deeply dishonest of decades, trust fund guys and gals at colleges began to swear like longshoremen, (actually far worse than longshoremen if my maternal grandfather was any indication) and dress in early Goodwill. I assume this was an attempt to gain proletarian street cred by these self-appointed tribunes of the poor, most of whom would have died before working in the plants where my father and mother earned our daily bread. Public swearing by the fairer sex was especially disheartening for members of the older generation who had recklessly assumed that women were more civilized than men on average.
This trend was assisted by often fairly talentless members of the entertainment industry who found they could achieve notoriety by the use of frequent swearing. Lenny Bruce, heroin addict, was the advance guard in this trend. Bruce had talent to go with a foul mouth and a fouler mind, but most of his imitators lacked that saving grace. Now we live in a world where swearing is ubiquitous with constant use of the F-Bomb as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb. Some people seem unable to express themselves without use of the word. Former Governor of Illinois and convicted felon, those two accomplishments do tend to go together, Blagojevich is a prime example of how the F-Bomb is used as filler in sentences today.
Swearing has no doubt been with us from the time shortly after the expulsion from Eden when Adam first stubbed his toe. This is certainly not a new evil in society. The English soldiers in the time of Saint Joan of Arc were designated by their frequent request of God to consign to the nether regions most things they encountered. (In defense of the English, they were, after all, in France at the time.) However swearing today is universal and unending and deeply unimaginative with the F-Bomb losing the chief utility of swearing: to serve as emotional release and to shock. Compare and contrast someone using the F-Bomb repeatedly with this classic piece of billingsgate from Shakespeare: ” The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon! Where got’st thou that goose look?” If one must swear, be imaginative and creative about it!
Today the only purpose served by the F-Bomb is as an idiot detector. Its constant refrain in public makes our daily lives just a bit crasser and helps create that atmosphere of cretinous vulgarity which is the hallmark of the time in which we live. I trust that in the next world, either as eternal punishment or lengthy penance, unimaginative swearers will stand nose to nose with drill sergeants who can explore with them just how effective loud and imaginative cussing can be! (Content advisory for the following video, unnecessary for anyone who has been in the military and has had experience with real drill sergeants.)
However, perhaps I am being too harsh. After all, it is only crass language. It isn’t as if they were engaging in an activity that threatened physical harm. That brings us to the Fourth Hamster of the Apocalypse, the Texting Vermin. However, I must now go and watch a Lawrence Welk Retrospective while merrily imbibing a good vintage of prune juice. Until next time.