Bad Language

Bad Language

The term "bad language" has almost become passé these days. If you take a walk through a mall, grocery store, or even an office complex you will hear the usual curse words flying through the air as part of regular conversation. Even on the elementary school playground, the use of "bad language" is prevalent.

When I was growing up, curse words were considered no-no's, especially for kids, and even adults were fairly selective about when, where and in what company they cursed. The F-word was especially taboo and you rarely heard it. I am showing my age, yes?

So what's the problem with using so-called bad language. If you don't buy into the moral or ethical meaning that has given bad language it's name, then what's the problem, right? I think there are several problems and that's why I chose this subject to write about.

To begin with, the use of the same four or five words over and over to describe and express the multitude of feelings and thoughts we have can create a very limiting effect over time on our personalities and emotional experience. Human emotions are in fact very multifaceted, and language is one of the primary ways that we both express and expand our emotional experience.

Let's take an example. Say you are feeling "frustrated." That may be the perfect word to describe your feeling, but there are any number of other words that might work or be more accurate. You might be aggravated, irritated, upset, disturbed, annoyed, bothered, or discouraged. As you read over these words, each has it's own distinct meaning and each paints a slightly different picture. You might decide that several of these words capture the situation. By searching for the right word (or words), you can more accurately describe your exact feeling.

Why is this important? Because knowing how you really feel and think keeps you in touch with who you are. Not only that, accurate words give you the tools to truly communicate and be understood by others. Conversely, if you use the same curse word over and over to describe being angry, frustrated, aggravated, annoyed, upset, discouraged, irate, furious, sad, unhappy, miserable, discontent, restless . . . or happy, exultant, joyful, satisfied, . . . and the list goes on . . . you run the risk of shrinking your emotional life down to a few nondescript default words that really don't communicate how you feel and think. The effect over time is to feel isolated both from yourself and others.

The other real problem with the liberal use of cursing is that even though we get used to hearing it, we still have to deal with the negativity these words emanate every time they are uttered. Words have power and they can be used either productively or destructively. You might argue that expressing a feeling with a curse word is productive because you feel it captures the mood of the moment, but I would argue that in actuality those words and the feeling imparted when they are uttered require the person who is on the receiving end to digest them. Instead of actually communicating how you feel and what you are thinking, you throw out a word that has a rather negative and nondescript vibration to it that the recipient has to do something with. Either they have to translate in their own minds what they think you are trying to say, or they just feel the brunt of the emotion imparted which can leave them feeling uneasy or distressed. If you've ever been around someone who curses every other word, then you've had the experience of feeling like an emotional dumpster not to mention the disrespect that is implicit.

I'm not saying no one should ever use a curse word or that sometimes a particular word might capture the exact feeling you're going for, but I am saying that it is best to try and widen your verbal expression to accurately express your real feelings and thoughts, and to also consider the impact your words have on the person you are talking to.

As parents, it is important to teach your children how to accurately express and communicate through language. I would suggest using a thesaurus, which you can get off your computer if you have a word-processing program, or you can pick up in a bookstore. Play a game of looking up feeling words and finding at least five substitute words for each feeling, and then help your child learn to use the most accurate words when describing how they feel or what they think. This is a great exercise that will greatly enhance their communication skills, but also help them to learn to express, digest and regulate their emotions. It's good for you too!

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