Really Foul Language

I've never been much bothered by the use of what others usually think of as foul language. When I'm watching a movie, the seven forbidden words of the media sail right past me. Most are references to body parts and bodily functions for which we use dozens of acceptable synonyms all thetime, and, in context, they're primarily just noises people make when they're surprised or angry or distraught.

I'm always surprised when someone in my reading group objects to the "language" of the book we're reading. Invariably, I didn't even notice the offending words, and those who object have to point them out to me.

For years, though, I've been waging a one-woman war on another kind of foul language. It started when my daughters were toddlers. "Lulu isn't stupid," I'd tell Charlotte. "She's just younger than you and hasn't learned as much. And anyway, even if she were stupid, it would be mean to call her that.

"Well, she's a dummy then."

"That means the same thing," I'd say as I detached Lulu's baby claws from her sister's arms. "You wouldn't want someone to call you that, would you?"

"But I'm not stupid," she'd blithely retort. "Nobody'd ever call me that." Charlotte's always been a good arguer.

When the girls got to be school age, they added words like dope and retard to their vocabulary, and soon I was giving my foul language speeches not only to them but to the kids they brought home from school and the kids on their soccer teams and the kids at children's church.
nWhen I went back to teaching, I incorporated lessons on offensive language into my junior high and high school English curriculum.

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May 25

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