To the editor/À la rédaction:
How many of you folks have watched a lot of movies lately? Better yet, how many of you folks have noticed the various disclaimers heard before many films? If the movie you’re about to watch has quite a bit of profanity in it, a voice will come on advising viewers of the film’s “adult” language or “mature” dialogue. The entertainment industry has it all wrong. True adult language is language that marks adults as emotionally mature, responsible, and well mannered. Extensive use of profanity does nothing of the kind. It actually makes adults sound less mature, and more irresponsible, than their children.
I admit that I’m no parent, but I also picked up a long time ago on strategies that work and those that do not. My own parents never swore in public, and even in private, they kept swearing to a minimum. Even so, I did hear it occasionally when I was growing up, and I latched on to the habit rather tenaciously when I was in my teens and early twenties. I look back now with embarrassment when I think of the way I used to speak, but I must admit that it was only partially my fault. Believe it or not, I had some excellent teachers.
I was 9 years old the first time I ever heard my mother say anything coarse. (Not in English, by the way!) She normally kept her language clean, and she normally does to this day, but on this one morning, her patience with us kids had reached its limit. Her nerves were frayed, her patience was gone, and her language was rank! In one rush of angry words, she taught me a whole string of expressions that she would never have wanted us to use. My parents would use those words and expressions only during fits of extreme anger, but the problem was this: I was learning, when I got mad, to use them too.
As I’ve gotten older, certain things in my body have started slowing down. I used to be able to eat and not gain an ounce. I can still eat, but I am no longer thin. In fact, many people in this area have never seen me thin, because my metabolism started slowing down over 20 years ago. Along with my metabolism, my “nice little adrenaline rushes” have started slowing down as well. I still get mad, sometimes, but not the way I used to when I was in my teens and 20s. My fuse has gotten longer, my temper fits have slowed down, and my language has gotten cleaner. I’m no saint, but I speak better!
Well into adulthood now, I use almost no “adult language,” because my experience has taught me that profanity is not the language of true adults. There are intelligent adults who use it, but for the most part, profanity is the language of spoiled brats who don’t know what it means to speak or behave properly. I have a suggestion for the media: Do not tell movie viewers that parental discretion is advised because of “adult language” or “mature dialogue,” because that’s not honest. Instead, say something like this: “This film uses vulgar, immature, irresponsible, and ignorant language that would make the smartest person in the world sound like a dolt! Parental discretion is advised.” À la prochaine.