Recently, my wife and I were having dinner in a restaurant that is near the campus of Salisbury University. It was an early Saturday evening so, not surprisingly, the crowded restaurant had many patrons in their 20’s.
The restaurant was noisy, which was to be expected. What I did not expect was the second-hand profanity made up the ambiance of the restaurant. Several nearby groups of young diners had free-flowing profanity as a major part of their dinner conversation. They were particularly fond of using f-bombs. Not only were these groups co-ed, some of the women were using the f-bombs right along with the guys. These groups didn’t give a second thought to others in the restaurant, including several families with young children.
I really enjoy this restaurant but the second-hand profanity ruined the evening for us. What’s more, since it was several groups using this offensive language, I didn’t go from table to table and ask them to stop—it seems we were in the minority.
I am intentionally using the term “second hand profanity.” Second-hand smoke has been recognized as a real hazard and irritant. Smokers have had to accept the fact that their freedom to smoke doesn’t give them the right to inflict that smoke upon others. I think the same principle applies to second-hand profanity. Someone’s freedom of speech expressed as profanity does not give them the right to inflict it upon bystanders.
As a Christian, I believe that words have great power to either help or harm. Words can inspire or leave scars that last a lifetime. I think profanity is a careless use of offensive words that have no positive effect and in fact have great potential to harm.
According to studies, profanity is becoming much more common and accepted in our culture. The halls of our schools echo with language that would have embarrassed sailors a couple of generations ago. However, being more common doesn’t make it right.
Perhaps restaurants and public facilities need to separate the profane and non-profane. Perhaps there can be a “cursing-free section” in restaurants, theatres, athletic arenas [Ball games are another location where profanity has become not only accepted but expected!], etc. Of course, if we who are offended by profanity are indeed a shrinking minority, we may find ourselves as social outcasts like the forlorn smokers forced outside to grab a smoke.
I would be interested to hear if profanity bothers you and if so how you handle it in public situations. If it doesn’t bother you, I’d be interested in your defense of profanity.