Saturday, November 24, 2007

Second-Hand Profanity

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.


karen said...

I wrote a really long comment not long ago and the entire entry was deleted. I'll make this one shorter. I've gotten used to profanity as a part of everyday language. It just is. I would not be tolerant of it is a family atmosphere, however. I think you should probably drop a note or make a call to management to let them know your concerns. They may be losing customers and not know why.

karen said...

PS. You've linked to the wrong Woman's Point of View (if it's the local one you are trying to link to). I had no idea there was another.

swampcritter2 said...

Bruce, What planet did you say you were from? You go to a restaurant near a college and hear obscenities and expletives thrown about, and wonder about it? I'll try to help bring you up to speed. Gone are the days when college students aspired to appear erudite and mannerly. These kids were probably English majors. If you were in the place I think you were in, the food isn't that good anyway. Complaining to the management where the bulk of the patrons consists of these "future leaders" would be inane. If the owners were forced to chose between them and you, who do you suppose they'll pick. If I were in your shoes, I'd write a letter to the local paper and mention the restaurant by name. You might get follow-ups, and perhaps results. 'Til then I'd eat elsewhere.