Littles vs Bigs / Myth #3
“If punished for using profane language, Littles will not use profane language.” Oh, hell-to-the-no regarding this myth. The proliferation of cuss words (swearing, vulgar language, no-no words, obscenity) spoken and heard today in our multimedia world is proof of the challenge that the late George Carlin raised in his “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV” shtick in the early 1970’s. He was a master of language and questioned how “some” words (the seven being “shit-piss-fuck-cunt-cocksucker-motherfucker-tits”) could be relegated by broadcast law or agency rule to “dirty” jokes or verbal insults and regulated by restricting use on television or public forum. Corporate media skirted the rules of profanity use by the advent of cable television where “bleeps” covered the use of scripted profanity. Wider social acceptance of profanity by American society in the past decade has emboldened the cable networks to eliminate many of the “bleeps”. During the past week, scanning through the channels and movies and reality shows, I found all of the words used in actual conversation, not in jokes, except for “tits”. Not the most technical of research, but to clarify to my readers that the use of profanity has changed greatly since comedian Carlin so entertained his audiences. Yet he, along with Lenny Bruce and others, were arrested for use of these words in public. There are recent experts today that suggest that profanity in the workplace among coworkers and in social relationships are stress busters and also bridge builders and condone its use. Fascinating. And Littles have plenty of auditory access to all cuss words on Screens and in the public arena, schoolyard, print, and at home. The issue is the confusion Littles experience wondering why only Bigs are allowed to use the words. They hear it so much, no matter how much their auditory access is censored. And, I have yet to hear a Big justify their right to use profanity as the reason that a Little should not. Usually, it’s “that is not a nice word to say” or “we don’t use bad words in our family”. When that does little to convince a Little, then consequence is attached . Or there is the cute “money jar on the counter” technique calling for anyone in the fam that says a “bad” word to put a quarter in the jar. I think paying to cuss gives access, not restraint. But there are those that “swear” by the money jar. So be it.
Let’s face it…Littles come into the world young, wild, and free. When Bigs attempt to apply restraint by telling them something is “wrong” and Littles continue to see and hear the “wrong”, confusion cancels the restraint. Profanity can be humorous and sharp as well as insulting and barbaric. It’s all in the context. And they hear forbidden words in both contexts. This adds to the confusion. For example, “Hahahahahaha, oh fuck, there was a piece of toilet paper flapping on his shoe when he came out of the shitter. Hahahahaha!” In contrast to, “Oh, what the hell. Look at this on News Feed. Some motherfucker beat the shit out of a dude at the bar down the street and took his wallet before the lazy ass bouncer even saw it happening.” Or the use of God’s name in vain. Preached in church as blasphemy and prohibitively held as a commandment. But then a Little hears, “Oh my God, your house is beautiful!” And this is even when Bigs do their best to use “gosh” instead of “God”. All of this ends up being a very mixed message and plants the seeds of doubt for Littles. Just like George Carlin’s original intention of questioning the censor of language and done in a wildly humorous way gave many listeners that wedge in the door that maybe it is OK to use “forbidden” words. Hence, the legitimate question in Littles’ minds: “Why can a Big say that and I can’t?” And Bigs, if you think that merely saying some form of “because I said so” is going to stop a Little from using profane language, you are pissing in the wind. Again.
So here is Mythbuster #3 from the the Baroness. Please allow me to say up front that what you are about to read might be considered unorthodox. I do freely say to you that I skip gaily more on the path of profane than on the path of persnickety. Take heart! Regardless of whether it makes you shudder or laugh when using it, I have seen this technique work several times. When confronted with instilling discipline in a Little (remember discipline is that they conduct themselves appropriately in all situations) regarding the habit of using profanity, I’ve always told them to go practice somewhere alone saying any word they want. Find a good alone space and let ‘er rip, Littles. Or, think the words all they want in their brain but don’t let it cross their lips in school, church, at the grocery store, dinner table or anyplace where manners and civility are expected. Practice only in the clubhouse of their making that has the Bigs Not Allowed sign on the door. Every young, wild, and free Little wants to push against a taboo. Allow them to practice and “safely” experience it. And heed these words, Bigs. If you are planning to lecture a Little about using profanity (whether you are a “user” or not), ask some form of this question first: “What did you say to so-and-so?” Calmly demand that your little Jaden or Shayla or Tracy repeats the forbidden word or phrase OUT LOUD to you. In your presence. And if it is whispered or mumbled, say, “Oh, I didn’t quite get that. Say it louder.” Watch the beads of sweat collect on their foreheads. Or, if they write a forbidden word on the inside cover of your current monthly edition of Nat Geo or People, hold the magazine up and yell (for example), “Who wrote ‘fuck you’ on the cover of MY magazine? With a pen?” They will be shocked to hear the word come out of your mouth and then, oh bloody hell, have to read it to you upon discovery. And, we are not finished. Have them correct any misspelling because they probably left out the “c” from the word “fuck ” or have invented a ridiculously funny written version of a word such as “ashole” or “dumass cheeter” Plus, it just brings a bit of levity to a difficult situation.
I have experienced this technique as a surefire deterrent every time when trying to create the appropriate “No Seven Words Allowed Here” zone.
Let’s face it…It is doubtful that profanity will ever disappear from our culture. The more it is presented as a taboo, the more a Little will skate and dart around the pond, chasing after the words. Remember, it’s not about the language. It’s about the context.