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Do you have a mouth like a cesspit?

When you speak, are the words that come out of your mouth the verbal equivalent of raw sewerage spewing in all directions?

Late this afternoon, as I read through and graded student papers with a cup of coffee in a cafe and dining area on campus, I was reminded again how awful a steady torrent of obscenity sounds.  Two young men at a nearby table seemed unable to utter more than a sentence between them without peppering their speech liberally with the F-Word.  Keep in mind, these are university men.  Part of the huge "middle class" of which almost everyone is now a part in the United States, yet there was nothing remotely classy about these guys based on their speech and behavior.  You'd think they might have been able to express themselves a bit more eloquently after a few semesters on campus.   Guess not.

But maybe I'm completely out of touch.  Is the prevalence of this kind of thing a byproduct of the democratization of higher education specifically and society in general?  Or do people really speak to each other like that in all families now regardless of socioeconomic origin?  What in the world has gone wrong with society when a clear majority of people cannot sit quietly by themselves or in small groups and avoid being subjected to that kind of thing from the mouths of just a few.  Maybe I'm the one with the problem though.  I mean, why worry about the tangible decline in standards of behavior everywhere in less than a human lifetime?  Let's just let everything hang out and all behave like the worst of the worst.  That would be the easiest thing to do.  Right?  

No.  I refuse to accept that.   It's time to reintroduce more than a little self-control in how we act and speak.  Contrary to what some might argue, however, reining ourselves in and watching what we say, when, and where we say it is not an infringement on people's right to free speech.  Besides, that is a concept twisted by lots of less than fully informed people to mean something that the great minds of the Enlightenment did not necessarily envision or intend.  Neither is the issue simply about moving out of earshot if you don't want to hear some ignoramus demonstrate his extremely limited vocabulary.   

The heart of the matter concerns a complete lack of civility on the part of too many individuals, who can't bothered to think about anyone or anything but themselves.  As average guys who are concerned with rising above the commonplace and the banal, though, oughtn't we to demonstrate greater consideration for others and be more mindful of what is appropriate in public spaces.  Surely, spewing forth a torrent of obscenities anywhere and everywhere with utter disregard for everyone else is not.  Just because some of us might get some weird, juvenile charge out of it and cannot express ourselves another way is no excuse.  It's not ok and succeeds only in making a guy seem trashy.

Now, I'm no saint.  I've hit my thumb accidentally with a hammer many times, caught my toe on a high curb and fallen head over heels on a dark city street, and crashed my head into low-hanging beams over doorways.  I've smashed my forehead into a low shelf over a bed as the alarm clock jangled me into consciousness and split my brow open, bleeding all over the place while on the way to catch an early train.  I've worked in a warehouse unloading trucks as a young man, an environment rife with cussin'.  I've also experienced sudden heartache and extreme frustration, so I get it.  Sometimes, a fusilade of obscenities escapes from our mouths before we know it and despite our best intentions.  But, let's be reasonable here.  Many, if not most, people really don't want to hear a habitual and steady stream of curse words coming from someone's mouth.  Not in polite society at any rate.  No two ways about it, guys.  Having a mouth like a sailor is unattractive on a number of different levels.  Sadly, most of us are afraid to say anything when someone spews their verbal filth our way in restaurants, on airplanes, and in shopping malls, or on the street.  So, let's leave it like this.  

If you want to kick up your everyday style several notches and avoid coming across as nothing better than low rent, get with the program.  Your background, money, electronic gadgets, bling, car, and clothing make no difference.  Neither does that overly-inflated, artificially propped up self-esteem from which many young guys seem to suffer these days.  Here's the deal though.  If you are unable to express a thought without uttering an obscenity, if every second or third sentence is laced with what used to be called blue language, you've got a problem.  The solution is to become more upwardly mobile in how you present yourself to the rest of the world, and a large part of how we do that is through the language we use.  In other words, it's time to leave the habitual potty mouth behind once and for all.  The people around you will appreciate it, and you'll come across as a more decent, pleasant, and genuinely likeable person.  And who knows?  You just might find that people begin reacting differently to you, and your life somehow magically changes for the better.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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