WTF and other unnecessaries
I have a problem with obscenity. It's lost its punch. And that's a shame.
There was a time when Anglo-Saxonisms raised a few eyebrows. When the words were so shocking in print that one had to take notice. Now they're used so indiscriminately in every publication, online forum, and political discourse that they've stopped being, well... useful.
Time past and time present
In the past (and mine's long), one could always rely on certain people to incorporate expletives any time that they opened their mouths. They were usually the people you would never introduce to your children or to anyone you cared about. And they weren't necessarily stupid -- at least not in terms of IQ. But they were deaf and blind to the norms of society, or they simply didn't care what people thought. And that's fine. But they wouldn't get invited out to dinner. Then or now.
Comedy may be to blame. Beginning with the likes of Moms Mabley and Lenny Bruce and, after them, George Carlin and Richard Pryor, swearing was shorthand for whupping the establishment upside the head. And it was, for the most part, very funny. Yet, today, it seems that nothing is considered to be comedy unless it's obscene... or uttered by Ellen DeGeneres, who seems to avoid all those four-letter words and can still be hysterical. (Bill Cosby avoided them, too, but... let's not discuss him at this point.)
Then there were the Reagan years when funds for education were considered less important. Just like air traffic controllers. And that led to books on the dumbing down of America and to the exasperation of teachers who would rather reclassify Black English as acceptable (Ebonics) than try to instruct standard English to their inner city kids.
Today (and it depends on which study you read), America ranks somewhere in the range of seventeenth to twenty-third in terms of students' math and reading scores. We've gone from "The G.E. College Bowl" to "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" (and judging by the latter show, too many contestants would not have advanced to sixth grade). And, in the process of being less smart, vocabulary's gone out of style.
Along with it went precision and incisiveness and wit. This exchange between two 18th Century Englishmen (the actual speakers are the subject of dispute)
"You, sir, will certainly either die upon the gallows or of a social disease."
"That depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."is as likely to happen today as it would be for our current President to know how to use more than 200 words.
Easy and/or lazy
So when I see "WTF" in the title of a series explaining new digital concepts or when expletives appear where they don't add a thing to someone's comments, their inclusion makes me sigh. But it's not because I find the words offensive. It's because it shows a total lack of interest in the power of English.
English, I admit, is a thief. It contains more than a million words because it glibly stole so many from innumerable languages. That gives it more than a million opportunities to speak and write with clarity, precision, and strength. But, more and more, nobody does.
It's easy (or lazy) to pepper your discourse with words that, before now, were forbidden in what's called polite society. But maybe that's the sobering, sorrowful truth: our society's no longer polite. We'd rather call the folks we disagree with something rude than take the time and skill to reply with an alternative, persuasive point of view.
Do not go
My current peeve involves the phrase "go missing." "Missing" is not a destination. It is not an activity. But it is a state of (non)being. You can vanish, disappear, and be missing, but you can't "go." You also can't go extinct (though that's where English language skill seems headed). You become it.
As Mr Higgins said in desperation about our cousins across the sea, "Use proper English, you're regarded as a freak. Oh, why can't the English learn to speak."
Like the old riddle that asks, "What's a four letter word that means intercourse?" it would be nice to think that most could provide the non-vulgar reply. My fear is that most people can't.
So, please, consider this. The next time you're ready to utter or write, "Kyle is so fucking stupid," the grammatical interpretation of which is that he's stupid about coitus, you might, instead, say that "You could put Kyle's brain in a thimble and have enough room to use the thing as a maraca."