“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Fewer words have been spoken that are untrue. “But,” some say, “they’re just words. No big deal . . . that’s all they are.” More unthinking falsehoods.
Indeed, other critters express themselves with growls and roars and hisses and such. But human beings have refined the art of communication to consist of words used in a structured way and conveyed by speech. Given that, the choice of terms and how they are used can result in extremely positive or extremely negative consequences.
Watch your language (or watch your mouth) is often used as an admonition in an attempt to curtail someone’s crude speech. But, of course, one cannot “see” language per se; one can only hear it. Yet what one can see is the consequence words produce.
Here follows several examples of when watching one’s language – rather, observing the consequences of words – is prudent. Put another way, these are examples of when consciously and conscientiously choosing one’s vocabulary, and how its used, can make a world of difference.
Profanity . . . consistently littering one’s speech with words that have been traditionally considered coarse, rude, and vulgar . . . such as words for body parts, body waste products, and sexual functions. It is any individual’s right to choose to use such words when and where he/she pleases, but all too often people appear to have no concern or respect for others for whom such “dirty” words often initiate discomfort. Discerning what situations and around whom it is inappropriate to exercise one’s potty-mouth is a sign of maturity that cares for and respects the sensitivities of others. For instance, it’s probably not the best idea to say to one’s elderly grandmother who’s suffering, “I’m f’n sorry you broke your f’n hip, Grandma.” Although it might be okay in this case if your grandmother taught you to use such language. Discernment.
One can easily watch the discomfort profanity often engenders in others.
Blasphemy . . . irreverence toward something considered sacred. This generally takes the form of using the germ “God” in a casual or irreverent way, such as: “goddamn,” “good lord,” or “Oh my god.” It also includes using the name of a revered spiritual leader as a common exclamation or swear word. The most common application is the use of “Jesus!” or “Jesus Christ!” or “Christ!” in such a manner. One can acknowledge the fact that the name means little or nothing to folks who use it in that way, but, again, so often there is zero consciousness of the fact that the name and title hold deep, sacred meaning for millions. To use the name in such crass ways with no regard for those to whom it is dear is a clear demonstration of not caring how it might affect them.
One can easily watch the discomfort blasphemy often engenders in others.
Name-calling . . . fagot, nigger, gook, kike, wop, asshole, sissy; the list goes on. Such names, when directed to another over and over, often results in combinations of low self-esteem, anger, confusion, and shame. Such names communicate disdain and disparagement that often produces depression and a feeling of inferiority in the targets. From school playgrounds to political interactions, the damage done by name-calling is observable and a clear sign of callous immaturity. Uncountable little children have taken their own lives as a result.
One can easily observe the deleterious effects of name-calling.
Uncontrolled verbiage . . . road rage verbal abuse, rampant yelling at spouses and children, etc. Even when there is a righteous cause for anger, there is a choice between foaming at the mouth and responding with reasonable control. Whether a child or adult, being on the receiving end of repeated yelling (days – months – years) creates anxiety and trains one to respond in kind. Whatever situation causes anger, reacting with control of mind and mouth will always lead to a more positive outcome. Thoughtfully governing one’s mouth is also a sign of mature self-control.
One can easily watch the deleterious effects loud, unbridled, vitriolic language.
In 1990 John McCrone wrote a book titled: The Ape That Spoke: Language and the Evolution of the Human Mind. However far back the language used by homo sapiens began to be developed, we are stuck with it today. Therefore, to cultivate and preserve peace on earth, we best use it prudently.