I've heard three explanations for the explosion in vulgar language in public conversations. Some people put the blame on President Trump, who often resorts to crude language and insults his adversaries by giving them demeaning nicknames. I think there is some truth to that argument.
Some commentators say we are speaking more profanely just to get people's attention. We are continuously bombarded by rude language transmitted by radio, television, and social media. Some people may think they must use profanity just to get noticed. If Congresswoman Tlaib had simply called for impeaching President Trump, no one would have noticed. By calling the President a "mother f--ker," she grabbed worldwide attention. Even the South China Morning Post carried the story.
Finally, I've heard pundits say public figures speak profanely because they do not have the vocabulary to formulate their ideas without cursing. They simply do not have the language skills to present rational arguments.
When I was in law school many years ago, my professors insisted on students speaking civilly and respectfully. I remember a day in Professor Lino Graglia's antitrust-law course. Professor Graglia was pacing back and forth at the front of the classroom while he asked students question after question about relevant court decisions.
One day, a law student used a mild expletive while answering one of Professor Graglia's questions. Graglia stopped in mid-step, and, in a commanding voice, thundered these exact words: "We do not use that kind of language in this classroom."
Professor Graglia then paused for a few seconds to gather his thoughts, and then he said something I will never forget. "You are all training to be officers of the courts and we must use language that shows our respect for the institutions that we serve."
I say I never forgot Professor Graglia's words, but in fact, I forgot them a few days ago. In a blog essay titled "Arrogant Bastards," I chastised our elite college presidents for doing virtually nothing about the student-loan crisis.
I regret those words, and I know why I used them. I felt like I needed to write something shocking just to get people to read my essay and I was too lazy in the moment to convey my criticism through rational language.
I apologize. I should not have called these college presidents arrogant bastards. I should have described them as arrogant and heartless. That's what I really meant to say.
|Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib: "Impeach the mother f--ker"|