The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

November 15, 2013

What the bleep has happened to our language skills?

ENID, Okla. — Bleep.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Bleep, bleep, bleep.

It is a little word, but in truth it is the big one, the granddaddy of all bad words, the king of curses, the one that got Ralphie’s mouth washed out with soap in the movie “A Christmas Story.”

It is one of the seven words the late comedian George Carlin said could never be uttered on television, and it is still true, though broadcast standards have been loosened somewhat since Carlin first delivered that routine in 1972.

Everyone knows it and I would wager nearly all of us have used it, at least once.

And we have all certainly heard it far too often. It is used in popular literature, in song lyrics, in movies and plays, is yelled at referees and umpires at sporting events, is written on the walls of public bathrooms and is increasingly bandied about in public places, often within earshot of women and children. Heck, many times it is the women and children using the word.

In 2011, what has been described as a cathartic children’s book for parents was published bearing the title, “Go the bleep to sleep,” but the book’s cover didn’t say bleep.

The f-word also is showing up on social media websites, like Twitter, for instance.

In recognition of this, another website, FBomb.co, has begun tracking the use of the word in tweets.

Most come from the eastern United States and the U.K. Not surprisingly, many non-English speaking countries show very few f-bombs. Oddly, few come from Australia, an English-speaking country, but apparently one with a more varied vocabulary than that of the U.S.

As I viewed the site for a few minutes the other day, however, profane, f-bomb dropping tweets showed up from such far-flung places as Serbia, Poland, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa and France.

During the first few minutes I watched the site, not one Twitter f-bomb was dropped in our fair state.  You can even zoom in and pinpoint profane tweets right down to their city of origin. Then, if you click on the f-bomb symbol, the silhouette a black bomb on a yellow caution sign, you can read the actual tweet.

I chose not to. I am quite familiar with the word. I play golf, after all.

The site is certainly enlightening, though certainly not for children or the easily offended.

It is instructive in that it reveals how dependent we seem to have become on one particular obscene word. As you watch the site, the f-bombs fall continuously, like yellow leaves dropping from a windblown tree.

Are we becoming incapable of expressing anger, frustration or disdain without using obscene language in general and that one particular word in particular?

Are we linguistically devolving into a foully monosyllabic species?

According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, there are at least a quarter million distinct English words. Surely from that list we can glean verbiage to color our conversation that does not involve a crude reference to copulation.

Whenever I hear someone leaning on the verbal crutch of the f-bomb, I despair for their educational background, their vocabulary and their grasp of the English language.

Incidentally, by the time I signed off the FBomb.co website, three f-bomb tweets had been posted from Oklahoma.

Shame on you @alex32lions from Durant, @Dominion133 from Woodward and @itsFuhleesh_ from Tulsa. Somebody needs to take a bar of soap to your Twitter account.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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