Find out why the talk show host is fed up with rampant swearing. By Katie Couric
I was at the gym recently when Travie McCoy's song "Billionaire" came over the stereo system: "I wanna be a billionaire/So f--ing bad," he (very clearly) sang. I almost stopped pedaling the stationary bike I was on: Did I just hear that? Really? I looked around, and no one else even batted an eye at the use of the F word in public, at a gym, in the early morning. Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC.
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So much has changed since I was a little girl, when the big lyrical dustup was The Kingsmen's 1963 hit "Louie Louie." The urban myth was that the song contained profane lyrics, including the F word, which you could make out when the recording was slowed down. At the time, just the hint that the song might contain that word was scandalous.
Now, it seems, we've become so accustomed to bad language that everything is fair game, and it's getting harder to protect our kids from it. Cursing is modern-day noise pollution. I remember walking around our neighborhood when my daughters were in elementary school and hearing people drop the F bomb. More than once I said to them, "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" They always shrugged and stared blankly at me. It might sound schoolmarmish and scolding, but come on! Standards, people! As my dad used to say: "It doesn't take any talent to curse."
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Of course, I'm not completely innocent. I sometimes curse in front of friends when I'm particularly animated about something-but I don't use those words around my kids. It's important to me that my daughters are polite in any situation.
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It's a cycle: The more our culture uses curse words, the less shocking it is when we hear them. Because they're no longer shocking, people use them more and more. We see it in everything from the relaxed profanity standards on TV to the angry, judgmental and just plain mean words used when people post comments online. The more disconnected we are from face-to-face interaction, the more emboldened people are to spew venom.
And while songs are still cleaned up for radio, like Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" (instead of "F-- You"), and characters on prime-time TV shows aren't using the F word yet, they're getting awfully close. I was shocked in the early '80s when Kirby Anders called Alexis Carrington a "bitch" on Dynasty; now that word is used regularly on television.
The casual use of bad language is a sign of the coarsening of our culture. The way we talk to each other is indicative of how we treat each other and how much we respect each other. Using better language is a small step toward creating kinder and gentler conversations-and over time, it could be a giant leap toward infusing our culture with some much-needed respect.
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