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Guest Column

Consider where you are before you speak

As my son and I left the family-friendly burger joint last Saturday, we got stuck in the exit behind two men casually talking about nothing in particular. Unfortunately, these two fellows, perhaps unaware that they were in public, chose to casually pepper their language with words that would make a sailor blush.

This, of course, led to my seven-year-old son - who calls me out if I say "butt" or "crap" - to start telling me, "he said the 'f' word, he said the 's" word" and so forth. Fortunately, if you can call it that, many of the filthy terms these men used without regard to their surroundings did not register with a first-grader as bad words, so I was spared conversations about some of the more choice language.

This would not be quite so alarming if it wasn't such a regular occurrence. Over the course of that day, my son and I visited a music recital for kids around age 6 through teenagers, ate at the aforementioned burger joint, visited a popular department store and went to the movies.

At every single one of these places, including the children's music recital, I heard words that I would not be allowed to say on the radio. Apparently the use of "swear" or "curse" words has become so common that people no longer consider the surroundings before using them.

Now, I'm not going to pretend I don't use various inappropriate words when surrounded by adults. I'll also admit to swearing if say, something heavy falls on my foot and I can remember one job where the actions of our CEO (he's dead now, deservedly so) caused me to let out a muttering string of bad words in the newsroom.

Sometimes life simply requires that you use an inappropriate word. If I get hit in the face by a frying pan, my verbal response is not likely to be, "oh, fiddlesticks," but at times when one can control his language, I make every effort to.

It seems like not using foul language where children might be present should be a basic rule of society. That hardly seems to be the case as even when I was running a giant toy store - a place ostensibly filled with kids - I constantly had to ask people to tone down their language.

Of all the basic societal courtesies this seems like one of the easiest to abide by, yet too many people seem either unwilling, or perhaps, unable to control themselves. While people may have varying lines for what they consider appropriate, there are a number of words we all agree should not be used in public settings.

I'd prefer to not have to explain certain vulgar anatomical terms to a seven-year-old and can think of few reasons why those terms would be used in public. It's a question of basic civility, an understanding that you are not the only person in the world - a hard concept for some, but one that we should all keep in mind.

Daniel B Kline's work appears

in more than 100 papers weekly (dan@notastep.com).

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