Short Take: The Vulgar And The Scold

When it comes to using the word “fuck,” or any number of other profane words, I’m no one to point fingers. I use it when I feel like it, usually to add emphasis to a point as the word still has a bit of jarring power left in it. I’m not always proud of myself for it, and many people disagree with my decision to indulge on such language, but then, you be you and I’ll be me. Okay? No. There is almost invariably someone who will chime in to reliably inform me that my word choice has offended their sensibility.

And it’s not just me.

This series of twits presents the issue in extreme focus. Sure, the initial twit had no particular reason to be phrased as it was. But it’s hardly unusual for twitter, or for a young person on twitter. And it reflected her great excitement at such a wonderful opportunity.

Was it “necessary” that her enthusiasm include “EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP”? Of course not, but that’s really not the point. That was how she chose to frame it, and given the medium, her audience, her enthusiasm, it’s really not the sort of thing that anyone should find troubling. But even more importantly, even if someone did find it jarring or disturbing, it’s not the sort of thing that anyone should find so disturbing as to feel compelled to scold.

Yet, a scold appeared. The scold’s sensibilities were not only touched, but offended to the extent that the scold felt compelled to scold. That’s the nature of scolds. As much as someone sees what another person says and feels compelled to “police” their language, it takes a special sort of person to believe they are entitled to scold others for it.

But then, the excited OP strikes back, and in a manner that not only exacerbates the initial problem, but appears intended to further inflame the scold. Does the OP need to reply in this way, to double down on both the vulgarity that offends the scold and attack back? No again. But then, that too is a choice, not an uncommon one either for the medium or the age group. It was, obviously, a particularly obnoxious reply, and a fairly gross one at that, but then, the OP was addressing a random scold. What level of civility does a random scold deserve?

Then comes the kicker, that the random scold might not be quite as random as expected. Is he (the actual person who replied rather than the assumed handle) on the National Space Council? Perhaps [Edit: but probably not]. Then again, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. Then again, nobody knows who ends up seeing your twit, and what position they might be in that could make a difference in your life, whether for better or worse.

Was the original twit too vulgar for someone who just got an internship with NASA, the sort of thing that might be taken as unbecoming of someone who would be associated with the space program? Or was it merely the interlocutor’s personal sensibilities that were offended. Was the responding “language” harsh enough, scoldy enough, to warrant a reply involving sucking? That too is a personal choice.

The point here is that people, particularly those whose futures are ahead of them, might want to bear in mind that there may be people who see their twits who aren’t of their age cohort, and to whom the banal vulgarity might not work as well as it does with their close online friends.

On the other hand, just because you have the opportunity to scold on the internet doesn’t mean you should seize it. If you don’t care for the language another person uses, then make a mental note, if you must, that the person can be profane and mute them, block them, ignore them and never again let them offend your sensibilities. But you’re not the language police. You aren’t the arbiter of good taste on twitter. This compulsion not only to be offended, but to believe you’re entitled to scold people for using a word of which you disapprove is your problem.

Try to be less vulgar when it’s unnecessary. But who the fuck are you to scold anyone about anything? And never forget that you don’t know who’s reading your twits.

11 thoughts on “Short Take: The Vulgar And The Scold

  1. Steve King

    I tell my wife to tell her students:

    Assume that everything they say and do online will remain on some server forever.

    If you are making a fool of yourself in public, assume that someone has a cellphone video of that incident, which will be posted on line.

    Profanity is for inarticulate mother########.

    1. SHG Post author

      That everything on the internet is there forever is a longstanding meme (although it’s not entirely true, but true enough). The disconnect is that the language popular within a bubble doesn’t necessarily translate well outside the bubble. As for profanity, fuck it.

      1. Alan

        Code-switching is for olds, what about keeping it real?

        Full disclosure, Baby Boomer, and my public online persona is almost indistinguishable from my applying for jobs persona. That seems to make the most sense for me, if only those young whippersnappers would listen.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Samual Clements.

    “ When it comes down to pure ornamental cursing, the native American is gifted above the sons of men.”

    Looks like the current generation didn’t inherit that trait.

  3. Keith

    I tell my kids that that there’s no such thing as “bad words”, only words that people will react to in unpredictable ways.

    I came from a family that rarely ever cursed, so hearing it jars me.

    While it’s true that people can record you and blast you into a new medium, generally speaking, different places have different schemas that are appropriate. No one expects a chat in a classroom to have the same vibe and tenor as a friendly chat at a poker game.

    The one-size-fits-all audience of twitter and other fora makes a fertile ground for such scolds, because someone, somewhere, will always have a problem with your decisions.

    But I think the inability to let it go was a personal issue for the scold here and the inability to ignore it was a personal issue for the kid.

    Both should grow up, but only one will likely have the time to do it.

  4. KP

    “the sort of thing that might be taken as unbecoming of someone who would be associated with the space program?”

    NASA- Please Mr Putin, can we send another guy up on your rocket? We don’t have any anymore.

    Musk- Take a hit of this fucker man, tomorrow I’m sending you into space!

    Scolding is all those fat old farts in NASA can do…

Comments are closed.