Out of the corner of my ear, I caught it this morning -- a newscaster saying laconically that it was a "hell of a situation." I like cuss words as much or perhaps more than the next person, but I enjoy them as an art more than as a common-place. And I remembered a time when it was considered bad manners to cuss in public and teachers would scowl and say that those who used cuss words were simply displaying an ignorance of their native tongue.
Ignorant, sure, but because there was a time when cuss words were naughty, every kid I ever hung out with brought a due diligence to the snap, crackle and pop of a "shit" or "damn" or "fuck." The first time my mother heard me use the word "fuck," she sat me down and went through each of the seven or eight basic cuss words. She explained what each one meant literally and what the slang usage was. She was very patient and I was grossed out and embarrassed: In the second grade, it was hard to imagine boys and girls doing that stuff. My mother ended her lecture by saying I could use those words with my friends and I could use them with her. But woe betide me if I used them in front of her friends.
And now the cuss words that were once banned in the media creep in and make their stand. There is still some bleeping on the television, but not as much as once. "Damn" and "asshole" have gone unbleeped and I imagine that one day the others will claim their birthright as well.
Interesting to think -- what are things like when nothing is naughty? Easy answers like "anarchy" or "mediocrity" strike me as a little too easy. Really, what are things like when nothing is naughty?