Sunday, August 31, 2014


It has taken me a long time, but I think I finally have figured out why my father grew more and more silent as he grew older.

I will blame but a small portion of his propensity towards silence on his decreased hearing ability. I think the main reason he was reluctant to speak much in his last few years was because he no longer understood the meaning of the words he had used throughout his life.

Since he is no longer here to explain his trend toward muteness I will have to use my own extended experience to try to bring meaning to man’s march towards respectful silence.

When I was a very young child the distinction between good and bad words was easily identified, especially in the presence of my mother. When an unacceptable word was said it was immediately identified by a threat of having my mouth washed out with soap. Time has dulled my memory so that I can't recall if that threat was ever put into action or not, hopefully the threat was sufficient to ease the tension brought on by the utterance of the bad word.

During elementary school and through most of my teen years I came to understand that there were safe zones where a boy could speak bad words and zones where great caution had to be taken.

1. The playground away from the school yard monitors was safe while the classroom was off limits for questionable language.
2. Scout meetings at the church house was definitely not a safe zone while scout camp seemed to be the safest place for boldly having ones speech liberally sprinkled with bad words.
3. Under ones breath was safe while vocalization was not.
4. The boy’s locker room was safe but the band room was forbidden territory for bad words.
5. Athletic fields and courts were havens for bad words while Sunday School classes were out of bounds.
6. It was always safer to say bad words with male companions, and disrespectful when the group was joined by the female variety of the species.
7. Sergeants could use bad words, but privates could not.

I think you get the idea that freedom of speech was clearly defined by words being good or bad by when those words could safely be spoken and where and with whom one might presently be.

I went on a church mission to Northern Mexico when I was 19 years old and when I returned I thought things remained pretty much status quo.

However, when I enrolled in a college speech class shortly after returning home, I realized that somehow a built in monitor had infected my body while in Mexico. I now no longer found a great personal need to be aware of where I was or who was in the group, bad words were no longer part of my vocabulary. I remember in the class a young woman referred to a certain part on the back side of her body with a four letter word. There was a consensus in the class that it would have been better if she were to have chosen a less offensive word. A four letter word which today, I have to frequently remind my young grandchildren, is not to be used in their grandparent’s home.

When our children grew to be in their teens, it was a constant battle for them to have to update their ole fogie father on what fowl or animal names could be used in polite society in order to avoid knowing glances from listeners.

During the time Kathleen and I spent in Colombia the language changed to such an extent that when we returned to the United States of America and took up residence in Southern California, in was a daily battle to keep from using words which once referred to beach footwear, but now were used to describe scanty panties, along with a whole list of words which now had double meanings and if they had not entered the bad category they were at least shady.

Now that I am retired and most of my vocabulary updating comes from cable or wireless devices, I have found that there seems to be a race (I would say rat race, but I am afraid that I might be politically incorrect) to see who can find another filthy meaning for words which at one time were used with preciseness of meaning and carried no danger of having a mouth foaming from suds.

In the days of our biblical first parents, their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled. (Pearl of Great Price – Moses 6:6) Adam called every living thing by the name thereof. (Old Testament – Genesis 2:19) Then the language became confounded and the people became scattered among the nations. (Old Testament – Genesis11:9) I heard a language which I understood not. (Old Testament – Psalms 81:5) Their language became corrupted. (Book of Mormon – Omni 1:17) For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. (Old Testament – Zephaniah 3:9)

I know my scriptural account is a small sampling, but, alas in the column of ‘nothing new under the sun’ we see that what has happened to our language is but a repetition of what has happened among the nations during recorded history. There seems to be a strong connection between the corruption of a language and minds and virtues and the downfall of societies and governments. If what I have seen happening during my lifetime is indeed the corruption of our national language… Hopefully, we will modify our destructive behavior before divine intervention is needed.

Meanwhile like my father and his father before him, I will find contentment in keeping my mouth shut and being thought a fool rather than opening it and removing all doubt.

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