Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Acceptable Words ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Acceptable Words ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Article excerpt

During My freshman year in college, a fellow student surprised me with a rebuke. Most students were from the small towns and rural areas surrounding the school. This young man was from a city - a city generally known, I thought, for lack of refinement. I was amazed when he said to me, "I've heard you say words no lady should lay her tongue to." I might have dismissed this as a sexist remark, but there was something in me that was ready for the criticism.

My father had quite a "vocabulary," and I had unknowingly adopted it. But he really disliked this habit of using profanity and often chided himself, saying, "Swearing is the effect of an ignorant mind trying to express itself." I turned a corner that freshman year and began to watch my words. Daddy must have found his freedom, too, because I don't remember him using profanity during his latter days.

Today, the fact that many are concerned with what has been called the "coarsening" of America is encouraging. We not only are insulted by much that we hear and see but also are ashamed that this is what we are exporting. It represents the worst elements of our culture, and misrepresents most Americans.

Because of my own experience, I feel that there is a yearning in the heart of humanity for refinement and better words and thoughts. Do we not inwardly pray the sentiments of a biblical psalmist? "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer" (Ps. 19:14).

As a Christmas gift for the past four or five years, members of my family have read a play and recorded it for me. This year, when I put it on the tape player and discovered what they had chosen, I was more than a little surprised because the play as I knew it was filled with vile language. As I listened to the first few lines, I realized they had cleaned up the language.

They'd had great fun doing this and said it hadn't been difficult. The first line that needed cleaning up was in the role my daughter was playing, and she substituted an acceptable word without missing a beat. When I asked her how she had edited it so naturally and easily, she answered that it came from years of reading aloud to kindergartners. …

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