Language and words do matter

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By Ned Cantwell

Post election concentration in the media and at coffee klatches around the state has centered on New Mexico turning a deep shade of blue and our chances of pork barrel opportunities now that we have five congressional seniority rookies.

 Then, of course, there is the constant speculation about where Bill Richardson is going and why did he shave his beard. My theory on the latter is Barbara told him to shave it or else, if you get my drift.

An overheard quip about the whole election scenario is Jesus drew a line in the sand, warned us not to step over it and now that we did, Jesus help us. I doubt Jesus is big on drawing lines in the sand, but the prayer is fitting in any case.

Here’s a story that has been overlooked and I think Jesus would weigh in on my side on this one.

Let’s talk dirty. Or rather, let’s talk about talking dirty. There are shades of profane and rough talk from the commonly used “hell” and “damn it” to the more offensive expressions of dismay.

There is private language. The golfer who launches a perfect shot to the green only to see it glance off a sprinkler head into the lake may not be satisfied with a mere “oh shucks.”

If I hit my thumb with a hammer, you don’t want to be in the neighborhood. It starts with “you dirty ...” and goes downhill from there.

At issue in our land right now is public profanity and the first amendment rights of the profane to express it.

The Supreme Court recently debated Federal Communications Commission rules in a case filed by Fox Television Stations against the FCC for its clamp down on public swear words.

This is an appropriate debate, for sure. The specter of a government official deciding what we should watch, hear, or read is frightening. But there have to be some limits.

A couple of TV moments prompted the FCC to get tough.

One was the outburst of intellectual genius Nicole Richie who gushed after receiving an award for her show, “It’s not so f------ easy to remove cow s--- out of a Prada purse.” This girl must have gone to finishing school in a brothel.

Fox TV wants the FCC to ease up on the standards. Doing so, argued Solicitor General Gregory Garre, “could lead to Big Bird dropping the F-bomb on ‘Sesame Street.’”

Forgetting government rules and First Amendment rights, we have to wonder what happened to common sense.

There was a time when those in the public arena did not have to resort to profanity to be funny, clever or profound.

Two recent cases.

Chris Rock may be one of the funniest comedians on the planet, second only to Robin Williams.

But even for someone with my high degree of tolerance, Rock’s current HBO special prompts one to leave the TV room and head for the shower.

Second case: The Smothers Brothers recently graced New Mexico with an appearance at the Spencer Theater in Ruidoso.

These guys are 70ish and have been entertaining audiences for 40 years. Their Ruidoso show was brilliant in the choice of material, timing and comic instincts. And not a dirty reference or cuss word mars their performance.

Perhaps more important than what a Supreme Court will decide is what a public will tolerate.

So, for what it is worth, that’s my take on profan ... oh, no, I just spilled coffee on the keyboard.  CRAP!

Ned Cantwell - ncantwell@beyondbb.com - once was an altar boy and is still quite innocent.