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OFF CENTRE: Downwind of the curse birds

Sherwin Walters

OFF CENTRE: Downwind of  the curse birds

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“IT’S ALL COMING BACK to me now,” said the skunk, not too amused. He wasn’t reciting the words of Celine Dion’s popular song.
You see, he had done what skunks do and hurried along, but the wind had changed direction and he was now downwind of his . . . ahm . . . handiwork. I guess we could say that he got a smell of his own medicine.
As far as I know there are no skunks in Barbados. But that apparently doesn’t stop people from trying to emulate them – with words.
Is it just me or have you noticed an alarming increase in the amount of public cursing? I don’t have to mention rum shops, which must rival fishing boats and pirate ships as the birthplace of cursing.
It seems to be everywhere. On the street, on an escalator in a city store, in offices. Movies, reality shows, even some everyday, family time sitcoms pepper your eardrums with this “adult” language – well, at least the beeps that try to manfully stand in the place of off-colour utterances.
Don’t talk about the Internet. Social networks, blogs, forums – wherever in cyberspace people can leave their verbal mark, there is the litter of curse words/cuss words/swear words.
Of course, Barbadians are getting up their courage to really let down their standards webside, so look out – ’cause with our varied turns on this thing, nobody cahn hold a candle to we.
We blinding people, placing holes everywhere, handing people supposed “female rabbits” (I really don’t know where that thinking came from), putting faeces by other names wherever we will – and if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, I don’t have to tell you about the smell of faeces whatever name we give it (the Bajan favourite being somewhat reminiscent of the name of a Muslim sect).
Wind changed
Not long ago, I was in a certain establishment doing business, and my eye caught this good-looking, elegant, smooth-toned, well coutured what-looked-like-a-lady.
A picture of poise and grace. (Don’t ever forget that when they say a picture is worth a thousand words, some of those words may be “bad” words).
Suddenly the wind shifted and she turned to me, expletives hitting my fan-cy impression of her, asking me to do her a favour because some *&%$#@& body was supposed to !%#&*[email protected]+ meet her but was behaving like a #^*%. Forty years ago, we might have made a wonderful couple. Now, when I retell the story, I can’t call her a lady.
I don’t curse, but I understand why people may curse sometimes – some things are so unbearably exasperating, so up-to-here, so wrong. I even grant that in some instances there are no equally efficient replacements for “choice words”.
Yes, I can see with the judge in the United States, who, after listening to the accused’s experience of Job-challenging, poise-snapping aggravation, threw out the charge of using offensive language, adding that in similar circumstances he would probably have done the same thing.
What I don’t understand is how unseemly talk of this hole and that hole and of God taking away eyesight and the use of the four-letter word (and its seven-letter kin) for sexual intercourse and borrowings from reggaeland in relation to cloth (is it?) can be so casually and gratuitously integrated into the remarks of so many of our (well schooled) citizens.
Indelicate language
How could these people be so short on adjectives, nouns and interjections that indelicate language can roll off tongues in the same way that we would say, “I like that dress”?
Some people, knowing that curse words are all around us and therefore in our heads, might say, “Well, if they are in your head, what is wrong with them coming out?”
It all has to do with decorum, respect for others, respect for ourselves, self-control, restraint and so on. We don’t speak everything that we know is true; we don’t let every thought we have issue forth in action; we don’t dress in public the way we dress in private. We choose. At our best, we govern what we do in public by standards that have more than a little to do with sensitivity to others.
Why would anyone truly possessed of a sense of self-pride and even a modicum of concern for others so recklessly overleap the bounds of civility?
The level of public cussing may well be a barometer of the state of human relations today. In Barbados, it may be representative of the day by day replacing (unbeknownst to the authorities) of our motto of Pride And Industry with “I don’ cay ’bout a fella”.
Perhaps it is because social barbarians interpret the song as I Like [Only] Muhself. That’s why, I guess, their “scent” so frequently comes to me too.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor.