A few more words about words

Published 9:56 pm Monday, January 20, 2014

By Kermit Hobbs Jr.

On several occasions I’ve written about words that I would just as soon never hear again, and there are a few more that I feel compelled to comment upon.

It wasn’t so many years ago that TV shows used relatively clean language and subject matter. They could be meaningful and entertaining without needing to shock the audience with outlandish words or situations.

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At some point, the dialogue on some shows began to sound like it came off the walls of gas station bathrooms. At the same time, the language deteriorated. As the writers became more obsessed with body parts and bodily functions, they decided that they needed more graphic words to describe them.

A few years ago, the wizards behind TV broadcasting decided that their audience would no longer be satisfied with conventional references to the human posterior. They unleashed the word, a**, upon us. No longer were such terms as “derriere,” “tush” or even “butt” shocking enough. It seemed to me that Jay Leno was so delighted that when he used the new word he gave it a little extra emphasis to make sure we got the effect.

This word was soon followed by an even more disgusting word that means to urinate, to describe a person’s anger.

What we now have is a sort of “profanity inflation.” An ugly word is unleashed upon us, and when it loses its shock value, another dirtier one take its place. Most recently, they even tried coining a new word, twerk.

My wife and I are occasional moviegoers, and some years ago we went to see “Good Will Hunting,” a movie that had received rave reviews. I was shocked to hear the f-bomb dropped, not just once, but over and over again for no apparent reason.

I’m ashamed to admit that I sat there and watched the whole movie, as much as anything, to see if the main character would ever outgrow his filthy mouth. He didn’t.

Now I’ve heard that the current movie, “Wolf of Wall Street,” uses the same word more than 500 times.

I can’t believe it. Do people really talk like that? I know I’ve led a sheltered life, but over the years I have worked with people from all socio-economic backgrounds. The few I encountered who used excessive profanity were not angry about anything at all. My impression of them was that their use of filthy language was inversely proportional to their intelligence.

Is this a regional thing? “Good Will Hunting” was set in Boston, and “The Wolf of Wall Street” is set in New York. I’ve spent time in both places, and I didn’t hear people spouting such tripe. This can’t be it.

I suppose today’s movie producers figure moviegoers will pay good money to watch others misbehave worse than they themselves do. It seems that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences buys into that theory, too, with its nomination of “Wolf of Wall Street” as the best movie of 2013.

I say, no thanks to that. If anything, I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to all the people with whom I associate, for your intelligent and prudent language.

Kermit Hobbs Jr. is an accomplished Suffolk historian and businessman. Email him at khobbs5@aol.com.