Scroll down to the bottom for archived articles
Posted April 15, 2019
EXPANDING YOUR VOCABULARY
At the present I'm working on a nonfiction book about a young soldier who was Killed in Action (KIA) in the Middle East. To write a book like this requires lots of research. I have to get up to speed on the Middle East. Watch scores of video. Learn about the modern Army. Read newspaper articles. And interview as many first hand witnesses as possible.
In plodding through all of this research, I'm reminded of how our culture has changed over the last twenty years. How the "eff" word has come to rear its ugly head throughout literature and life. Listening to some of the younger generation cursing and swearing using the "eff" word exclusively gets boring and redundant after a while. To hear someone over fifty using the word just sounds ridiculous and like they're trying to sound either cool, hip, or trying extra hard to stay relative. Time to become the adult in the room.
I'm reminded of my mother and a conversation we once had after I was grown and asked her, "Why is it guys think they have to use that word all the time?" Mother's answer, "That's a man's word," said it all. Today, it's also a woman's word in many cases--depending on the caliber of the woman--and what part of the country she grew up in, and depending on whether or not her parents approved of the use of the word and used the word themselves.
The "eff" word is used so frequently by all genders these days, you'd think that it's the only word teachers and professors use to get a point across. In the past, the "eff" word was a word I never once heard my grandfather, Daddy, or my uncles use, much less a woman. Today, everyone thinks they have to use this word as an adjective to describe a hammer, or a nail, or a shoe, or a bologna sandwich or anything else they might be trying to describe or eat. They've made it into such a versatile word--because they've gotten too lazy to use the language inherent to them--and sometimes try to downplay the word to clean it up a tad in mixed company or in front of their children (many parents don't care and use the vulgar word in front of their children--therefore encouraging their kids to use this word too), by using the word "friggin" which in essence, means the same thing. Those swearing by using "friggin" have only sugar-coated the word and put a tutu on it to make it cuter--if that's even possible--and more palatable to read.
So imagine my surprise when in my recent research, I read The Road to Unafraid by Jeff Struecker and came across the subject of curse word usage when he was talking about his close friend in the Ranger reconnaissance regiment, Kurt Smith: "At one point he [Kurt] went home on leave--and returned radically changed. He had turned his life over to Jesus Christ, and it clearly showed. Right away his language changed for the better, his music choices cleaned up, and his general attitude brightened. He began telling others in the detachment about Christ and what a difference he had brought to his life. It was unmistakable.
"I had to admit that although I had been a declared Christian for nearly a decade, my daily life didn't reflect it...I began disciplining myself to speak without the usual splatter of four-letter words that are epidemic in army talk. I could get my point across just as well without them."
Kudos to Jeff and learning how to get his point across without using expletives. The "eff" word doesn't do a thing to help powerful imagery, storyline, language, or descriptions and a writer with a decent vocabulary can get his/her point across without the "eff" word. The trends to use vulgarity and profanity reflect no doubt upon the last couple of generations being influenced by Hollywood and sitcoms. And it's pretty comical that many people don't want to think they dress like someone else or are copying another's hair styles--everyone wants to think they are unique and creative but to me all hipsters and bikers and valley girls look alike and all writers who think they have to use foul language mostly write alike. Joke's on them because as King Solomon said, there's nothing new under the sun. And when it comes to their language, they all sound the same. Illiterate. Because they use the "eff" word as a noun, verb, adjective, preposition, conjunction, and probably as an adverb--and everyone knows adverbs have fallen from grace throughout the writing world these days.
So try not shocking readers with strings of obsceneties and cheap swearing riffs--no one is shocked anymore by vulgarity and the use of the "eff" word doesn't boost book sales and only shows lack of class, taste, intelligence, and talent. And you're only limiting sales because some people don't care to read profanity every other phrase. Instead, consider the vulgarity KIA and try shocking your readers with your intellect and brilliant writing skills. Slice, dice, and delete those curse words from manuscripts and get creative with word usage. Show readers you know how to "show" not "tell" by expanding your vocabulary.
And if you really want to impress me, learn how to use the Oxford comma :D--unlike wearing toboggans and brogans on hot summer days, some things never go out of style.
If you would like to comment or have questions about this article, email me firstname.lastname@example.org