I've been preparing for next year's Pre-College English group by examining whether or not to include the typical History of English unit. It is not my favorite to teach; and I suspect it is not the students' favorite to learn. It is, however, interesting how language evolves and changes, but ultimately always holds the ability to communicate.
In a recent post, I commented on the 'uproar' over President Bush's use of a four letter word. Then, during this most recently completed week of summer school, I had a student communicte with me in a very similar fashion. We had difficulty communicating because he was angry and I was not. My ability to get through to him may have been hindered by my inability to call his actions bullsh--.
Would our ability to communicate with our smart a-- students or those little f---ers (a term I heard an elementary school teacher use to refer to his/her students) improve, if we could use the language they use? I mean really, has anyone ever overheard this conversation:
"Hey John, why the f--- didn't you come over this weekend?"
"I was hella busy."
"Man, we did some crazy s---!"
"That little b---- Jill."
"Hey, we better get to class. Mr. Mac's been a real d--- about tardiness."
"I know. That guy needs to get the stick out of his a--."
It reminds me of the comedy set that Bernie Mac does in The Original Kings of Comedy about the word muthahf-----. A great set if you find the current use of cuss words humorous. But in truth, I do wonder if the English language has reached a new point in its evolution. Maybe these words that were once deemed highly offensive are only as offensive as words like piss, dang, darn, and shutup were to previous generations. You can hear words like b---- and a-- on television; and movies drop cuss words like their f----- going out of style b----.
Yes, it is an unconventional thought, and I have no intention to regularly use this vocabulary when I teach. But, I can't help but wonder if it would be more effective, at least in certain situations. The first time I hear a student drop a random F-bomb or any other cuss word, I give the students this talk:
Words are powerful. Cuss words are more powerful. If you over use them, or use them without thought, they lose their power. A well-placed cuss word can have amazing results. The typical classroom setting doesn't present too many opportunities to use them. So save them for when you really need them.
Maybe, I just need to tell them that they need to stop using those f------ word in my classroom otherwise I'm sending their a-- to the principal--who might be a real b---- and call their parents; then the s--- will hit the fan.