As many of you may know, I love Chick-Fil-A. At work recently, I was asked about the employees’ “Chick-Fil-A language.” Examples of this include using words like “Certainly” instead of “Yeah,” “refresh beverages” instead of “refill drinks,” and, of course, the signature “My pleasure.” My response to the question was something along the lines of “Essentially, don’t be lazy in choosing your words.”
I inherited from my mother a deep appreciation for the art of language, mostly focused on crafting thoughts through writing. I try to hold myself to a certain standard for verbal communication as well. Culturally, I can see that standard slipping, and, as one who feels strongly about this issue, I decided to craft some thoughts about it.
There are many articles floating around the Internet discussing “millenials.” I’m not here to analyze generational gaps or argue anything for either side, but I know that I’ve seen many articles discussing laziness in my (approximate) age group, and when it comes to the words we say, I’m inclined to agree. Now, maybe I just see too much of high school, where it’s cool to not care, but the issue spreads far beyond the walls of Joplin High. The ease with which profanities ooze from brain to tongue is astonishing. I know I’m the “sheltered” Christian (ex-)homeschooled kid, but come on. We can do better.
I’m not condemning anyone for letting it slip when they stub their toe, and I’m not saying exposure to a curse word every now and then is going to corrupt, but when you feel the need to tell me to cover my ears before you speak, maybe you should just consider not saying whatever it is you were about to say. That means that either 1) you think I’m too weak to deal with a “dirty word” (I promise, I’ll survive) or 2) you are, at some level, aware of the fact that you could choose to do better, and are making a decision to not. Therein lies the cultural issue. We can do better, but are choosing not to.
The problem with profanity (i.e. words typically referred to as “the <insert letter here> word”, or any kind of joke you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling your mother) is that it is becomes a habit so easily. After it’s dripped out a few times, it creates a track in the brain to ooze through like a stream following the course it carved through stone. The tricky thing with this flow, though, is that it’s easier to dam up when a boss, parent, or romantic interest comes in the room. That takes self-control, true – but only enough self-control to prove that we recognize the laziness and disrespectfulness of that type of language, and are (at least somewhat) okay with that.
On the bright side, that type of self-control really proves that we can do better. We can have intelligence enough to fill the spaces in our vocabulary those words once filled, integrity enough to not shift our personalities depending on our surroundings, and self-control enough dam up that ooze until it dries out. And it will dry out if we train ourselves to make choices regarding what we let out of our mouths. It’s a bad habit, just like biting fingernails, and we may not realize the extent of the problem until we’ve spent a while working on breaking the habit. Imagine a world where everyone had healthy, growing fingernails and vocabularies. Isn’t it nice?