Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Becoming desensitised to cussing

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Have we become desensitised to swearing? Photo / Thinkstock
Have we become desensitised to swearing? Photo / Thinkstock

Last year I decided it was time for my eight-year-old to accompany me on some grown-up outings. Previously I'd scheduled my appointments and activities for while she was at school, or with her father, or a babysitter, and so she hadn't experienced having to sit around killing time while I was otherwise occupied. In the interests of delivering a well-rounded childhood I decided she needed to occasionally tag along with me.

A couple of visits to the hairdressers went so well I figured next we'd see a movie together - not the latest children's release for once but something I wanted to see. "If you don't like it just do what I do when I take you to one of your movies and have a wee snooze," I said as we settled in to watch The Iron Lady in the school holidays. (The fact that Meryl Streep had played Donna in Mamma Mia made it an easy sell.)

As it turned out my daughter loved the movie and laughed like a drain at the antics of the eccentric Denis Thatcher.

It was a successful outing; we both enjoyed it, and she'd learnt some history and politics along the way.

Of course, our second movie was a bit of a disaster. During the long weekend we went to see The Descendants. "It starts out a bit gloomy but it gets happier as it goes along," I said as the lights dimmed. I'd formed this opinion from reading a couple of reviews but unfortunately it was a false assumption. The grim backdrop of the wife's boating accident dominated, and there were some scenes and themes that were probably inappropriate for a child, not to mention lashings of bad language.

As we left the theatre I braced myself for a fellow movie-goer to berate me for subjecting an innocent child to such swearing. What would I say? "Don't worry, she hears worse at home," wasn't really going to help my case. Thankfully we escaped untroubled by the values and judgements of others that day.

But it made me think about the effect of swearing around children and that we should probably make more of an effort to not curse in front of our daughter. I felt relief upon reading Scott Kara's piece Oh s#@!, what did she say? about his preschooler saying the F-word. It was nice to know we're not the only parents struggling to set a good example when it comes to vocabulary.

Even the music we download these days is peppered with expletives; thanks, Jessie J and Travie McCoy. Somehow I always manage to purchase the hardcore version of every song - never the milder form in which the word "frickin'" is substituted.

As a society we're gradually becoming desensitised to cussing. Words that once would have caused widespread offence are slowly becoming part of the accepted vernacular. A 2009 study of 1500 people commissioned by the Broadcasting Standards Authority noted a "softening of attitudes to the use of certain swear words in broadcasting."

Evidently only eleven per cent of people find the word "bugger" unacceptable. No doubt those memorable Toyota advertisements on television helped bring that word into every day usage. Twelve per cent of people consider "bloody" and "bollocks" unacceptable and - weirdly, I thought - a full 21 per cent of people find "balls" plain wrong.

There's no surprise to discover the word we find most offensive is the C-word - otherwise known as "see you next Tuesday" - with 74 per cent of us finding it unacceptable. Now I'm pretty certain we didn't hear that one in The Descendants so perhaps my descendant wasn't too emotionally scarred from the experience after all.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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