“Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood.” —Shakespeare
Last month the Wall Street Journal reported on a new fashion trend— skinny jeans for babies. I’m not sure what to do about the diaper.
But this week they reported that jeans manufacturers are getting more aggressive, and more risqué in their marketing. The images have been there for a while, but now it’s the language.
Old Navy has a “booty reader” to help you pick the best fit for your behind. Lee jeans are using Mike Rowe, from “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, to describe his own hindquarter with slang.
And Levi has trumped them all with the “A” word, in department stores everywhere touting their ID line. Shame on them. I hope it’s offensive enough to hurt their brand. But I’m not holding my breath.
It seems to be getting worse, but in an opinion piece today, The Decline of Cursing, Jan Morris says bad words aren’t working anymore, so we are using them less. They just don’t offend us anymore. In her view:
A religious reference used to give a curse or an oath extra authenticity, but today most of us don’t for a moment hesitate to take the name of God in vain, and anyway most of the sacred content was long ago elided into the language.
It makes me glad that God still defines what is sacred, not Jan. But the F word is broken too in her view, since it is so common. She says: “It has become, in the lexicon of scurrility, a word without meaning.”
No one even notices, she says. She is wrong about that.
But I will give her this, some of these words have lost their meaning. And that’s why we notice them.
There is nothing more pathetic than someone trying to borrow the shock value of coarse language, or borrow the authority of holy language, simply because they lack the vocabulary to explain what they actually mean or feel.
Morris, for example, wants to come up with new curse words, based on our obsession with the computer and the internet. “Blog off,” she suggests. See what I mean? How pathetic is that?
I think this is what Jesus is talking about when he says not to swear at all, but to let your yes be yes and your no be no. It’s not just that you shouldn’t swear, but that you shouldn’t have to.
Think about it. Morris can use a phrase like “lexicon of scurrility.” Why does she need new swear words? Or any swear words at all?
You Nguyen, apparently does. He’s head of women’s merchandising and design at Levi’s, and he ought to lose his job; not just because the campaign is offensive to many people, but because the language is lazy and inarticulate.
According to Jesus, swearing isn’t necessary. What you could do is just say yes or no, and have the integrity to pull it off. No fear, shock, or stupidity required, just the reputation of men and women who keep their word.
Or hold their tongue.