For the last couple of weeks, I’ve barely been online. Yesterday, however, I had to do some work which reminded me forcibly that many apparently civilized people are now incapable of expressing any sentiment in English without using expletives. Before you smile an arch smile at monastic naivete, please take a moment to consider: I wasn’t always a nun, and most of my lay working life was spent in an almost exclusively male environment. I’m not shocked by swearing per se (although I do think it’s often rather repetitive and boring). I am more troubled by the laziness of thought it indicates, especially when it appears in written form.
English is a rich language with a large and expressive vocabulary. If one adds in all the loan words and expressions from other languages, it’s probably the richest and most expressive language on earth. Why, then, resort to a narrow range of adjectival cusses as though one were incapable of finding the mot juste? Of course, it may be that one is incapable of doing so; but if that is the case, why display one’s inadequacy publicly?
I’m tired of the constant stream of language that isn’t as colourful or vigorous as its perpetrators claim. It’s just lazy and ugly. But I clothe my most damming indictment, not in the ‘decent obscurity of Latin’, but in the awful clarity and precision of French: Le style est l’homme même. Ouch!