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OPINION: Bill Walton, Tough Words

Ah, he meant to say Smoke Hole!
20180114 smoke hole walton

Language warning


That President to the south of us apparently used some ‘tough’ language in a meeting the other day. The world has come to expect anything from this man, but golly-gee is this a reversal of Teddy Roosevelt’s policy of talking softly and carrying a big stick? Likely it is, as this President seems bent on reversing anything good that previous administrations have done. Besides, he has a bigger button to push than Rocket Man.

One can hardly deny a President of Anything the right to speak his or her mind.  A little decorum might be in order and certainly one does not want to say anything libelous or slanderous. In the age of Political Correctness, if you are sensitive to others, you might want to tone down your tough words. In his barely hidden racist way (based on reports of past behaviour) the US Prez apparently called some African and Central American countries ‘shitholes’. He could have described them in more polite terms, however, I suppose in his narcissistic way he thought that word was acceptable.

It is a word that made it in bold print to some press and media outlets, others preferred to use asterisks in the spelling although anyone of school age has heard the word and has a vague idea of what it means. BBC World News came right out and said it. The Republicans in the room seemed to have put their fingers in their ears while the lone Democrat rebuked the Prez for his language. His press secretary assured us that the Prez had used tough language but denied the actual word.

Before we point too many fingers though, we ought to look at our politicians and ourselves. Our Senator Lynn Beyak chooses her words a little more carefully than Donald chooses but has little use for political correctness. That she speaks what she perceives to be the truth is her right but like the US Prez, she likes to use alternative facts. Or even Fake News.

I admit that my choice of words sometimes gets ‘tough’ if that’s what we are now calling cussin’ in the First Degree. Heck, I likely used Don’s word at the fish camp but in all fairness, I was talking about the rickety outdoor privy, not someone’s home country.

The thing is, our use of the profane has become too commonplace. The F word is everywhere, although not too many media outlets use it without the asterisks. Yet. I can remember when taking the Lord’s name in vain was right up there with Adultery, Coveting your Neighbour’s Ass and Breaking the Sabbath Day. Boy, have things changed. My grandfather would say ‘horse feathers!’ on occasion but I suppose our lack of imagination makes that one incomprehensible.

To be charitable, I guess tough words are sometimes necessary. Sort of like tough love when you have to give your child a time-out right in the middle of a Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoon for some major misdemeanor. However tough-talking can be diplomatic, thoughtful and polite. Much of what is said in these moments depends on the character of the speaker. Whom would you rather believe, Merkel or Trump? BBC World News or Fox News? Brown or Wynne? Okay, that last one was a trick question, but you see what I mean.

We form opinions about people by not only how they dress and act but by their choice of words. And more often than not, we form these opinions from our early days at home and at school. A person can earn the reputation of being a racist, a bully, an ignoramus or any of the many phobiatic labels that make up our world today.

Ideally, we should all speak truthfully, however, there may be times when tough words are needed. But be thoughtful and polite and choose your words carefully. Just saying.