Guest Opinion: Swearing off profanity | October 4, 2019 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - October 4, 2019

Guest Opinion: Swearing off profanity

by Christina Nystrom Mantha

I've never liked swear words. They always seemed so profane and offensive to me.

Maybe that's because they're meant to be.

The definition of profane is "to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt, desecrate." That's a harsh definition for words that are thrown around like prepositions (in, at, to) in our community. Swearing is commonplace at the store, gym, restaurants, parks and even schools. Are we, as a society, OK with that? I'm not.

Last Wednesday morning my son and I sat outside of Noah's (the regular meeting time and place for middle- and high-schoolers). I didn't intend to do "research" for this piece. But I was shocked that literally every single kid that walked by us used profanity. And these are mostly kids that know me from school, sports or socializing with their parents.

After about a dozen kids walked by I saw one young lady, who I knew as a kindergartner. I like her a lot. I was relieved because I thought "Finally, a kid who won't throw around potty mouth." Nope. Before I finished my thought, she swore in place of the word "things."

The intent of profanity is to get someone's attention -- to convey extreme contempt. If it's used as regularly as the word "things," does it still hold a strong meaning?

I've always believed that I don't need to swear because my vocabulary is large enough to convey my thoughts without intentionally offending people with contemptuous language. What I know now is that profanity isn't necessarily used because we don't know the right words, it's used because we lack the emotional control and patience to find words that aren't offensive.

We are used to immediate gratification and attention -- immediate response to commands we give our phone, immediate response to texts we send, immediate "likes" or comments to what we post on social media. We don't know how to take a breath anymore. We don't know how to allow our emotional middle brain to relax so our logical prefrontal cortex can take over.

The use of profanity is pervasive. I have heard older men, businesspeople, coaches, moms, teenagers and younger kids liberally throw around words that could be substituted with "things," "stinks," "ridiculous" and "stupid."

Children hear adults use profanity and reasonably think it's OK for them to also. Are we OK with that?

And if so, at what age do we find profanity acceptable coming out of a child's mouth? Is it when they are in middle school (age 11)? Or maybe it's OK for fourth-graders (age 9) but not for second-graders (age 7)? Maybe once a child starts school at age 5, they can mimic how their parents talk in their company?

I do swear once in awhile -- maybe every other month. But I assure you, when I swear, whomever I am talking to takes notice. They know I am riled up. They know that what I'm saying is meant to be said strongly, and my intent is to be abusive or contemptuous.

I don't advocate omitting profanity from our vocabulary. But I do think it's worth being mindful of how often we use "bad words" and what it says about our ability to take a breath, slow down, and, most importantly, teach our children to do the same.

Editor's note: Christina Nystrom Mantha grew up in Pleasanton, went to school in Washington D.C., and now serves as the chairperson of the city's Economic Vitality Committee and as a board member of the Museum on Main. She is the mother of kids in elementary and middle school, and is also a youth sports coach, Girl Scouts leader, blood donor, neighborhood watch captain, and the principal of her consulting business.


4 people like this
Posted by julee
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 5, 2019 at 2:17 am

julee is a registered user.

I love this article!! I am so tired of hearing swearing everywhere I go! I totally agree with the things that Christina Nystrom Mantha states in this article.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2019 at 6:27 am

Perhaps, you hang with the wrong crowd... kidding. Maybe, your life has changed drastically-welcome to the real Your point well taken...

4 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 5, 2019 at 7:32 am

We are, at times, a captive audience to the pervasive profanity and lack of civility and respect that has become the “normal” way to converse for people of all ages. When we are in a public place, we will sometimes quietly ask them to stop. To the grown man and father talking on the phone in the library, to the two professional young men behind us in line, to teenagers and middle schoolers everywhere, to the two senior men at the gym, and more. Some will apologize, some will come back at us with snarky remarks and more bad language, some will get up and leave, and sometimes we leave. But maybe they will think twice before spewing out profanity!

3 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 5, 2019 at 11:00 am

You're hitting on a much more pervasive theme in society today, "look at me". From politics, social circles, entertainment, etc the need to grab attention through extremist behavior is a continuous problem

Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 5, 2019 at 11:22 am

I visited (a business in) Pleasanton. The guy in the warehouse is running at the mouth with the F word continuously, during my fifteen minute visit he used the F word more than one hundred times. The lady escorting me apologized profusely. Why this guy remains employed with this company is beyond me.

Like this comment
Posted by Freedom of Speech?
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 7, 2019 at 7:43 am

Michael Austin - Ever hear of freedom of speech? If you don't like to environment your were in, don't go there again.

8 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 7, 2019 at 8:26 am

James Michael is a registered user.

Except, Freedom of Speech, that sometimes the "environment" is thrust upon you.

4 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 7, 2019 at 10:06 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

Uggg...speech police are on par with grammar nazi's. Detestable.

Why not just let people say what they want to say, how they want to say it, and leave it alone?

As long as you don't harm or threaten anyone, then nobodies the worse for it.

When did our society become such dainty daisies?


18 people like this
Posted by Freedom of Speech?
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 8, 2019 at 7:57 am

Don't like the environment you are thrust into? Then leave......

I'm sure there are things you say that others don't like.......

Freedom of Speech is a key to what is great about our country - and that means ALL SPEECH

1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:20 pm

There is no professional organization that will accept profanity in the work place.

Freedom of speech, DKHSK apparently do not participate in a professional work place.

One or both of these posters identify themselves as hiring managers or some similar level of management.

Giving that information, one has to wander what type of organization are they associated with.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 11, 2019 at 3:39 pm

I would disagree with Michael. Here is a link: Web Link

The authors quote Obama, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and more know that cursing can make a strong impact. Here is a quote:

"There are some prominent examples. After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, US president Barack Obama famously commented on the Today show that he’d been talking to experts about the spill to figure out ”whose a** to kick.” T-Mobile CEO John Legere, a renegade executive known for his potty mouth, badmouthed competitors AT&T and Verizon at a recent press event by saying that ”the f***ers hate you.” Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz once told her staff at an all-hands meeting that she’d “dropkick to f***ing Mars” anyone whose company gossip ended up on a blog (which her comments promptly did)."