Kid language, adult language

I was thinking again today about the whole business of adults feeling certain words aren’t appropriate for children, and it occurs to me that if some adult really, truly believes a given word is inappropriate, then maybe they shouldn’t use it either, even with other adults.

It’s not as if adults live in one world and children live in another. For the most part, there’s just the one world we live in together. If cussing when you jab yourself with the kitchen knife or catch your fingers in the door is appropriate when you’re 50, it’s probably appropriate when you’re 15, too. If a 10-year-old should use strong language sparingly, then probably a 30-year-old should too.

It doesn’t, really, make sense for there to be one set of language for those who are under-18, and another for those who are over-18. We all share one language, and if you think a word doesn’t belong there, or belongs there only under very specialized circumstances, than you, as an adult, have no business using it yourself.

I tend toward the view that most words exist for a purpose, but that some words maybe do want to be used more sparingly than others. If you curse up a blue streak when you can’t find the car keys, you don’t have anything stronger left for the times when you really need it, like when you just picked up that hot casserole dish with your bare hands, or when that fire-breathing dragon really is chasing you down the street. But this doesn’t mean that I go around lecturing kids on how they should be sparing with their cuss words; it means I’m sparing with them myself.

I also think it’s the rare random word that’s hurt anyone, child or adult. (There are exceptions. Like the word “Fire!” shouted by the head of a firing squad, say. :-))

And that writers, having more time to think about the words they send out into the world than speakers, generally choose the words they choose for carefully considered reasons.

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