Use of Colourful Language

What language is appropriate? And in what place and time?

It seems like the unwritten laws of acceptability change all the time. Is it okay to say “damn” now? Can you say “hell” or do you have to use the less offensive “heck?” And is a euphemism actually any better than the word you substituted?

There are a lot of words that might be considered bad words that I don’t see a problem with. I have said, “piss me off,” “heck,” “crap,” and “suck” in the classroom before. I know that these probably aren’t the best words to use in a school but they are far from terrible. Most of my students have heard much worse, and on a daily basis from movies, television, and music.

That being said, I do really watch how I speak and what I say, but sometimes things just come out. Sometimes there isn’t another word or phrase that fits. I never take The Lords name in vain. But I hear people doing so all the time. It is even okay to say it on TV. I didn’t used to be.

I don’t even say “gonna” in my class or the informal “guys” when addressing the class as a whole. I try to model proper English but the problem is that I don’t know if we really know what is proper anymore.

I once made the “mistake” of showing a class Back to the Future. I wanted to share with them one of my favourite movies from my childhood. No one had seen it in my class and I remembered it as being fairly tame. And it is. But it did have the word “shit” in it about half a dozen times.

Last week I read a story to the class that had that word in it too. I skipped over the word as I read because I know that it isn’t really appropriate. Was this the right thing to do? I’m not so sure. If the author wanted the word “shit” in it, who am I to call him on it. It was not gratuitous and I was not offended by it. Couldn’t I use this a teaching moment about when such words are appropriate and why the author chose to use that word there?

I don’t want to expose children to lots of swear words but I’m sure they wouldn’t have heard these words first from me. I also don’t want my blog to be littered with these words. I am the type of person that does not swear on a regular basis. I think the words, and frequency in which I use them, to be acceptable. But am I just rationalizing here? Maybe I am. Which brings me back to my main question of this post,

What language is appropriate? And in what place and time?