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There's a teacher & motivational speaker who specializes in the
education arena who has a story about a young teen who swore a blue
streak in school. Never spoke with malice; it seemed he couldn't
open his mouth without using every foul adjective and adverb known to him.
The school officials, of course, were outraged. After verbal
correction/chastisement and minor punishment didn't work, he was held
for detention. The kid never complained, but was puzzled by the
His father visited the school and complained. The father swore the
same blue streak his son did, with the same lack of malice. For him,
it was his natural speech. The school officials quickly realized
that the son, like most children, have language heavily influenced by
His father was upset that his son was in detention, but not for the
expected reason. They lived and worked on a farm, and the son's work
was necessary to the operation and success of the family
business. School was something that was squeezed in between a 4:30
a.m. walk-up for morning chores and a 10:00 p.m. bedtime after
Detention was a vacation for the boy and an economic hardship for the family!
The school officials reframed their thinking, stopped the detention
and more serious sanctions, and focused on accommodating the boy's
"uniqueness" while setting a conventional standard for the other students.
I have a long-time, good friend who is a commercial plumber. He
swears much as the boy in the story does. This man is a classic
"salt of the earth" family man with a loving wife, two grown
daughters, and a moderately successful business. He also attends
church regularly and seriously. I worried about his being "exposed"
to my young son, but I believed - and still believe - that his
character was far more important than his language in influencing my
son. Sure enough, my son (now 16) is a typical teenager who gets
rave reviews from adults for his manners and consideration. My son
counts our friend the plumber among his best buddies, and that's a good thing.
I wish people in general were more civil - and more erudite - in its
use of language. My own speech is sometimes not what I would like it
to be, even if I have a reputation in some quarters for being too
formal and careful in my language. I try to take the world as I find
it and improve it through my own example rather than by correcting
others - at least, not too often <g>.
With absence of malice, I'd allow the strong language to slide, maybe
speak to the person/people in private, and set an example of good
language while avoiding unnecessary interactions where language
offensive to me would be more likely to occur.
The list of things at which one might potentially take offense is
long. I believe it is necessary to "pick one's battles" and confront
with discretion and prudence.
Michael L. Wyland
Sumption & Wyland
818 South Hawthorne Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57104-4537
(605) 336-0275 (FAX)
(888) 4-SUMPTION (toll-free)
michael -at- sumptionandwyland -dot- com
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