I’m not normally squeamish, but sometimes there are things that make one’s stomach churn. Like the time, when I went to catch the hugely popular film Lage Raho Munnabhai, at a theatre in the neighbourhood. Even in a fairly decent cineplex like Wave, the usual push and elbow seemed to be the norm.
The queues were serpentine and the tempers frayed as the tickets for the more popular shows were fast depleting. With not much to do except await one’s turn, my attention was caught by a greeting, cheery by the sounds of it but loaded with words that would make anyone blush.
“Hey, you SOB! Where have you been? Hamein goli pilake yahaan #*#*##*** aaya hai! Teri toh #*#***” Amid raucous laughter and backslapping, the ‘SOB’ grinned broadly, as though he’d just been awarded a medal, and exchanged further ‘pleasantries’, all the while blissfully unaware that an embarrassed hush seemed to have fallen at the ticket counter.
I was gratified to observe that not just me but even a couple of youngsters in the vicinity looked like they wanted to be at any place but there. But the collective ordeal had only just begun, when a small six-year-old who had been listening with rapt attention to the bawdy exchange, with all the innocence at his disposal, told his mother loudly “Mamma is ki toh *@##*@# gayee!” Shocked and stumped of any response, the embarrassed mother dragged her kid away leaving sniggers and asides behind to enliven the ennui.
Which brings us to the question why do people swear? According to psychologists, many young people resort to swearing as a means to demonstrate their level of maturity. They honestly believe they’ll be seen and acknowledged as older and more mature if they use words typically associated with adults. Regardless of where they live or their social or economic circumstances, teens want to feel mature, and be revered.
They believe swearing helps them to swiftly accomplish this goal. My interaction with youngsters on the subject have thrown up a whole host of interesting responses ranging from the universal “it's hip and cool to use forbidden language”, to “it is a sign that one has arrived” and “we are in sync with our peers.” I have also come across the more ingenious explanation, “We use them to express ourselves, we don’t really mean it,” and the more honest “it helps us vent our anger and frustration.” Fair enough.
Swear words are extremely purposeful and can be moulded to fit any mood and any situation. Most of us have and still do use socially inappropriate language to convey our anguish, disgust, disdain, even amazement and happiness! And having said that, one cannot overlook the truth that more often than not, children repeat what they hear at home and amongst their peers. The trick here is to be conscious of what one is saying and to control the urge.
Whether harmless or vicious, the fact remains that swearing is neither an impressive trait nor is it an intelligent way of expressing oneself. Contrary to popular teen perceptions, vulgarity or excessive use of slang, ironically, has an effect that is opposite to the desired perception of maturity.
By using off-colour words, one ends up not just sounding juvenile and hollow but also in need of a great mouthwash! So, it makes sense not to taint one’s vocabulary with swearing but finding an intelligent means to express oneself, and thus demonstrate true maturity.