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by Neena Louise

[WARNING: This column contains explicit language, so if you're some kind of prude, or totally oblivious to the common usage of four-letter words, go somewhere else.]

I'm astounded at the controversy that saying "shit happens" on Chicago Hope created earlier this season. What is so controversial here? Action also used curse words, but bleeped them (which was extraordinarily annoying) and digitized the mouth of the actor saying the words (don't want to offend those lip-readers, after all!). Perhaps it is because I receive British and Canadian network shows that regularly use four letter words (with absolutely no controversy or "discretion advised" warnings) that I don't see what's so controversial about profanity on network TV. Or could it be that it is just the media hype that makes it "controversial" and means little to the viewing public?

At one time such profanity would be unheard of except in all but the most crude low-life, but walk down any street, go to any school, even have a discussion in the workplace and these words are more the norm than not. Sure, young children don't need to get into the habit of using words like this, but I'd say we have a bigger problem if young children are up and watching adult-oriented shows like Chicago Hope at 10 p.m. Besides, kids just can't avoid hearing curse words in every day life. If we don't want our kids to use them, we should be explaining why swearing is unacceptable in polite society, not blame TV for using swear words in fictional stories. And if your kids pick up four letter words from watching TV, why aren't you monitoring what they're watching? You'll never hear the word "shit" in a children's program, after all.

Because all the four letter words that were once taboo are now part of everyday vocabularly, I think it's just silly to bleep or (worse) use other words instead (if I hear the word "frig" instead of "fuck" or "shoot" instead of "shit" one more time I think I'll scream). The worst is the sanitization of theatrical movies that air on TV where other words are dubbed in. The funniest I ever heard was "go away, animal" instead of "fuck off, asshole". Well, golly gee, I think I'd rather hear a bleep or silence than the dubbing in of idiotic words like this.

Words are just words. It is the context rather than word itself that makes it profane. Calling someone a "shithead" isn't the kind of thing you do if you want to make friends and influence people. However, if someone says "shit!" when they smash their thumb with a hammer, they're not trying to harm delicate ears or sensibilities. Smashed thumbs - and shit - happen, and we use the most forceful words in our vocabulary to express what we're feeling at the time. If "mustard" was a "bad" word in our language, we'd use that instead. Foul language is in the eye of the beholder, after all. And if you want to "save" your children from hearing such language under any circumstances - televised or not - tie them up and lock them in a closet until they're grown, because that's the only way to avoid it. 
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