Potty Mouth

As long as I’m on the subject: one of the things that I actually have spent a bit of time worrying about — worrying, mind you, but not enough to really do anything about it — since I discovered among my readership a number of folks in positions of authority, folks whose good opinions of me I’d like to maintain, and whose judgments of me matter, is my tendency toward a vocabulary more befitting a member of the merchant marine than my own decidedly unsalty self. Some of it’s laziness, and some of it’s a carefully cultivated shock value, but get me in casual conversation about something I really care about, and chances are there’s an f-bomb on the horizon.

Which is not to say I don’t censor myself, or that my censor sometimes flags; I’m always critically conscious of my audience, and have never, even under the most exigent circumstances, let such a bomb drop in front of, say, my mother, or anyone else who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t respond well.

But here, on the blog, my sense is always that I’m having a conversation with friends, or if not friends, at least the kinds of acquaintances who’ve decided to drop by and listen, and thus I feel much less compunction about such filtering.

On the other hand, though, this is where the concerns I’ve heard lately about professional self-presentation do in fact have some purchase with me. For a reason that I cannot quite yet put my finger on, I’m far less concerned that someone in some relative position of authority with respect to me might read the post about my last mammogram, for instance, than that said person might be turned off by my casual vulgarity.

This is a crossroads of a sort, the decision about whether or not to pay some attention filtering my language. Perhaps it’s just common sense, common courtesy, something of that order. Or perhaps it’s the leading edge of losing my voice here, of making the character you’re constructing from what I’ve written here somehow less me.

2 thoughts on “Potty Mouth

  1. I didn’t get to wish you a happy birthday, but I hope a belated birthday greeting is better than nothing.*

    My potty-mouth anxieties don’t have to so much with my blog(s) as they do with my teaching. I’m can be fairly profane in the classroom, and I often wonder in retrospect why I don’t censor myself more fully–whether it’s some feeble stab at ethos-construction, a lazy gesture toward being “subversive” in its most stupid and ineffectual sense, an attempt to get my students to loosen up, or godknowswhat. But I have to admit that it is a tiny bit gratifying when, during the seventh or eighth week of class, students finally join the vulgarity chorus.

    (My favorite: when a student declared that Absalon in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale is a douchebag–not very vulgar, but it was still pretty funny in context. Funnier but less pedagogically enriching moment: running into an already-drunken student on the street walking toward a bar. When I jokingly pointed out that she was not of legal drinking age, she blurted out, “Shut up, bitch!” and then immediately sobered up and said, “Oh my god, I just called my T.A. a bitch,” then apologized profusely.)

    Speaking of anxiety about professional presentation: I guess I shouldn’t be admitting my pedagogical misadventures here since, despite my little sobriquet, you actually know who I am.

    But what the f—, right?

    – – – –

    * – “Didn’t get to” is a little misleading; I saw your original entry on the day it was published, and I had typed a comment along the lines of, “When I turn thirty-nine, there’s a good chance I’ll be living with my parents with my Ph.D. diploma hanging above my (their) twin-sized bed, and I’ll help out at their retail store and occasionally attend conferences as an independent scholar,” but it all sounded fatuous and I never submitted it. By the time I wanted to post a more reasonable “happy birthday” message, you’d already gone through several rounds of thanking people for both timely and belated greetings, so I thought that piling just another message onto the pile would be unnecessary.

  2. Is it any less you if you use those words in your writing more than in your regular conversations OR is it just another part of you? In addition, do you need or want the respect of someone who is unable to see the f-bomb in 21st century writing for what it is?

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