Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Let's Talk: Prudishness

I don't think I'm a prude.

Of course, to be able to say so, we have to know what the word means.  So, let's dig into a few resources:

Let's go first to Merriam-Webster:

a person who is easily shocked or offended by things that do not shock or offend other people

I don't really get "shocked" or "offended" by things, necessarily.  Sure, there are some things that bother me, particular words in the English language, certain types of behavior, but I don't think I'm "easily" shocked or offended at all.

Let's go to Wikipedia:

A prude (Old French prude meaning honourable woman)[1] is a person who is described as (or would describe themselves as) being concerned with decorum or propriety, significantly in excess of normal prevailing standards. They may be perceived as being more uncomfortable than most with sexuality or nudity.

...okay, I fit a bit more into that definition, I'll admit.  I do care about decorum and propriety.  I think there are certain rules of conduct for how people behave around other people.  I'm not 100% comfortable in large, loud settings with excessive drinking.  I don't get caught up with groups at sporting events and scream my head off or boo an umpire or referee.

I'm not sure what "normal prevailing standards" are, though, since sometimes I seem to find myself around people who don't seem to care what they say or who's around to say it.  Is that the "normal prevailing standard?"  I hope not.

As for the last bit...well, we'll get into that in another article.  For now, let's just focus on decorum.

I do want to point this out, though:

In historical contrast, the word prude was originally a noble compliment. Traditionally, it was usually associated with wisdom, integrity, usefulness, and profit.

Now, let me be clear here:  I'm not about to say that people shouldn't be allowed to say certain things around people.  I'm not going to try to censor anybody or say that I think they're wrong for saying what they want to say.  It's a free country, you're welcome to say whatever you want.

However, that doesn't mean I have to like it.  Or that I can't tell you so.  That's part of my having free speech.

Maybe it was simply the circles I travelled in, but there have been different times in my life I found myself around others who don't talk the way I talk.  I don't use a lot of swears in my daily language.  I don't use them as adjectives, nouns, verbs, or adverbs.  I always tend to try to think of better words to express myself, not simply because "swearing is bad" but because I think what people say loses significance when swears are added into it.

Thinking of the common swears that you can add "-ing" to.  Now put those in front of a noun as an adjective.  Need an idea?  Use one of these: muffin, doghouse, vase, hippopotamus.  Now, what does the adjective add to the statement?  Does it help describe the object in any meaningful way?  Does it add anything other than a (blunt) emphasis on the word?

There's a quote I read when I was younger that always stuck with me:

“Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.”

― Spencer W. Kimball

Now, again, I'm not trying to insult anybody.  I don't think that people who swear necessarily have feeble brains, but I do think that swearing can be an easy out for expressing frustration.  You don't have to put much thought into swearing, which I guess helps if you're frustrated and don't want to think of a decent analogy about how what you're doing can be as frustrating as attempting to pick up every piece of glass with tweezers from the weirdest beach in New York City.

Now, there are certain types of conversations I also tend to mentally check out of.  There was an xkcd strip that rang pretty true to me:

Maybe it's just me.  I like to stay positive (which is hard sometimes, I'll admit) and look at the bright side of things (which can be even harder).  I try to not judge people in general, much less based on what other people say since rumors can be blown completely out of proportion.  This isn't to say that if there's actual factual evidence about what someone is like, I'd disregard it, but I'm not going to automatically assume your neighbor is as bad as Charles Manson just because you disagree about her wind chimes or if she should leave her lawn mower in the front yard.

Now, I don't scoot back from conversations quite so much as I just go quiet and check out of the conversation until I sense it's moved on to something else.  I think some people assume it's shyness, which is also probably part of it, but part of it is I just don't like to talk negatively about people, and don't really take any enjoyment out of it.

That's not to say I don't occasionally complain or crack a joke at the expense of others, but people I know have been shocked when I say anything particularly vicious or cruel, because I always tend to be "the nice one" in a group.

So what's the point of this article?  I don't know.  I guess, with how often I hear people complaining about other people in the news, media, and in public, or how explicit language and actions seem to be more commonplace, I just wanted to put my opinion out there.  I don't think everybody should act like life is an episode of Full House, but I don't think every day needs to be like a script reading from The Wolf of Wall Street.

So many things I enjoy and so many people I respect don't talk or behave like that in public (I can't say how they behave in private, not since those restraining orders came in), it makes me wonder why things have turned out like they have.  If I can get such enjoyment out of things that don't rely on language or actions to be "shocking" or "edgy," why don't other people?

Maybe I am a bit of a prude, looking back at this article.  But, again, it's not shock or taking offense, it's just a comfort level, and I'm not used to talking or behaving like that.  It might make me the odd man out, but I'm pretty okay with that.

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