In case you’d like a demonstration of what qualifies as behaving like a douche, look no further than the New York Times’ Page 1 story Saturday about the shifting conventions of language usage on television.
There are so many things wrong with this article it’s difficult to know where to begin, but I think the placement pretty much trumps them all — as if there’s anything remotely new about language standards gradually shifting over time. The story also references “the family hour,” acknowledges that the family hour hasn’t existed since the mid-1970s, and then talks about the family hour some more.
It was 20 years ago, in fact, that CBS caused a stir by letting a child say “You suck” to her brother in a new sitcom, “Uncle Buck,” adapted from the movie. The republic has survived, even if “Uncle Buck” didn’t. But it’s a pretty good case study in how these controversies have flared over the years, as standards and conventions change and evolve.
The main problem is that the Times still plays a strong agenda-setting role, so its dumb story will doubtless lead to dumb follow-ups elsewhere and even dumber cable TV news pieces about the language our kids are hearing — even though most kids are watching Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network or the Disney Channel and not seeing any of this crap in the first place. My head hurts just thinking about it.
I could go on and on, but the piece finally explains why it’s such a waste of time by closing with a Massachusetts College professor noting, “Vulgar slang has a way of waxing and waning, where we become
desensitized to a word’s earlier meanings,” he said. “I would bet most
kids today couldn’t tell you what a douche bag is.”
No, but make them read this story and they’ll figure it out pretty quick.