Letters to the Editor

No word is intrinsically a ‘bad’ word

Friday, September 21, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

I could hardly believe my eyes when I read articles in the media on the pros and cons of legalising “indecent language” The first observation I make is to invite you, Sir, to note the title of the offence – indecent language. Second, there is no word that is intrinsically a “bad” word; it is the connotation and manner of usage that attracts the title. We then ask ourselves, why was it necessary to classify some words as “indecent”?

The English, when they embarked on a programme of colonisation, recognised that it would be vital, in order to achieve any semblance of civilised behaviour, that there would need to be certain basic standards of common decency for humans to coexist. It was therefore necessary to enact laws which would identify behaviour that was decent and acceptable or not – hence the title “Indecent Language”.

While it may be possible to find nations where no laws would be necessary to discourage the society from choosing to express their emotions freely – such a course of action could never be contemplated for the country of my birth, Jamaica. To begin with, as in every other field of endeavour, we lead the world with the widest vocabulary in that direction, and it has been a source of increasing distress to me, to hear a “tracing match” being waged on the streets, especially between women in the full hearing of little children, some just starting to walk.

To the pro-abolitionists of this Act, who cannot foresee the can of worms that they would be opening, I say, “Wait ‘till you hear three and fouryear-olds defiantly abusing adults, including parents and grandparents, and if, as is the currently held view by many, that the standards of courtesy and decency on the street and in the home have already been broken down, then I say try not to imagine a Jamaica where children cannot be rebuked or reprimanded for the use of indecent language”.

Howard Hamilton

5 Duke Street





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