Pardon My French

There is a commonly used phrase…

A-bar-of-white-soapAnd I’ve heard it a million times if I’ve heard it once. You pick it up right away and use it when you’ve spoken a word or phrase that may not be something used in polite company.

Pardon my French” or “Excuse my French” is a common English language phrase ostensibly disguising profanity as French. The phrase is uttered in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity, swearing, or curses in the presence of those offended by it under the pretense of the words being part of a foreign language. (1)

Why do all the French speaking citizens get the praise, or blame, for language misuse? I’m not sure. One source describes English Speaking people in the 19th century using French words and then apologizing for the usage in company that may not know what the French word means. This sort of reminds me of all those snobbish people in The Unsinkable Molly Brown who could speak in multiple languages and then apologize to all those less educated or traveled ones who had not the opportunity or experience to learn.

As a kid we were threatened to have our mouth washed out with soap if we ever uttered certain words or phrases again. We were TAUGHT to not use these words, yet entertainment seems to be laced with these words all the time.

When it comes to profanity, the phrase almost becomes profane itself. If you did not know a bad word had just been spoken, then the phrase points out your ignorance. In my mind that means “Pardon my French” is slang for I’ve just given myself liberty to use a word that is probably not acceptable in your hearing.  It’s almost a habit to consider the company you keep and determining if what you’ve just said needs some sort of apology…instead of learning to control the language you speak in certain company.

I had a manager once that loved to titillate the conversation with off color stories and words. In mixed company it was first viewed as naughty, then polite laughter followed, and eventually it seemed some could not wait to hear what would be said next. If language controls the path of life we take, remember that you easily lead others with the words you use. 

In moments of anger, just about any word you use can be construed as profanity, hence, it’s the attitude of the moment that makes any word or phrase come across negatively. Learning to control the tongue at all times is so important. You never know who is listening, and taking note of your naughty or nice language, and using it themselves!

I mentioned a scripture yesterday, and would like the reader to consider the entire 3rd chapter of James. From that same passage stream, another scripture comes to mind as it points to my thought for the day. The words are important, yes, but the intent behind whatever words you use are much more important.

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8 NKJV)

I have to teach myself this all the time. There are times words drip like honey and can be just as vulgar in their spoken usage, and then again use the same words and be sweeter than a honey comb. Those would be with acceptable words. The vulgar words are the slang du jour (pardon my french) that find themselves unthinkable to the average crowd. Then comes the downright profanity that use anger and pent up feelings to drown another with words that hurt the ears.

Young and on a bike ride in Anchorage, Alaska, my wife had to teach my son the words spray painted on public property were words we did not speak. After several times, my son would simply say, “Mom there’s that F word again.”

Words define you. Your world. Your heart. Vulgarity is nasty. Profanity is ugly. I’ve walked away from many conversations due to the profane. I’ll do it again. And again. Those words have no place in my mind, heart, or speech… Just saying!