Allan Takes Aim Blog

Not language for visitors

Posted on: 4 November 2009


First published The Chronicle ,Canberra, 27 October 2009 

Clearly if aliens from other galaxies visit earth they are more advanced than us. I surmise also, that they visit for the purpose of finding out if they like earth as a possible tourism destination or even a place to settle, something they will decide after examining how we on earth work, play and entertain ourselves and how we treat people who are different, because if they thought they would not be welcome there would be little point in coming.

However, before going further I must make an apology. In my column of October 6, “Pragmatism beats environment in political religion race” I slipped up and in doing so could have misled not only local readers but any visitors from another galaxy who had been in Canberra at the time and had read The Chronicle, knowing from previous exploratory visits that they could rely on its editor, journalists and columnists to give them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Unfortunately I made a mistake in the column and credited King Harold as trying to stem the tide. Within a few hours of the paper hitting the street, two alert Chronicle readers sent me an e-mail that it was King Canute not Harold who had tried to stem the tide. They were right. And while it is necessary to advise all readers of the mistake (even though most probably made a mental correction) it is necessary that any galactic visitors know of the mistake so that they could then could correct any historical record they might have compiled. 

Correcting this historical error is easy. However, I suspect and worry that it might be less easy to try and persuade our galactic visitors, as they try to develop the conversational skills they would find necessary if they came to live on earth, that only a small percentage of earthlings use the language constantly spoken by characters in televised crime series, social dramas or radio broadcasts.

Perhaps you think I worry unnecessarily? You may be right; but I worry just in case that, on the evening of October 6, as they watched The Wire and Teachers on ABC 2 they might have come to the conclusion that the highlighted pre programme warnings of violence, sex scenes and coarse language implied that these programmes were socially very important.

If on October 7, they then decided to reveal their presence and introduce themselves to the locals and did so using the language of these programmes as guides, they might have decided that a proper earthly greeting was “how the f…k are you, you old s…t or, you old b……d.” In the interests of building good will, they might also have deemed it necessary to inject as many of these profanities as possible into any continuing conversation. 

I accept that profanity is becoming common; however I don’t have to like it. Indeed in the mining area where I grew up, profanity was almost a male private language whose lexicon of more colourful words and phrases I became familiar with as a soldier, sailor and police officer, some of which, I confess, regretfully, that I have used occasionally. That said, however, when almost every second or third word in conversation is a profanity, I worry that profanity will soon be the only language people use to express emotion.

While welcoming changes in society, I do not welcome the increase in profanity. The once almost private male language is now public language and unfortunate as it is, some women seem determined to outdo men in its use. Sadly, too, they are also following men in publicly proclaiming details of their sexual exploits. 

Even more sadly, profanity is at pandemic levels among people once respected for their courtesy and politeness, particularly those who have been appointed, or elected, to run the country’s affairs. Indeed, it is alleged anecdotally that, at times, the profanity these people use would be enough to make a drill sergeant blush.

 But more to the point, as people of advanced intelligence I think our galactic visitors would soon recognise they had made a mistake and decided that at its current level of development, the earth was of little interest to them.

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