The Big, Big D

Bad language or abuse

I never never use,

Whatever the emergency;

Though “Bother it” I may

Occasionally say

I never use a big, big D.

W. S. Gilbert, H. M. S. Pinafore

In the recent past I have used two profane expletives in this column—in quoting others, of course—and have received a couple of negative responses.

Christians differ about this. One Christian friend of mine who teaches at a secular university says he regrets the casual and indiscriminate use of profane and four-letter words among college students today because it leaves them with no reserve ammunition when they need a strong expletive—as Shakespeare said, “a good mouth-filling oath.”

Another Christian I know who formerly taught in a Bible college feels that all expletives are forbidden to the Christian. He even extends his prohibition to such a seemingly innocuous expression as “for Pete’s sake” on the ground that it is a reference to the Apostle Peter and is therefore a profane use of Scripture.

A few years ago Elisabeth Elliot caused a minor shock wave with her novel No Graven Image: upon breaking her fingernail the heroine utters the word damn.

My own feelings and practice are somewhat mixed. Under trying circumstances when I resort to the use of an expletive it is considerably more embroidered than simply damn.

On one occasion I was visiting in a nearby church. The minister, whom we entertain occasionally, had launched into a condemnation of the heresy of original sin and was exalting the doctrine of original goodness.

Filled with hearty disagreement I muttered an eight-letter scatological expletive. My teen-age son, who isn’t keen on theological debate, declared, “Boy, I’ll never sit next to you in church again.”

One strange thing about our society is that ...

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