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OMG – not another ‘OMG’! – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 9th August 2017

August 9, 2017
OMG Oh my God image

OMG – not another ‘OMG’!

I recently admonished one of our pupils for being liberal with her ‘Oh, my God’ (OMG) expletives whilst talking loudly to a friend in the corridor. She retorted (politely, I might add), ‘But, sir, I am not a Christian’. Equally politely I pointed out that no matter her faith position there were some of us who found such language offensive.

OMG Oh my God image

Let me say quickly that I am not a prude and I do understand that the blasphemy laws in the UK were largely repealed many years ago. I also accept that language evolves over time and that this is one reason why we still have the English language today whilst Latin is ‘dead’. Notwithstanding this, I do feel that the liberal use of ‘OMG’ (and other slang) is often a result of a limited grasp of vocabulary and imagination. It is also perhaps a result of the ‘me generation’ – I can do / say what I like so long as there’s no real harm to others. This is the ‘sticks and stones’ syndrome – a woefully misplaced saying if ever there was one.

The everyday conversation approach

There is, however, perhaps a more fundamental problem here. Ever since swearing became part of everyday conversation (with no hint of embarrassment but just a sense of entitlement) bad manners have taken root. Four-letter words are a normal part of the soundtrack on buses, in supermarkets, at the park and in most work places. Soap operas such as Emmerdale and EastEnders have argued that they need to reflect ‘normal’ life and so confrontational exchanges and abuse become the norm in our living rooms, too. ‘Reality television’, writes Janet Street-Porter in the I newspaper,

‘with unedited stuff running for hours on niche channels, normalises offensive language and sexual innuendo.’

When characters in series such as Love Island become cult figures, is it any wonder that young people (and older ones, too) emulate their choice of vocabulary? Street-Porter continues:

‘Our use of language and tone has become brutal and coarse, to the extent that many of those sending horrible texts, tweets and emails do not regard their behaviour as anything more than fair comment.’

It is easy, of course, to hold one’s hands up and say ‘woe is me’ and simply give in to the ‘norm’. I am an advocate, however, of the Mother Teresa approach: the ocean is made up of many droplets and so even if we feel what we are doing is inconsequential, it will ripple out, albeit slowly, and make an impact far beyond our presence. If we are individually known as someone who won’t tolerate loose, abusive and offensive language, then those around us will moderate their tone (so as not to infringe our liberty) and, in turn, this will also ripple out to others.

GIAG anyone?

So, why not GIAG? (AKA ‘give it a go’.)

Alastair Reid (Humbug Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool 

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

 

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