Monday, November 5, 2018

A Matter of Taste

I keep running across interesting quotes that make me think. I suppose that’s the idea behind them, to get your brain working and provoke meaningful conversation. Our local newspaper publishes these under the title Thought for Today. Here’s a recent one, credited to Dame Edith Sitwell, English poet (1887-1964).

“Good taste is the worst vice ever invented.”

 I read this in the morning and was distracted for the rest of the day, because I wasn’t sure how to take it. What did Dame Edith mean? I always thought good taste was a preferred quality in a person. It’s certainly better than bad taste, which we seem to be experiencing in abundance these days. For an example of what I’m talking about, think POTUS and Twitter.

 A weekly column I follow touched on a subject I’ve blogged about before. The columnist had seen the newest reboot of “A Star is Born,” and penned an open letter to Hollywood screenwriters, suggesting that they could effectively tell a love story without dropping so many “F” bombs. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I could relate to what he said. I’ve made the same observation about literary works, and I’ve never been a fan of radio Shock Jocks or some stand-up comics for the same reason.

Is peppering your daily discourse with four-letter words an example of bad taste? I was raised to think it is. So is telling dirty jokes in mixed company, unless you’re with friends who won’t be offended. During my most recent job as a newspaper editor, the publisher felt it was his daily duty to berate the office staff, using every variation of the “F” word imaginable. He even came up with some new uses for it. When my birthday rolled around, it was the first time I had ever gotten “Happy f****** Birthday!” as a greeting. I hate to think how he’d mangle Merry Christmas.

 To be clear, I’m no prude. I know most of the bad words, but I exercise caution when I use them. The same with off-color jokes. As the late Milton Berle once said, “I’ve got a million of ‘em.” I’m not sure if I know that many, but when I tell them, I check the crowd first.

 I’ve known people who were obsessed with showing what good taste they thought they had, whether they actually possessed it or not. This includes an ex-wife and a former sister-in-law. In every instance, it boiled down to how many material things they owned, and how they could let everyone know about it. Cars, clothes, jewelry, homes, vacations they couldn’t afford—it was all for show, something to make up for a basic insecurity. It was a spotlight they shone on themselves, a sort of “Hey, look at me! Like the flashy bracelet I’m wearing? Want to know how much it cost?” 

 You know, I think I’ve figured out what Dame Edith meant by that quote. Perhaps if you’re fabricating good taste to cover up your inherent bad taste, it really is the worst vice ever invented. 

 Your thoughts?

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 Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author of romantic mystery/thrillers and contemporary erotic romance. His latest mystery “The Other Woman” (Vic Fallon Book Four) is available wherever excellent books are sold.     


Tina Donahue said...

People clutching their pearls over the F word always mystifies me. Where are those same people when demeaning or hate language is used to describe a minority in this country or is used to incite violence? All you hear is crickets from these people.

I'd prefer to hear the F word than the other offensive words that are showing up repeatedly these days to describe POC, LGBTQ, liberals, etc.

When I first left college, I worked on a newspaper. The F word flew frequently. Did it bother me? Nope. There are bigger things to worry about in this world than one word used for emphasis or what it stands for - sex. OMG, I wrote the S word. Time for pearl clutching again?

Tim Smith said...

Good points, Tina, and I agree that hate speech and name calling are more offensive than profanity. As I said, I'm no angel, but I'm considerate of other people's feelings.

As a side note about the boss I referenced, it's a sad commentary that after a few weeks, his crude language and anger outbursts didn't even register. What does that say about me?

Tina Donahue said...

I think that makes you human, Tim. What bugs me about some people who are so offended by profanity is that truly important things like battling racism, misogyny, poverty, inequality, etc. isn't important. To them, it's all about the appearance of being civilized, not about being a good person and actually following the golden rule (other than not dropping an F bomb, of course). SMH

As to your boss's outbursts: I don't do violence or bullying - ever. If an adult can't control his/her temper, especially in public, there is something seriously wrong with that individual.