A parish priest, a professor in the diocesan seminary, writes in the opinion piece in the Catholic Times of the pervasiveness of foul and abusive language in society. We hear it when riding in a bus or subway car, from middle and high school students and also from the older generation, and from those in all walks of life. The routine and mindless abuse of the marvelous gift of language bothers him, as if his use of it is contaminated as well.
He brings this truth to our attention by quoting the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). "Humans have within themselves consciousness and the spiritual. This internal consciousness is expressed externally with the words we use."
This is easy enough to understand: words express our internal character, who we are. Words are the way we relate with others, how we dialogue with others. If we remember this, we will not easily use vulgar language when speaking with others. The consequences of doing so are great.
He mentions a story from the Talmud: A king asks that the most useful and the most harmful thing in the world be brought to him; the object found was the same--the tongue. Examples of this double character of language are many. There are those who heard only negative things when growing up who ended up in prison. And those who had everything going against them, but hearing words of affirmation have done great things.
He quotes the following words: " Be careful of your thoughts, they will become your words. Be careful of your words, they will become your actions. Be careful of your actions, they will become your habits. Be careful of your habits, they will become your character. Be careful of your character for that will be your destiny."
There is no doubting the mutual relationship between the words we use and the person we become. Whether our character prospers or suffers will depend greatly on the words we choose to use. The society will be changed when we start changing the little things. That this society has become desolate and dreary may have something to do with the words we choose to use.