The word "OK" is America's most famous linguistic export, but curse words may run a close second. At least that's the impression Elizabeth Lev came away with after a trip to Rome in which she was stunned to hear Europeans fluently rattling off profanity as though they were in a movie. She wonders whether actors are partly to blame for the European perception that American English is invariably peppered with four-letter-words. As she puts it:
Is one Roman holiday enough to claim that swears are "America's Greatest Contribution to Global Culture?"Are Tarantino and company to blame?Where would they get the idea that Americans routinely punctuate their speech with foul language? After all, one rarely hears profanity in an American diner or department store, nor does it appear in our newspapers. Perhaps part of the cause can be found in the tinny pop music that echoes from every iPod and the repartee issuing from the lips of our golden, glamorous film stars. Among "artists" profanity has become as cool in the 21st century as smoking was in the days of Bogey, Bacall and Billie Holiday.
In 1939, Rhett Butler shocked cinemagoers by tamely declaring, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." One can only imagine what "Gone with the Wind" viewers would have made of five minutes of Quentin Tarantino dialogue?