What do a fantasy football service and a seafood restaurant have in common? Maybe the advertisement firms they both hired and they felt proud of their play on words that made the commercial viewers hear one word but think of another, extremely vulgar and profane word. Is this perhaps part of a linguistic trend in our current culture that seems to love to give a good shock to anyone who might still have sensitivity toward foul language? Hopefully it isn’t, but it seems like a trend to twist speech in the apparent interest of the salty and salacious. Is it imaginative or just plain impure?
You hear it with these pun-like, substitute words that are like euphemisms only more edgy. You hear it in drug references, referring to behavior, good or bad, as likened to one smoking, inhaling, or intravenously taking something illegal (or in the case of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, now legal). You hear it in crass references to body parts. You hear it in sexually suggestive and charged words, anywhere from “hot” and “sexy” to the more vulgar in an attempt to describe a project, product, or person. How many of these cross the line of being sinful is difficult to assess, but so many of them flirt with crossing into inappropriate territory.
In Ephesians 5, Paul is in the middle of telling Christians how to “walk.” Apparently, the walk includes the “talk.” The chapter begins with his commanding us to imitate God and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Then, Paul deals negatively by saying how we should not walk. He begins with actions of the mind and the body, then in verse four says, “…Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” To put an exclamation point on the discussion, he says that those practicing such things have no inheritance in the kingdom. That’s pretty serious! Bratcher and Nida sees all three nouns as referring to indecent, inappropriate speech, from sexually suggestive words to “shameful, shameless talk of every kind” (A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, np). At least the second two, “foolish talking” and “coarse jesting,” should cause us to give closer examination both to what we say and how we say it.
Our speech is powerful. One wise word may result in a soul’s salvation. As death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21), let’s heed the advice of the children’s song—”Be careful little mouths what you say!”