Demming: Language and respect are connected; don’t popularise profanity

It was January 2001 when then President ANR Robinson addressed the nation and quoted his mother as saying:Bad habits are gathered at slow degrees, as streams running into rivers, and rivers into seas.’

This statement was subsequently modified by a friend who reminded me that: ‘it begins with raindrops’. That’s what crossed my mind when I heard our prime minister in a press conference quote from a calypso, Don’t Jackass De Thing.

Image: A screenshot of Remy Rembunction’s version of Doh Jackass De Thing.

I grew up at a time when the word ‘profanity’ was used to describe certain words which you were not expected to use publicly. Madam Webster describes profanity as: ‘a socially offensive use of language, which may also be called cursing, cussing or swearing, cuss words, curse words, swear words, bad words, dirty words, or expletives’.

At that time, you may have gotten away with these words under your breath or as they say, sotto voce—in a quiet voice or not to be overheard. But there was an expectation that certain words would never cross your lips publicly. I grew up in East Dry River where one perceives that the standards were lower, but I never heard my mother use profanity and I am still offended by the use of expletives.

Fast forward to today, my contemporaries are using outright obscene language on their Facebook pages; my prime minister is talking to me about not jackassing the thing; another person responds to a member of parliament with the statement  ‘STFH (meaning stay the f*** home)’; and a number of other comments which a few years ago would have been viewed as inappropriate.  

It might be that I missed the memo that these words are now acceptable but I have not heard them used in any of my online meetings or briefings. I have searched without success for world leaders using similar exhortations.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

I accept that language evolves and I am old and irrelevant, but as long as I am in charge of my faculties, there are things to which I shall object. The use of inappropriate language is one of them.   

You see there is a connection between the breakdown of discipline and the use of inappropriate language. For me, language and respect are all wrapped up, intertwined with each other. The moment one begins to fall apart, it is just a matter of time before the other follows.  

From where I sit, people resort to these expletives either because they want to appear trendy or they are reluctant to find a more appropriate word.

I expect the highest standards, and shall continue to demand it from whomever I interact with or whomever leads us. When we lower our expectations, we will get responses aimed at the lowest common denominator.  

The old behavioural edict has not changed, ‘behaviour breeds behaviour’. Citizens will follow and emulate your behaviour at every turn, so don’t degenerate us—we deserve better.



Wired868 has provided readers with solid, independent journalism since 2012.  If you appreciate our work, please contribute to our efforts. 

Support Independent Journalism

More from Wired868
Daly Bread: Answers required for accountability in DPP imbroglio

Persons in public life frequently exercise power without accountability. As President Paula-Mae Weekes was recently demitting office, we were reminded Read more

Noble: What’s going on, with open season on Office of the DPP?

These days I feel like Marvin Gaye, the singer of the 1971 Billboard hit “What’s going on?” Confronted by the Read more

Demming: Pan should be part of education curriculum, to maximise its value

“Pan is in good hands,” they said—after experiencing the energy and exuberance of the Junior Panorama finals at the Queen’s Read more

MSJ: New year, old politricks—Dr Rowley’s New Year message is classic misdirection

“[…] The difference between 31st December and 1st January is but a change in date… as we see the old Read more

Dr Rowley: “The tide is turning!” PM addresses crime and economy in New Year’s message

“[…] Some people may feel justified in seeing our existence only through the prism of the negative lenses, and believe Read more

Noble: Considering the PDP’s collapse, the PNM Convention’s shuffle, and Volney’s passing

What a week! The events that tumbled over each other added to the exhaustion and frustration of the long road Read more

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

Check Also

Daly Bread: Answers required for accountability in DPP imbroglio

Persons in public life frequently exercise power without accountability. As President Paula-Mae Weekes was recently …


  1. I am reminded of someone who said….”Let the jackass bray”.

  2. Mrs. Demming…are you serious? Did you actually follow the news regarding countries that were hit the hardest throughout the pandemic? It’s very colonial minded to blindly talk this “no where else in the world” nonsense. When it applies fine, but there are many things done in the “first world” (code for white folks) that is actually quite similar or even worse than the in “third world”.

  3. Don’t Jackass the thing is profanity now? This is undermining the moral fiber of the country?.You can take anything and try to make a controversy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.