I would be surprised if anybody who gets drawn into this article by the fancy name, “Vicky Pollard’’, has ever heard of the name before. To cut a long story short, it is the name of a fictional teenager character featured in the British comic sketch, Little Britain. Always dressed down in a pink-coloured tracksuit, pushing her “countless’’ prams, she is as much renowned as infamous for cussing out at other people and speaking crazily fast with a litany of fillers nearly indecipherable.
The fun fact is that Vicky Pollard was played by Matt Lucas, an openly gay man who is in his mid-40s and so apt at sending up diverse social figures at his fingertips. However, accused of mockingly portraying a less-educated, working-class citizen, it was also at the center of scathing criticism.
Later, in one video clip where Matt was disclosing his inspiration behind Vicky, he was quick to point out the young generation is unable to construct a single sentence without “like’’ or “whatever.” In recent decades, the similar concern rings true here in Korea on many occasions. Linguistic differences between English and Korean aside, people unconsciously use “aggressive” intensifiers all too often (Pardon me: I would rather not cite examples) in what appears to be a daily conversation.
Although I see myself a “tad’’ more sensitive person than others, how could I completely avoid hearing what strangers shout on the streets as a captive audience? It is not a rare thing to find myself annoyingly baffled by the way a group of youngsters address and talk to one another. Even in broad daylight, their incessant swearing combined with foul-mouthed epithets is nothing but relentless and appalling. The more the merrier: they get bolder and louder even as they have some more in their party to share the guilt as well as the audacity. None of them will be in the slightest bit intimidated over their behavior, however. No one would ever dare to take issue with someone else’s bad taste of language anymore at home or out in public places.
Perhaps, it could have been convenient to single out teenagers in order to let adults off the hook. In fact, blaming only teens or someone’s educational background for their newly-coined and offensive terms may be a huge mistake on my part. They are now owed an apology. Both on and off “campus,” I constantly have chance encounters with university folks who look as though they have developed a verbal tic spewing slurs and slang as they chat. If only I had known how epidemic such language could be! Unlike the case of Vicky Pollard, gender, education, or age might no longer be valid indicators for vulgarity and shallowness in language. Just a total lack of decency: it has become part and parcel of daily life.
It is interesting to notice an irony of the society where looks are believed to be more important than inner beauty treating the linguistic decorum as trivial. Do people just seek uniformity in outer beauty as much as they do in language, while not seriously thinking of manners deemed proper at all? One of my friends once came up to me and offered me some bittersweet advice when I said that I found the “cheap” language prevalent in the society all-out embarrassing.
“Avert your eyes! That is merely a silly banter for the sake of fun if they judge themselves to be friends,” he said. However, I asked myself, how does it simply give them enough legitimacy to use words, most of which are meant to be hurtful, bullying, sexist and downright obnoxious? Undoubtedly, a large amount of vocabulary in the Korean language has gradually diminished in our colloquial speech. Yet, we live in an era that you’d be dubbed “an old fogey” or feel like the odd one out if you spoke without any profanity.
The current generation is unwittingly going downhill. They fill almost every piece of their conversation with provocative, disrespectful and easy-to-use phrases. Now these words sometimes sound so natural as to render a variety of other possible alternatives obsolete. The society has been stripped of opportunities to convey each different layer of subtle human emotions.
So much so that people are easily overwhelmed by an unnecessary outpouring of excessive feelings. This is extremely tragic, but it comes with the territory. Rude language, though not initially expressed in an ill-intended manner, readily gives way to such excessive angst. “Manners make man,” or to put it in a modern context, “Manners make human” - so the saying goes. Calling for a restoration of civility seems to me to be clearly daunting, but still worth the effort. That is why the old hackneyed mantra cannot be emphasized enough in this shameless day and age.