Bad Language, Telling the Truth, and What the Commandments Say about Communicating

What Middle School Students Think

I say to the middle school students, “So, what does the Bible say about language use?”

“Don’t swear,” they say.

“Where does it say that in the Bible?”

“In the ten commandments.”

“What is swearing?” I ask.

“Using bad words.”

“Hmm. What are bad words? Can you give me some examples?”

They look shocked and apprehensive and a few of them giggle, but then they tell me. “The F-word, the Sh-word, the B-word, the other B-word, H-E-double toothpicks, the D-word.”

“Can we put them on the board in order of which are the worst words to use?”

They do so. Starting with the worst, the list reads, “The F-word, the Sh-word, the D-word, the B-words, and finally H-E-double toothpicks.”

And in fact, they are completely wrong. They were wrong from the start.

The Ten Commandments Don’t Say, “Don’t Swear”

We have been using this shorthand version of the commandment for a long time, but that isn’t actually what the commandment says. [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]

Bill Boerman-Cornell is professor of Education and English at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL.