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Wordplay

I recently read something I thought was exceptionally clever: “Heck is where people go who don’t believe in gosh.”

Creative and funny, but it’s more than that.

It’s also reflective of the power of the words — both acceptable and unacceptable. Now that technology has made instant communication available to every part of the world, that communication is the responsibility of each communicator — and that’s when appropriateness becomes difficult to define.

When I was growing up, the ultimate spoken or written obscenity was what we now colloquially refer to as the F-word. Back then you might see it scrawled on a back-alley fence.

But now it’s the unusual movie that doesn’t use it, often excessively. It’s the foundation of most stand-up comic routines and it’s on cable programming every day, along with the S-word, the B-word and, of course, the N-word — without which rap music would cease to exist.

And it’s not just vulgarities. We are told never to create a likeness of Mohammed, and Orthodox Jews write out only “G” out of respect for God.

Words can be so offensive. But if you’ve noticed, not so much from people who actually have vocabularies.

I’m Pat McMahon.