The question I ask kids at my school is this: "What happens when you talk like that at home?" It is hopefully a thought-provoking variant on the more rhetorical, "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" It is my wish that, upon reflection, the kid in question will realize that the hurling of expletives on a playground is wrong on so very many levels. Sometimes the conversation turns this way, "You have such a great vocabulary, why not find some other way to describe how you feel?" Other times it is more direct: "If your mom would whup you, then you probably don't want me to tell her that you were using that kind of language at school."
This tends to bring about the desired result, at least for a little while. The fact of the matter is that once exposed to more colorful language, it is difficult to get kids to let go of the ones that raise eyebrows and blood pressures on grown ups, as well as the shock and awe of their peers. On our playground, I don't have to break up many fights, but I do have to check out bad words. It's part of the gig. "Billy said the B word," spurs me on into the fray. I have to find Billy among the churning mass of children, and once he has been located, I have to engage him in an interaction that goes something like this: "Billy, please use respectful language."
"I didn't do nothin'."
"Sally and Alice said you were saying bad words. Please stop."
"They're lying! I didn't say the B word."
"What happens when you talk like that at home?"
Depending on the shame factor, this can be the end of the conversation. Or it can go on and on until one of us tires of the tug of war. If it doesn't, there's always the quick version which takes place on the sidewalk in front of the school after the bell rings. "Hi, Billy's Mom. Billy had a little trouble today remembering to use respectful language." And then things get taken care of at home, where it really should have in the first place.
Our "President" has been accused of using vulgar language to describe African countries and Haiti while expressing his desire to limit immigration from these places. Invited members of Congress who were at the meeting where these comments took place relayed this experience to the press, which set off a flurry of denials and defenses, including the "President's" assertion that he used "tough" language, but not the terms reported by witnesses.
If only I could wait out on the sidewalk to talk to his mother.