As I was attempting to negotiate my way into the parking space (always a treat parallel parking on the left side of a one-way street in an unfamiliar car), I rolled down the window to see how I was doing, and the vehicle was suddenly filled with the sounds of the "discussion" among several people on the sidewalk. Perhaps "argument" is a better description. I never did discern the substance of the disagreement, but whatever it was, it sounded as if someone were playing the soundtrack from Casino out there. (The MPAA rating noted "pervasive strong language" in that; I know there are plenty of other examples, but that one stuck in my mind.)
It was, quite literally, a conversation dominated by "F-bombs." Now, sitting there in the car with my six-year-old daughter, I wondered what this must sound like to her. It's not as if she's never heard one of us use the occasional profanity, but I doubt she's ever heard a torrent of that sort. As I finished parking, the participants headed off, still yelling, in the direction of the park.
As we sat down in the restaurant a few minutes later, my mother-in-law commented that she hadn't heard anything like that in quite a while. She used to be a teacher in an urban high school, and her husband spent many years in sports administration, so she has certainly heard her share of profanity-laced tirades. Even my niece, a college student who is more frequently immersed in the current coarsened idiom, noted that this was a particularly vehement example.
We discussed for a bit the fact that while one might use profanity as an intensifier in conversation, a "conversation" that consists of little but intensifiers expresses emotion at the expense of substance. The phrase that kept coming to my mind was "...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Of course, the well-known context of that quote is "...it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." And clearly, it is easy to dismiss the participants in last night's tirade as idiots with no meaning.
But the full context of the sentence in Macbeth's soliloquy upon learning of his wife's death, is not about the idiot, but about life:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor playerIt's brilliant writing ("Duh, Chard...it's Shakespeare!"). The single line, "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow," is one of the greatest lines of poetry ever written. But behind all the froth and fume, what underlies it all is life.
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Meanwhile, my daughter, immersed in a game of Brickbreaker on mom's Blackberry, seems to have ignored the whole event and discussion thereof. I hope that's a good thing, but I can't help wondering what portion of the soundtrack penetrated her subconscious. I know she hears everything, especially when she doesn't seem to be listening.