Now, we probably heard it in China as well, but we've learned that swearing in a foreign language doesn't have the same impact that swearing in your mother tongue does. I remember talking to a German colleague at my university in Beijing. He dropped the F-bomb every chance he could. (The F-bomb in German is actually a very similar sound . . . use a short "i" instead of a short "u" and you're pretty close.) He said that he was never comfortable swearing in his German language, but had no problem doing so in English because it had little social impact on him.
We only had a handful of native English speakers in the area in which we lived in China, and none of them swore (at least not on a regular basis), so we haven't heard swearing in quite some time. Now, we're hearing it all the time. I hear it at stores and on sidewalks and the kids are hearing it at schools. It's probably no more than what we heard before our move to China, but we are more aware of it now.
Personally, I'm not impressed with swearing. To me, it reflects an immaturity in word usage. Michael's classmates swear more often than Rachel's classmates (although, she doesn't hang out with the boys!) and I think that adults who habitually use swearing to express their emotions are in the same camp as the fifth grade boys. The boys think they are cool to use such language . . . they're pushing the boundaries of language use set by both the school and by parents at home.
What are adults' excuses?
The other day, I was walking home from the store and I heard someone behind me: "I'm not goin' to wait in no *bleep* line, only to *bleep* be told by some *bleep* *bleep* that I had to *bleep* have *bleep* to *bleep* get my *bleep* money back."
He didn't have his receipt to return an item for a cash refund, he was righteously indignant that he didn't get any money. His language didn't impress me. If anything, it made me think worse of him.
I'm far from perfect and I've been known to swear upon occasion. Both my children have heard me swear . . . usually as a result of sudden extreme pain. (It seems that when my weak ankle gives out in very inconvenient places, the first word that comes out of my mouth is the sh-word.)
Michael asked me the other day why swearing was wrong. I told him that God didn't like it, especially if it involved saying God's name in a wrong way. The Bible refers to this as "taking the Lord's name in vain" (one of the commandments), but I used modern English for Michael. We've taught them not to say "Oh, my G-d" as this is not using God's name in a correct manner. If we are not learning/teaching about God and if we are not praising Him or talking with Him in prayer, most other uses of His name are wrong. The ever present "omg" is a classic example of this.
I went on to tell him about Ephesians 4:29 that says, "Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift." (The Message)
If everyone approached their language with this intent, as a gift, then what a better place this world would be! Imagine the guy I mentioned above if he had been gracious in his response to not having a receipt? The impression he made on everyone around him would be quite different.
Some four-letter words are worth using:
Nice. Kind. Care. Good. Soft (A soft answer turns away wrath.). Calm. Cool. True. Hope. Love. Can you come up with more?