The American Obsession With Clean Language Is Ruining Our Society

We have an emotional intelligence crisis in America

Vidya Narayanan
4 min readOct 1, 2019

When I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, one specific line caught my attention so strongly that I made a mental note to write about it. It was when Freddie referred to Americans as “puritans in public, perverts in private”. It represents a certain sad truth about the American society.

“Puritans in public, perverts in private” from Bohemian Rhapsody represents a side of America that must be discussed to advance the emotional quotient of the country at large.

“Mommy, will you stop? I know… ad hominem… I’m not supposed to say things that attack a person. Ideas can be attacked, but people should not be. I get it, okay now!” — my 9-year old responds to yet another attempt of mine to teach him the difference between just “bad language” and “ad hominem”. But I persist, because I feel strongly about my duty as a parent to instill the discipline of thinking before speaking and really understanding words and the power they carry.

When I first came to this country, I was astounded by what constituted “bad language”. I couldn’t quite understand how “Damn it!” or “Oh my God!” can be offensive. Since then, I’ve come a long way in understanding a few things.

We avoid tension at all cost

We really like to whitewash and airbrush unpleasant things around here so that they may be temporarily pleasant. In its extreme, this leads to preferring negative peace (aka, absence of tension), rather than positive peace (or the presence of justice).

The American society actively works to avoid tension, preferring negative peace over ensuring the presence of justice, creating positive peace.

This describes why we have such a high percentage of moderates in this country. By definition, moderates prefer to avoid tension. This is why the average American thinks politics is a topic to be avoided at dinner tables or in social circles. This is not an issue until the society is actually suffering from inequalities and lack of justice.

We have an abnormal reverence for the Bible

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain” has never been taken so seriously as in the American society. Generations of blind faith go unquestioned to a point where the G in OMG has to be renamed!

If you haven’t read that article before and you are starting to see what I’m saying here, you might want to read it. There is one thing in that article that I don’t quite agree with — it paints a picture that white people are abandoning the Bible. Unfortunately for America, that’s not quite true at scale yet. It is starting to happen, but it is nowhere close to the global scale when compared to other developed countries.

The unfortunate blind reverence for the Bible allows racism and misogyny to thrive at alarming levels in America.

The issue is quite subtle and rooted at multiple levels. The socially weaker population still hanging on to the Bible allows the manipulative and privileged to take advantage of the under privileged in extremely powerful ways. This is a topic that deserves a deeper discussion by itself and I’ll return to it in another article.

We are okay with deception

America has literally invented replacement words for every word deemed foul by the society. Starting from “darn” or “gosh” to “freaking”, “heck”, “shoot”, and dozens of other words, there is an entire dictionary of replacement words!

We’ve been taught that all we need to do is use the correct replacement word to be acceptable, with no introspection of intent or impact.

We bleep out words in popular music and feel great about our clean language.

The underlying intent and impact being disrespectful, dirty, and disingenuous makes deception acceptable at scale!

The locker room talk feels normal

The failure to teach self introspection to our youth then leads to a situation where it is okay to “let go” and have demeaning locker room talk as long as what is presented in public is “clean”.

After a deeper understanding, “puritans in public, perverts in private” from Bohemian Rhapsody carries disturbing, indisputable truth about America.

Surely everyone is entitled to “dirty thoughts” in their private spaces?

We desperately need empathy and emotional intelligence

Unfortunately, we don’t teach our children and youth the importance of empathy and the evilness of ad hominem. We let them grow up thinking of language in absolute terms.

We don’t need to swear to hurt others with our words.

We don’t need to swear to launch vicious ad hominem attacks.

The sheer lack of understanding that some of the so-called private thoughts are, in fact, evil, has led to the amplification of fundamentally poisonous social outlooks.

This is why Donald Trump thrives in America. The once externally puritan society has had enough and is ready to be real. And being real means revealing the lack of emotional intelligence. This is true for a big enough population of the country to bring harm at alarming levels.

We have an emotional quotient crisis in our country. And we need to start solving it now before it is too late.

EQ starts young and starts at home

Understanding emotional quotient after becoming an adult is harder and requires higher levels of intellect and openness to process being self aware and acknowledge the need for a deeply personal change.

But those of us who do understand can start now with our children.



Vidya Narayanan

Building Rizzle (, the future of video creation! In past life (@Google, @Qualcomm), I built stuff that you’ve likely used!