Adult language and adult beverages, a quintessential combination of supposed adulthood. But it seems the time-honored tradition of having a few pints and telling tall stories may be numbered. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Samuel Smith Old Brewery, which manages more than 200 pubs in the UK, has decided to ban its patrons from swearing.
You read that right, licensed venues in the United Kingdom, of all places, are hoping to curb their customers’ swearing. Understandably, this move has caused significant uproar among regulars of the watering holes. “But what exactly happens to swearing patrons?” I hear you ask:
(Managers)… have been instructed to refuse orders from foul-mouthed drinkers and have begun ejecting some patrons who refuse to curb their cursing.
First and foremost, it is important to consider that both pub-culture and extracurricular language are cornerstones of British culture. Few nationalities have mastered the sarcastic wit and delicate balance of crude terms in a way that the British have. The idea of tearing apart these interwoven aspects of a storied culture is pure insanity.
The publicans argue that the move is a strategy to make pubs more family friendly. While I can understand the reluctance to have children around a drunken, raucous crowd firing volleys of profanity at each other, the obvious answer to this dilemma is that children shouldn’t be hanging out in a licensed venue.
Can children enter a pub? In the UK, yes. Should children be in a pub? That’s entirely situational and at the discretion of the parent based upon many factors including age and maturity. Should the behavior of paying adult clients, in an environment designed specifically for adults, be adjusted to meet the “needs” of families? Absolutely not.
Secondly, how does one enforce such a rule? With the construct of language generally being subjective, and the parameters of swearing and the offense derived from it often varying greatly from person to person, what exactly can a patron get away with?
Presumably, words such as f***, s*** and c*** would be off limits, per pervasive consideration of those words being crude. But from this point things become increasingly murky. For example, words such as bloody and bollocks are fairly commonplace in the UK, but may be considered too much by particular individuals. What about damn and blasphemy? Those who are religious would likely take offense, yet for others they are fairly innocuous.
The continuing move into the realm of political correctness is increasingly disconcerting. As stated before, I completely understand that parent’s typically would prefer their children not be exposed to crude behavior, but surely the responsibility lies on the parent to keep their children from such an environment, not on the patron to tone down what has – until now – been considered perfectly normal, nor on the publican and his or her staff to police said patrons.
One would imagine this decision has been made purely with the bottom line in mind. Someone crunching numbers in a cubical has probably decided that the average family eating a meal in a pub results in a better profit margin than a comparable number of drinking adults. On paper, this is a good decision. In practice, it is a horrendous one.
One of the things that makes a British or Irish pub so great is the sense of community and comfort patrons can expect to receive. Regulars attend their local for an opportunity to blow off some steam and forget about the stresses of the world. If they want to talk crap about their boss, family, or whoever the subject of the swear-laden tirade may be, that is their prerogative. A top-down decision to alter that ecosystem could prove fatal for the chain, and others that would potentially follow suit.
Luckily, such a widespread change has not yet been proposed by any bar or restaurant in the USA, to my knowledge. So I guess for now, all that’s left to do is have a quiet pint at the Winchester and wait for this all to blow over.
So where do you stand on this issue? Do you think that political correctness has gone mad and attacked the sanctuary that is the local watering hole? Or, do you think management should exercise control over how their patrons behave?