This is Shit: On the Arbitrary Nature of “Profanity”

29 11 2010

It doesn’t take a great thinker or one of great insight to see that the words “this” and “shit” contain exactly the same letters just arranged differently resulting in different phonemes.  Phonetically they look like this: [ðIs] and [ʃIt].  Nothing about the sounds contained within each of these words warrants the label of “profane” or unworthy of being spoken.  To  quote the late, great George Carlin “…it’s the context that counts.  It’s the user. It’s the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad.  The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent.”  He is 100% right.

Furthermore, what is considered “bad” language changes over time.  Does anyone know why we call it “white” meat and “dark” meat?  It was to avoid the use of breast and thigh, which was considered “bad” or “offensive” language at the time.  Is that a problem now?  Not for a majority of English speakers.

Speaking of the avoidance of certain phrases/words, deciding instead to substitute them for a euphemism.  If what I’m saying is to hold, that it is the intention or the idea being conveyed is what is important, then euphemisms are a fools errand.  If everyone knows you mean ‘fuck’ when you say ‘fudge’ you are actually drawing more attention to the idea than you would by just saying ‘fuck’ for fuck sake.  To quote the amazingly talented Tim Minchin: “F**k means ‘fuck’ more than ‘fuck’ means ‘fuck”.  Point here being,  that trying to cover it up by bleeping it out, replace letters with asterisks or silencing the speaker is having the direct opposite effect that such actions are aimed at achieving.

 

This=shit

Joel

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2 responses

29 11 2010
libraryatheist

Also- by censoring words we are merely creating new bad words.
The word ass never meant anything but donkey until we had a ‘decency’ campaign against the word arse in the U.S.

Now, people in the U.S. wouldn’t know their arse from their elbow but get offended by the word ass, although sometimes it is referring to a donkey. So, we have created greater confusion and greater potential for offense. Congratulations, censors. Mission accomplished.

2 12 2010
su

I have been reading Krishnamurti and he makes it very clear…that the word “door” is not a door…..the word door is a symbol. No word is the “thing”…..? (I’ve thought about this….over and over and I wonder if the word “word” is actually “the thing”? not sure…and so after a few years of reading “K”…and collecting his words/works? (ahhh) on videos and in books. I am much more “silent” than I was. (note: my dad once told me there are only a few “unspeakable words”…for someone seeking kindness and courtesy… meaning there are only a few “bad” words and that most everyone in one’s life (with the exceptions, of course, of babies and the very elderly etc.)….and my point is that most of the people know what these words are…so sorry….I am vague about what my dad said…as I don’t exactly remember…though I only realize this now…as I am typing this…(sigh)…I am curious if the “f’ word u mention is
used around the world? Oh, I remember someone telling me that it’s a military word….meaning….fornication under carnal knowledge…(ack)…I do remember this very clearly…and I have never verified this…..just sayin’

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