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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Word of the Day 4/4/2010

4 04 2010

Easter

Definition: Easter, n-

  1. One of the great festivals of the Christian Church, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, and corresponding to the Jewish passover, the name of which it bears in most of the European langs. (Gr. {pi}{alpha}{sigma}{chi}{gaacu}, ad. Heb. pésa{hdotbl}, L. pascha, Fr. Pâques, It. Pasqua, Sp. Pascua, Du. pask). According to the modern rule it is observed on the first Sunday after the calendar fullmoon{em}i.e. ‘not the actual full moon, but the 14th day of the calendar moon’ (Bp. Butcher){em}which happens on or next after 21 March. In ordinary language Easter is often applied to the entire week commencing with Easter Sunday.
  2. The Jewish passover. Read the rest of this entry »




Word of the Day 4/2/2010

2 04 2010

Great

Definition: Great, adj, adv, n-

  1. Thick, coarse, massive, big.
  2. Of things, actions, events: Of more than ordinary importance, weight, or distinction; important, weighty; distinguished, prominent; famous, renowned.
  3. Pregnant; far advanced in pregnancy: app. orig. referred to the stoutness of the body. Chiefly with with (child, etc.); {dag}occas. with of{dag}Also said of the body. (Confer BIG a. 4.) arch.

Etymology

Compare with West Germanic: Old English gréat = Old Frisian grât, Old High German, Middle High German grô{hgz} (G. grosz).  “On the assumption that the primary sense is ‘coarse’ (sense 1 below), some scholars regard the word as cognate with ON. graut-r porridge, OE. grút fine meal, grot particle, grytta coarse meal, gréot sand, gravel, ON. griót stones. But the connexion is not free from difficulty, as the cognates of these words outside Teut. point to a root meaning ‘to pound’, a sense from which that of the adj. is not easily derived. It has been suggested (Stokes in Fick Idg. Wb.4 II. 119) that a cognate of the Teut. adj. may exist in the OIrish gruad (?:{em}pre-Celtic *ghroudes-) cheek (? lit. ‘thick or fleshy part’ of the face; cf. sense 2 below, and the contrasted notion in OE. {th}unwang lit. ‘thin cheek’, the temples). The prevailing senses in OE. are ‘coarse, thick, stout, big’; but the word also appears as an intensive synonym of micel MICKLE, which in the later language it superseded. In OHG. grô{hgz} had the senses of ‘big, awkwardly large’, and of ‘pregnant’, but was also used as a synonym of mihhil (though not with reference to length); in OS. grôt is recorded only in the sense of ‘great’, in which it is less frequent (and possibly more emphatic) than mikil. The development by which great has superseded mickle (not only in Eng. but also in Du., Ger., and Fris.) may be illustrated by reference to the mod. colloquial substitution of big for great, and to the supersession of L. magnus in Rom. by grandis big, full-grown (see GRAND a.).”

Modern Usage

Follows definition 2 mostly.

All definitions and etymology information was obtained using the Online Oxford English Dictionary.





Word of the Day 4/1/2010

1 04 2010

Fool

Definition: Fool, n-

  1. One deficient in judgement or sense, one who acts or behaves stupidly, a silly person, a simpleton. (In Biblical use applied to vicious or impious persons.)
  2. to be every way inferior to, to be as nothing compared to
  3. A dish composed of fruit stewed, crushed, and mixed with milk, cream, or custard. Often gooseberry fool. Read the rest of this entry »




Word of the Day 3/31/2010

31 03 2010

Vulgar

Definition: Vulgar, a, n-

  1. Having a common and offensively mean character; coarsely commonplace; lacking in refinement or good taste; uncultured, ill-bred.
  2. Employed in common or ordinary reckoning of time, distance, etc.; esp., in later use, vulgar era, the ordinary Christian era.
  3. Of language or speech: Commonly or customarily used by the people of a country; ordinary, vernacular. In common use c 1525-1650; now arch. Read the rest of this entry »




Word of the Day 3/30/2010

31 03 2010

Apron

Definition: apron, n-

  1. An article of dress, originally of linen, but now also of stuff, leather, or other material, worn in front of the body, to protect the clothes from dirt or injury, or simply as a covering.
  2. A similar garment worn as part of a distinctive official dress, as by bishops, deans, Freemasons, etc.
  3. Anything which resembles an apron in shape or function, esp. the leather covering for the legs in a gig or other open carriage. Read the rest of this entry »




Word of the day 3/29/2010

30 03 2010

Agony

Definition: agony-

  1. Anguish of mind, sore trouble or distress, a paroxysm of grief.
  2. Intensity or paroxysm of pleasure
  3. The mental struggle or anguish of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.
  4. The convulsive throes, or pangs of death; the death struggle. Seldom now used in this sense without qualification, as agony of deathmortal agony. Read the rest of this entry »