I started to have some honest thoughts about 'bad' words. I decided to be so honest with my thoughts that I would not use asterisk and dashes but the actual words themselves. Even as I wrote I found myself wondering if thinking around and along the topic would be "okay". And somewhere through the middle I felt a bit sad that it felt wrong to type out a word that existed and was used to attempt to discuss it. Welcome to my pondering thoughts.
The discussion of what should and should not be tolerated when it comes to the use of insulting, derogatory, and profane language is a slippery topic. On the outside it seems simple enough to not use ‘bad’ words. But what is a bad word? Common word usage to one culture may not be to another. My simplest example is the word ‘toss’. My husband, who is British, often snickers when he sees a ‘tossed salad’. Tossed meaning masturbate in its slang usage. Even now, knowing that, I still find it somewhat silly because the word doesn't hold that meaning to me.
However, word usage is not such a simple escape. Bad language is called bad language for a reason. Cursing and the incorporation of derogatory words into speech are common enough. Often these words eventually filter into the language. They become detoothed in a way and sometimes we forget that they were even offensive at all. Of late, I have started to wonder if that is the path some of the current crop of heavily used but highly offensive words are on.
My mind started to wander this path after a person who I know from Eve, but do not know well and have never spent much time with, joined coms to do an activity with someone else. This is not uncommon. Voice coms are a highly social thing and used by a larger community than my own corporation. Mixed in that is the people who play different games and may no longer actively play Eve but are still active members of the community.
A few minutes in, I blinked. I then kind of twitched and winced. After a few more minutes I decided to move to another channel. The reason was because I was becoming distracted by the number of ‘fags’ per sentence the person was dropping. A buffer word for him. Sort of like ‘uhh’ or ‘umm’ but insert ‘fag’ instead. Some people use ‘fuck’ in this way as well.
In this case ‘fag’ is a filler word. It is an insult. But, the speaker is not directly insulting homosexuals (or cigarette). He is taking the offensive use of the word and turning it into a curse and then using it so much that it is just a meaningless sound.
Part of being a member of society is forcing oneself to conform to social norms. People may use proper or polite language in public but part of seeking a close social group is relaxation from social necessities. While some people may thrive in them, others subscribe to them by necessity or choice. There is also the aspect of the social group. Inside of that inner circle incorrect things happen. I don't just speak of improper language I speak about discussions that we might not have in public but will happily have in private. And there are inappropriate discussions that would be considered vulgar, lewd, and crude in company but are joked about and snickered at in the inner social group.
How do you deal with the current perception of word usage? We can always make a stand and speak up each time, reminding people not to use such words. At the same time, that is not going to work. For one, the usage will often increase in a direct reaction to being told what to do. People like to ‘troll’ each other. One example I use is something I told a group of people bothered me.
One of the first reactions was, “Why would you tell us it bothered you when we can now use it to bother you?”
My response was, “I did not think I had so upset you or that our relationship was in such a poor state that you had begun to actively seek ways to upset and harm me.”
“Well no, it’s not that. It’s just that we like to troll people.”
“I know that. Yet, I would think you could indulge in that pastime without going for the one topic that we have specifically discussed as something that causes me distress. I’m not asking you to never harass and tease me.”It is not that I cannot stand up for myself when I need to stand up for myself. The question becomes what is standing up for oneself and what is tolerance. I'm no saint. While I may not use the current, popular buzz words in my conversation, I curse when I wish to. For some, that is just as terrible. I may watch what I say because certain words are unacceptable to me but is creative use of non-derogatory words any better?
Fag, nigger, rape, and cunt are all very shocking words. Yet, if I creatively describe something with less shocking but still vulgar language, is that actually better? My goal is not to have 100% clean speech. I do not have a problem with cursing. But people who say fudge instead of fuck are turning fudge into a curse word for that instant.
Can I have one and not the other? I find nigger to be a terribly offensive word and I hate when people use it. But just about every use of it that I hear regularly has nothing to do with the ethnic group the word is directed to. While hearing it makes me flinch. I don't look upon the person who used it as terrible. I may wish that they did not but I honestly have no idea where my personal judgement comes into play.
I was startled at the constant use of Jew when I started playing. It took me quite a while to figure out why people used it and once I did the casualness of the racism was odd. Racist terms bother me. Just as when someone uses, ‘nigger’. It is a word I find highly offensive and I do twitch whenever I hear it. Yet, the usage is meant to be highly offensive and twitch while at the same time not delicately pointing to the ethnic group and history. The words are used just because they are offensive. It seems to be a re-purposing of the word.
When people stumble over someone who was black or was jewish there is a, "Oh. I don't mean you" type of thing. A "I don't mean to offend you or say bad things about you I am just wielding this word around." And if I stand there and lecture them on the casual usage where is the line between ignoring what people say and there being so many 'slurs per sentence' that it becomes uncomfortable?
I'm not upset or offended as I compose this. I'm thoughtful. Word usage is flexible for people. People know that they are saying things that are socially wrong but those that wish to indulge in it seem to wish to indulge in it. I should probably ask a few people who use the terms why they use them. (As I write that I think that I will. It should prove enlightening and everyone I know is rather approachable) Whether it is of personal taste, social situation, want, or habit what they say and what they mean and how they would view themselves are often at such different points.
I can jump on the socially acceptable band wagon. I am old enough that gay was not a commonly used insult when I was younger. When I started to hear it more and more I would often comment that "x was not a homosexual y". Such blank looks I would receive. And now the socially correct train is chugging down the tracks streaming banners of recognition and intolerance of particular things making the entire subject a huge, buzzing bed of emotion and soapboxes. And if anything because it is becoming a topic it is polarizing the usage.
If one were to sit down with many of these people and actually discuss their thoughts and opinions towards the social groups, many would say, "No. I have no problem with that ethnic group or that sexual orientation or gender demographic." I can also say with a near certainty that they might add an insult at the end of it as they express their normal, healthy social acceptance to groups. "You are such a bastard my friend," can be said with such warmth and affection without any true comment to ones illicit parentage. And bastard was once, yet another terrible insult.
In the long run. That particular person is not a part of my core social group. If he was and his fluency in slurs the norm I'd not have found any comfort where I am. But, I cannot say that some does not happen. I also cannot say that I stand up and immediately chastise whomever says the 'wrong' thing. If someone offends me or I feel they have gone 'too far' I will pull them aside and speak with them. The response will dictate our future social interaction.
And social interaction is the key. There is the general response that makes one morn for manners where the response to moderating language and rejecting slurs and words like rape reap a rich harvest of insults, ridicule and nastiness. And then you have the other side of the coin that is a matter of social acceptance and tolerance for behaviors of other people. And somewhere in the middle is actual society. Stripped of its perfect world wishes and frantic stands, people are out there being people. Good and bad and polite and crude we still have to figure out how to work together. Even in a video game.
I understand the argument that the very use of the word propagates it and does terrible things. Do we choose what is the most wrong? Or is it just a matter of the simple fact that we can only focus on a few issues vs a whole least we loose or momentum in the very slurry of thought and reaction I am creating and therefore drowning in, in this blog?
There will always be special words in the social consciousness as particularly unacceptable. They will change with each generation. At the end of the day I have to look at myself in the mirror. I attempt to like the person that I see. That means I craft myself in the vision of myself that I want to be seen as. Not everyone may have that perception of themselves. Others may have their personal imagery in other forms without an eye batted to their personal dialog.
Anyway, I'm thinking out loud. I'm not making a particular point. I'm not pushing an agenda. Nor do I have any answers to my own musings.