Friday, December 05, 2008

That's bleeping bull bleep!

Some anonymous someone said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Bro. Rudyard Kipling wrote, "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

And the late George Carlin informed us that, at least in 1978, seven particular words will "infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war... 400,000 words in the English language and there are seven of them you can't say on television. What a ratio that is. 399,993 to seven."

What makes a word "dirty," or "vulgar," or "profane"?

Earlier this week, on consecutive days, a judge in Cincinnati sentenced two men — one a black gangmember unhappy his trial wouldn't begin until February, the other an attorney representing himself in a civil matter — to six months in jail for contempt for using one or more of Carlin's dirty words in his courtroom.

Millions of English-speaking people use Carlin's words in their normal daily dialogues, and their listeners aren't offended. Millions of other English-speaking people are also familiar with those words, but find them objectionable and offensive.

Why do some consider certain words proper for use anywhere and at anytime, and others feel they are so "bad" that people should go to jail for using them?

Does the offensive power of certain words reside in the words themselves, in the sound vibrations of the words, in their meanings, or is it that some people are just "programmed" to be offended by them?

Jamel Sechrest reacted to the judge telling him he would have to remain in jail until his case came to court in February by saying, "That's fuckin' bullshit." The judge immediately said, "You don't say bullshit in my court," and cited him for contempt.

The next day, as attorney Michael Brautigam and opposing attorney Peter Koenig turned to leave the bench after conferring with the judge, Brautigam called Koenig a "fucking liar." The judge overheard him, and cited him for contempt, sentencing him to the same length of time behind bars as he had Sechrest the day before.

I'm not saying the judge should have, or shouldn't have, done what he did. That's his prerogative. His house, his rules.

I'm just wondering why some words offend some people.

Some of you probably winced when you read those two "awful" words above.


Both are simply descriptions of natural functions that all humans and animals do regularly. Neither act is foreign to any of us.

And, oddly, if we use Latin words to describe those same acts, no one takes offense. In fact, we tend to "worship" people, like medical doctors, for example, who use Latin words to describe bodily functions and body parts.

Coitus. Feces.

Those words have little or no "power," and usually offend no one.

Yet their Anglo-Saxon synonyms do.


Why do words that describe copulation and defecation upset people, yet words like "hate" and "kill" have no ill effect?

Granted, I don't like it when I'm out in public with my 10-year old son and we overhear someone — usually a teenager or young adult — using certain words. I don't want my son to hear those words, or to ever use them. I'm certain he knows them, and he knows — because we've discussed it — that certain words are "crude," or that they offend certain people, and his mother and I have taught him to be respectful, courteous and thoughtful.

But still... I wonder WHY those words, and not others, are offensive.

In the case of the two men in court, yes, they were being disrespectful to the judge's sense of courtroom decorum. But would the judge have reacted the same way had Sechrest said, "That's a load of crap!" (which would mean the same thing as what he did say) or "That's not fair!"? Was the judge upset that someone would question his authority, or was it that someone used one (or two, in Sechrest's case) of the Carlin no-no's?

To those of you who winced when you read the actual "dirty words" I wrote above when I could have used the modern newspaper codes of "the F-word" and "the S-word," I ask: Why is the code less offensive to you than the actual words, since you most certainly know what words the codes refer to. Those words are already in your brain and nervous system. You've simply chosen to have a different response/reaction to those words than other people who don't find them offensive.

These are things I wonder about when instead I should be doing something more productive.

In closing, let me quote the words of Jason Mraz, who sang, "Well, I'm almost finally, finally out of words."

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  1. F.U.C.K.
    Consent of the

    Why are people offended by words?
    Cowards, I guess.
    Not enough important things in their lives?
    Mommy did not love them enough?
    Came off of meds and cannot control their emotions?

    peole rationalize any emotional discord their own minds conjure, and blame another for their oen problems....

  2. I suppose words are power and we give them meaning. I myself have wondered why at one point something is offensive and at others its not. Your spot on though, we all know these words and have used them countless times (even those of us who presume to be puritanical). Our children know them, and we ourselves knew them when we were young. Are they something to control people by? Not like that, not in the manner in which the judge locked them up.

  3. Another story surfaced yesterday that shows how sick a society we've become.

    A 30-year old mother of three carved the word "bitch" into her nine-year old son's forehead and then sent him off to school. Her defense is, "Oh, we were just horsing around."

    The TV channel website that reported it used the headline "Mom Scratched B-Word Onto Son's Forehead, Police Say."

    B-word? B-word! Now we can't even use the word "bitch" when reporting that someone else used it? That word isn't even even on Carlin's list!

    — W.S.

  4. It raises the question, do you need to be specific as to the events of the crime, or that a woman felt compelled to CARVE INTO HER CHILD'S HEAD?

    She could have carved boo in their head, but the offense is the crime itself. Why distract form the crime by dallying with the phrase "b-word".

  5. I don't think it detracts from the crime at all. Everyone reading it knows what's meant.

    The late George Carlin didn't have the definitive answer of which words are to be used in polite society and which are not. That's evolved over the years. Like it or not, that's the "why" that WS asked in his post.

    One wouldn't expect a Freemason to use foul language in open lodge. Much like WS's 10-year-old son, we're obliged to raise ourselves from crude behaviour, and "be respectful, courteous and thoughtful."

  6. Just as 2 Bowl Cain says, F.U.C.K. stands for Fornication Under Consent of the King. Is that how we use it today? When someone tells another to go F-off, do they really mean go have sex? No! These words carry crude connotations, which we should hopefully rise above.

    As an aspiring writer, I am amazed at the constant power that words have. People are slaughtered by the power of words. Looked at the "Protocols of the Learned Elders." Nothing but propaganda to prey on peoples fears, which led to the inprisonment of jews, gypsies, and even our brethren, but those combinations of words had enough power to kill.

    I disagree with brother, 2BC, to be offended by language does not mean a person is rationalizing their own emotional discord. I believe that a person should be offended-to be affected (intellectually and emotionally) disagreeably-by that which is crude and base.

  7. You should have yelled out "EARMUFFS!" (or "BLINDFOLD!") before you let people read that article. Then I could write things like "COCK! BALLS!"

    I'm going to have to go wash my fingers and eyes with soap now. My mother would be ashamed.

  8. Scott Adams had it right - from one of his Dilbert books (and this is loosely paraphrased)

    Can you imagine a room full of old men in black robes just reading the dictionary out loud, figuring out which ones are 'dirty' or not?
    "The next word is 'feck'"
    A collective gasp fills the room, one of the old men falls unconscious.
    'Feck' is scribed on the list of dirty words.

  9. on a whim, i decided to check in on this blog, which i haven't done for quite some time. the reasons for this were my own.

    i am pleasantly surprised to see such a thoughtful commentary on something i find quite fascinating.

    as a young person who struggles to create meaningful pieces of poetry, i have often wondered about the power of words. personally, i find words and language insufficient, dull, and useless when considering our attempts at communication. interesting that i should say that, as a poet who has been published in two different countries :p. i'm aware of my internal hypocrisy.

    that ''swear words'' have such power to offend is something that should be treated with the highest curiosity. words are vibrations, intended to convey a thought. why should one detail of a language be considered any different from another? would it change anything if i said ''fudge you'', instead of ''fuck you''? you would understand my intention, regardless of which phrase i were to use.

    as a digression, i would like to mention that i'm glad W.S is still online and bloggin'. you may not remember me, brother, but a while ago i was upset at what i perceived to be an ''arrogance'' on your part on how you used your blog.

    silly me. such foolishness.

    i humbly apologise and i would very much like to partake in discussion of a thoughtful nature in the future.

    peace and blessed be.

    crow zampano . . .

  10. Personally, I don't take any particular offense at any words, just because of the word itself.

    But I suspect that the reason our culture gets excited by mere words is that we are usually taught Judeo-Christian notions from birth.

    As we tend to mature and realize that there is no Easter Bunny, some of the words lose power, and we tend to use them for shock value.

    But that wears off - and soon.

    For what it is worth:

  11. So, you want to bring back words like:

    Slant Eye

    Well, you guys can. I think we can live without hateful language. The individual seemed to use that in court. His demeanor seemed to suggest contempt, just as those words listed above do. The guy was in contempt of court (perhaps rightfully). If the judge was in the wrong, saying it's bullshit doesn't help at all. Better discourse will provide better avenues for resolution.

  12. Humorously, the B.T. has on its front page the following:

    "rudeness, crudeness, lewdness, and general insults"

    But expects it to be accepted in a court of law? Laughable.

  13. Nobody,

    Laughable though it may be to you, you missed my point. I asked WHY certain words offend. I didn't say they should be used in court, or anywhere, as you suggest in your comment, "But expects it to be accepted in a court of law? Laughable."

    — W.S.

  14. W.S. wrote:

    "I asked WHY certain words offend. I didn't say they should be used in court, or anywhere"

    Fair enough, and apologies. I think more offensive in the cases offered as an examples is the individuals' (seeming) demeanor, not the words he actually used. I think he could have avoided expletives altogether and still have gotten contempt from the sounds of it. It's more the demeanor than the words, although it can be granted that those words offend some, and in these offered they were intended to offend. In the film HEARTS OF DARKNESS, it is suggested that the military brutally killed people but the soldiers weren't allowed to say 'f*ck'. I suggest that perhaps our abusing each other with words is where our violent natures start, not where they are solved.

    I read the Malleus Maleficarum, written and used by witch hunters wherein is used the word F.U.C.K. is used. In this context, I object entirely. The murder of innocent people erroneously accused of witchcraft is a sickening use of the word. Possibly there might have actually been a few witches, but it's highly doubtful.

    Let's all get back to our natural tendencies and act naturally. Actually, let's not. Let's better ourselves and our relations with others. I know it's 'unnatural', but it might be a bit better. It is entirely natural to hate and kill each other. That's our animal nature, and happened long before the establishment of any religion or government.

  15. i would like to think the fact that we can create government would indicate that we're edging away from our more primal feelings, ie ''hating and killing''.


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