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.
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."
Words | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com