"Gay", "F*g", etc. Are words born evil or do they choose to be evil? (Possibly NSFW language)

Since this is a topic on potentially offensive words, I don't know what the proper etiquette is here for writing these words. Most of the possible ones have been set to be altered to what is acceptable here, but I'm sure there are others that may come up that haven't. It's not my intention to break any rules, get around word filters or to intentionally hurt or offend anyone. I'm sure everyone here feels the same. If there are any such transgressions, I will gladly do what needs to be done to rectify the situation.

For example, if the word I choose to use doesn't get censored by the word filter, I will assume it is okay to write and will use it in full. If that turns out not to be fine, then it will most likely be added to the word filter anyway, but I'll be happy to go back and alter it to meet the required standards. Basically, I just don't want the thread to get locked because I have a filthy e-mouth.

Heads up to everyone. F*g gets censored into Certis is awesome and f*ggot gets censored into baggins, so it may be easier to read if you insert the little asterisks yourself. Or not. Whatever floats your boat.

There was a discussion a while back at David Jaffe's blog about the words "gay" and "f*g" used in the context of a joke or in a sentence to mean "wimpy, girly or weak" rather than "homosexual", and whether or not this is a healthy or acceptable thing for society or if it does actual harm, perpetuating negative stereotypes of homosexuals and such. I don't know if this would make for a very good topic, but it's been on my mind since then. Although my beliefs are pretty set in stone, I would like to refrain from clumsily trying to put these into words just yet and instead wish to encourage those interested to weigh in with their thoughts on the subject. Especially since my beliefs are so obviously the correct ones that to share them now would cause the thread to be nothing but post after post of everyone agreeing with me and probably wanting to send me money or something! Hell yeah go me END TRANSMISSION!

It's really a question of context. Pick any potentially offensive word you like, and I'm sure we can all come up with numerous situations where using it would and wouldn't be okay.

I think most people know when they're using language that might offend others. It's not rocket science. And while some people genuinely lack the social awareness necessary to avoid behaving like asses, in many cases I think those that plead ignorance are merely defending their right to be offensive.

It's how they are intended, which also applies to the origin of new words. Comedians use this effect to turn ordinary words into risque ones, just through context and delivery.

MechaSlinky wrote:

There was a discussion a while back at David Jaffe's blog about the words "gay" and "f*g" used in the context of a joke or in a sentence to mean "wimpy, girly or weak" rather than "homosexual"

So saying someone is girlish is less offensive than saying they're as weak as a gay man?

To answer your question, no words are not born "evil," nor can words even be "evil." A word is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It's the associations we attach to them that cause the damage. For instance, think of the ice pick. It's just a tool but say that word and most of us think of a stabbing implement rather than a rod or hook used to "pick ice." Same word, same item, different use because that's what it's come to mean in our culture.

However, just because the words themselves aren't "evil" doesn't mean they can't be dangerous. When someone labels someone else a "n*gger" or "f*g," they're immediately attaching a whole slew of negative connotations to that individual. It is extremely difficult to see anything positive or redeeming in someone you have identified with a slur, and therefore it is extremely difficult to see value in that individual. Thus, the stereotype is reinforced, since if every homosexual is a f*g and every f*g you've met is worthless, then all f*gs are worthless, including the next homosexual you meet and decide is a f*g.

This is why political correctness CAN be a useful tool. It's not about forcing people to use nice words so as not to offend others, it's about changing the lexicon and removing words we call hate speech, those with massive amounts of negative connotation. In other words, if someone hates f*gs they will generally hate anyone they decide is a f*g, whether there are any grounds to the label or not and totally regardless of that person's value. If you can get someone to stop using that word and stop labeling people with it, you can get them to open up to the possibility that not all homosexuals are worthless f*gs.

Unfortunately, as I've said before in other discussions on political correctness, both its proponents and detractors use it as a bludgeon rather than a scalpel. Supporters say, "you can't call them that" and decide YOU are a horrible person for using certain words because those words hurt peoples' feelings. Detractors point to how crudely supporters use political correctness and say that they aren't in favor of hate speech, they're just unwilling to make pretend that everything's OK and we're all the same; they're "keeping it real." Ironically, "political correctness" now has a negative connotation, so much so that I'm sure some of you flinched when I first mentioned it. Some of you may have even started getting your arguments ready when you got to that part.

All that said, I can't stand it when people use hate speech to mean "something really negative" rather than the word's actual meaning because I consider myself a lover of words and I hate to see ANY word used incorrectly. If something is not homosexual, it should not be called "gay." If when you say "gay" you mean "wimpy, girly or weak," there are three words right there that would have been better to use than "gay" (though "girly" is only slightly, if at all, better).

My theory is that people use these words because they're so shocking and charged. They're the strongest words we have left, now that our previous chart topper, "f*ck," has replaced "umm" and "like" as a spacefiller to many people - many of the same people who now call things they don't like, "gay." Again, a side-effect of abusing a word. What this means is in a few years even hate speech will lose its charge in some circles, and I have no idea what will replace it. How does one express anger when they have no words for it? Gutteral shrieking? Violence? We'll see...

Robear wrote:

It's how they are intended, which also applies to the origin of new words. Comedians use this effect to turn ordinary words into risque ones, just through context and delivery.

Yup. Which is precisely why I couldn't vote for a presidential candidate who, unapologetically, used the word "gook" in a manner that characterized Asians as subhuman and worthy of extermination irrespective of his other policies or record.

What Robear said--it's all about intent. However, some words are so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context, regardless of intent.

complexmath wrote:

What Robear said--it's all about intent. However, some words are so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context, regardless of intent.

Like what?

This thread is so gay

buzzvang wrote:
complexmath wrote:

What Robear said--it's all about intent. However, some words are so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context, regardless of intent.

Like what?

The 'n' word. Probably others as well, but that's certainly the big one in the US.

I can't understand either the message or the question in the OP, whichever one it is.

complexmath wrote:
buzzvang wrote:
complexmath wrote:

What Robear said--it's all about intent. However, some words are so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context, regardless of intent.

Like what?

The 'n' word. Probably others as well, but that's certainly the big one in the US.

That was a big debate on Dr. Phil a while ago. If it's so bad, why is one culture allowed to use it as they please and another is banned from using it?

Shoal07 wrote:
complexmath wrote:
buzzvang wrote:
complexmath wrote:

What Robear said--it's all about intent. However, some words are so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context, regardless of intent.

Like what?

The 'n' word. Probably others as well, but that's certainly the big one in the US.

That was a big debate on Dr. Phil a while ago. If it's so bad, why is one culture allowed to use it as they please and another is banned from using it?

The culture using it is the one demeaned by it, so they're clearly free to withhold objection to their own use of the term. As for why they use it, I've heard arguments that by claiming ownership of the term they're lessening its impact, but I'm not sure this is valid. It seems more like they're adding power to the term by making it taboo. The PC movement has this same failing.

complexmath wrote:
Shoal07 wrote:
complexmath wrote:
buzzvang wrote:
complexmath wrote:

What Robear said--it's all about intent. However, some words are so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context, regardless of intent.

Like what?

The 'n' word. Probably others as well, but that's certainly the big one in the US.

That was a big debate on Dr. Phil a while ago. If it's so bad, why is one culture allowed to use it as they please and another is banned from using it?

The culture using it is the one demeaned by it, so they're clearly free to withhold objection to their own use of the term. As for why they use it, I've heard arguments that by claiming ownership of the term they're lessening its impact, but I'm not sure this is valid. It seems more like they're adding power to the term by making it taboo. The PC movement has this same failing.

So, what you're saying is that no word is "so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context" because in certain contexts, the n word is ok?

Shoal07 wrote:

So, what you're saying is that no word is "so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context" because in certain contexts, the n word is ok?

We're talking about racial slurs here, so I'd assume it's understood that the group to whom the slur refers is safe to use it. No word in the English language is some sort of linguistic bomb that will melt the brain of everyone hearing it.

complexmath wrote:
Shoal07 wrote:

So, what you're saying is that no word is "so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context" because in certain contexts, the n word is ok?

We're talking about racial slurs here, so I'd assume it's understood that the group to whom the slur refers is safe to use it. No word in the English language is some sort of linguistic bomb that will melt the brain of everyone hearing it.

Tubgirl.

In the UK, the word "Paki" is used by small minded bigots as a slur towards any person who is brown-skinned (differentiated from "black"). I fall into this incredibly broad category, and have been the target of the derogatory use of the word as well.

I stand to be corrected, but I believe that the word is a perfectly acceptable shortening of "Pakistani" in Australia, and I recall seeing a TV ad for a cricket tour featuring a chant of "The Pakis are coming, the Pakis are coming". It was not meant to be derogatory in any way, and is simply used as an accurate, albeit abbreviated, descriptive term there. It is simply not an acceptable term in the UK at all, and will lead to prosecution is a complaint is made by the target. This is due entirely to the overwhelmingly derogatory usage over several decades here.

The word is not eveil in an of itself, but the repeated an extensive use of it as a slur has rendered it so in this country, and not in another English speaking nation.

Under English law, the word "foreigner" can be capable of forming the basis for a finding of the commission of a racially aggravated offence. The case in question dealt with the wording "Bloody foreigners" coupled with the usual "get back to your own country" sentiment. A totally inoffensive word rendered very offensive due to context and intent.

Over time, words such as "Paki" and the n-word become so connected with a negative connotation when used by some cultures or groups that they become inextricably linked with causing offence, and it is practically impossible to "rehabilitate" them for that group to use them without causing offence.

Words are just that, words. It's the meaning behind the words that matter. Look at "Blazing Saddles". They use the n-word ( not sure if it's censored on these boards ) all throughout the movie, but they never use it in a negative/derogatory sense. People would say that they used it 'correctly'. There is a time and a place for all these words. People might not like the word being spoke, and just hearing a word can hurt people. Those people have to live with that. Me? I call Black people Black. I call Gay people Gay. Lesbians are Lesbians. If people don't like it when I call them that and ask to be called something else, it's a-ok with me. Shoot, calling people White or Southern could be hurtful to people because then there is a stereotype that follows, but that doesn't mean that you cannot ever call somebody White. If somebody calls you a f*g with a hurtful tone, it's the hurtful tone that I would pay attention to. Being called names/stereotypes myself, it's the tone behind the name calling, not the specific words used.

Slight derail:
I hate that they ban words on TV/Radio. If parents don't want their kids watching it on TV, stop them from watching it on TV. We're adults. We shouldn't have to pay for HBO/Showtime/etc to watch content that we want to watch.

Oh, I get what the thread is about now.

shihonage wrote:

Oh, I get what the thread is about now.

edit: I'm learning a lot about racial slurs today

I tip my hat to you, shihonage. Well played.

I love social commentary.

Do we really need to fight for the right to say things that offend people? Don't we do enough offending with what we have already?

LobsterMobster wrote:
MechaSlinky wrote:

There was a discussion a while back at David Jaffe's blog about the words "gay" and "f*g" used in the context of a joke or in a sentence to mean "wimpy, girly or weak" rather than "homosexual"

So saying someone is girlish is less offensive than saying they're as weak as a gay man? ;)

I was hoping someone would say that. That was quick!

Datyedyeguy wrote:

They use the n-word ( not sure if it's censored on these boards )

It's not. I checked. It's actually what I was talking about in the first two paragraphs, but I didn't want to say it specifically because I was interested in seeing where the conversation would go without steering it in the first post.

It's kind of telling that f*g is censored while nigger remains uncensored here. Obviously, nigger is the stronger word with the longer history of being offensive and has no real other meanings outside of its intended offensiveness, so it makes sense that the GWJLords would assume that a board full of mature adult-like people would be unlikely to ever use it. But that f*g is censored means either they thought people may use it or it has been used in the past, and there lies the question of what does that mean?

Here is a link to David Jaffe's blog.

And here is what he wrote on the subject in his blog, minus the pictures and with a few edits so that Certis remains un-awesome.

David Jaffe wrote:

I grew up in a time when the words 'GAY' and 'F*G' were easily tossed around as insults. I am ashamed to admit that I- as a boy and teenager- used both terms when jokingly insulting my friends (and seriously insulting my enemies) more than I should have (i.e. more than once). But it was the times and back then it never occurred to many of us that using those words in such a fashion could have really been hurting a gay person who was in earshot- closeted or out, but back then, I didn't know a single gay person in my school...I imagine that's very different for high schoolers today?...

...but today, for me and the people I know, the F word in any context and the word 'Gay' when used in a derogatory way are simply unacceptable. I hope visitors to this blog feel the same.

But the issue now is, I find myself without a good word to describe a guy- or the action of a guy- that is wimpy and soft and girly. I mean, I could use the words: wimpy, soft, and girly, but none of those have the same punch as the old 'G word', you know? How much of the power of the 'G word' tho, comes from the fact that a portion of our society still has an ignorance and hatred of gay people? And how much of it comes from the actual phonics of the word itself? Probably the former. Especially considering that I do know gay people now and with the exception of one, I no longer associate gay people with the adjectives wimpy, soft, or girly.

And before you accuse me of being ultra PC, remember, that same sort of 'oh you're being too sensitive' sentiment was tossed around back in the 60's when discussing civil rights for African Americans. And look where we are- thank God- today. Look who is in the White House.

And so, no, I don't think I am being too sensitive about this. Words matter in that they help form our reality. And so I will choose to continue to avoid these two words. But that brings me to the issue, the dilemma, and the whole point of this post.

I saw this online this morning, and I really, really want it.

(Picture of some Disney Christmas tree ornament thing that looks totally gay.)

Does that make me totally...err....wimpy, soft and girly?

David

So, it's not so much about if f*g is always offensive, but is using the term f*g in an inoffensive context subconsciously perpetuating a negative stereotype of homosexuals in society? I don't agree with David Jaffe, and like I said, I'm pretty set in this. But this is one of those times where even though I really feel that I'm right, I know I could easily be wrong. Unlike something like, say, the gay marriage debate, to me it just seems like there's so much gray area to explore in the middle.

Since we're posting funny YouTube videos, have this one!

Jayhawker wrote:

Do we really need to fight for the right to say things that offend people? Don't we do enough offending with what we have already?

The right to offend people is at the very foundation of what the United States was built upon.

MechaSlinky wrote:
Jayhawker wrote:

Do we really need to fight for the right to say things that offend people? Don't we do enough offending with what we have already?

The right to offend people is at the very foundation of what the United States was built upon.

And people have the right to be offended. Cuts both ways.

Rubb Ed wrote:
complexmath wrote:
Shoal07 wrote:

So, what you're saying is that no word is "so culturally loaded that they can't safely be used in any context" because in certain contexts, the n word is ok?

We're talking about racial slurs here, so I'd assume it's understood that the group to whom the slur refers is safe to use it. No word in the English language is some sort of linguistic bomb that will melt the brain of everyone hearing it.

Tubgirl.

Seldom has someone been so right while being so very, very wrong. You, sir, are a bad person.

I heard once that the word African Americans use is "n*gga," not "n*gger," and that this is a distinction, not a dialect. Kind of like how the gay community took "queer" for their own, it's a method of empowerment. A word is used as a weapon against them so they take it, claim it, and neutralize it. In time, the meaning changes. In 50 years, "n*gga" may be as universal and common as, "dude" is today, by people of all races. Then again, maybe not. RIGHT NOW, it's an offensive word. When African Americans use it with each other there is an implicit understanding that they are claiming the word and rejecting the hate behind it. African Americans - OK, look, I'm just going to say blacks because I'm not just talking about Africans and I'm not just talking about Americans - are ALLOWED to be offended when someone calls them "n*gga," even if that someone happens to be black as well.

When I was in college a black (Jamaican American!) friend and co-worker of mine told me that I was his "n*gga," and while I appreciated the sentiment and was genuinely touched that he trusted me enough to use that word with me, I wouldn't dare to say anything like, "you're my n*gga, too." I can understand how HE was using that word and his meaning was clearly conveyed, but that is not how I use (or rather do NOT use) that word.

We need to remember that all words are abstracts. All words are lies. A word is a purely symbolic representation of something that is incapable of conveying truth: as one of my teachers put it, the word "CAT" cannot catch a mouse. Language is a negotiation between what the speaker means by words and how the audience interprets those words, and THAT is the power of political correctness, because if you can use a new, untainted word with someone then you can escape any assumptions or connotations they might have about that word. It's the closest you can get to removing all that "interference" from language.

To quote, Your Poem, Man by Edward Lueders,

"Plug us
into the wrong socket and see
what blows--or what lights up.
Try
untried
circuitry,
new
fuses.
Tell it like it never really was,
man,
and maybe we can seeit
like it is."

A part of the problem with language in general is that most people have a very limited knowledge of the vocabulary available to them. For many topics there are a ton of words available with subtly different meanings, but people tend to always use the same one or two regardless. So I suppose it's really no surprise that a man was forced to resign for using "niggardly" appropriately.

Axon wrote:
MechaSlinky wrote:
Jayhawker wrote:

Do we really need to fight for the right to say things that offend people? Don't we do enough offending with what we have already?

The right to offend people is at the very foundation of what the United States was built upon.

And people have the right to be offended. Cuts both ways.

Totally.

As a slightly tangential aside, I find the idea that simple expletives can be automatically 'bad' -- to the point that GWJ itself censors a number of them. There's nothing inherently wrong with the word f*ck; it doesn't really mean very much anymore.

But, nonetheless, people get offended if you use it. It's just profound stupidity, taboos for the sake of HAVING taboos, not because it actually matters very much.

Malor wrote:

As a slightly tangential aside, I find the idea that simple expletives can be automatically 'bad' -- to the point that GWJ itself censors a number of them. There's nothing inherently wrong with the word f*ck; it doesn't really mean very much anymore.

But, nonetheless, people get offended if you use it. It's just profound stupidity, taboos for the sake of HAVING taboos, not because it actually matters very much.

Or because work place filters look for curse words and block sites based on their existence.