Brewer's Droop #214
PARENTAL GUIDANCE IS ADVISED
I’m getting rather concerned about what’s happening to my two favourite subjects, reeding and righting.
I was reading the notes of a Victorian Army Officer recently and in every place where he’d written the word “damn” or “damned” someone (I think his Auntie) had crossed the word out and put d*** instead. And I thought to myself, what a boringly pious group the Victorians were.
Then the other evening I watched a Jewish man in London protesting about the use of the “Y” word when Spurs’ supporters chanted it at football matches. One of the panel members said that it was an affectionate abbreviation of “Yiddish” but he was having none of it. “It’s okay for me to use the ‘Y’ word” he said “but I’m offended if YOU use it!”
Well, there goes the neighbourhood I thought.
The next thing is an Italian is going to sue someone because they called him an “eye-tie” and that he was offended by it. It will then become illegal to use the ‘E’ word.
Then I got to thinking…when did the words F*** and C*** and B***** become offensive?
I mean, language is a beautiful thing, and English (the only one I know) constantly has new words added to it. That’s what makes it such a graphic language.
Swear words, however, seem to become less vulgar with the passage of time. For example, “bastard” was so incredibly rude in Tudor times that Shakespeare wrote it as “b-d”.
“Shit” seems to have become less naughty over the past few decades. It’s always meant faeces but these days we use the word liberally in just about any situation.
So who actually was the person that decided “bugger” is a very bad word and mustn’t be used in polite society? (Your email filter has now “bounced” me for being obscene by the way). It was probably a descendant of the Auntie who crossed out the word “damn”, although the Australians don’t seem to have a problem with it – in fact one of my favourite TV commercials of all time uses the word rather a lot actually – you can see it here:
And let’s not stop there. Why is the ‘K’ word or the ‘N’ word so cruel and obscene? Why do I find myself getting angry when I hear those words used? Because that’s what they are – just words. And how many more words will be declared disgusting?
If I apply my intelligence to the matter I can understand how an American might one day decide that being called a ‘Yank” is extremely disturbing. Then he may very well take that to the Human Rights Commission and ‘Yank’ will join ‘Eye-Tie’ and their use forbidden thereafter.
But at what stage will they become as offensive as the ‘K’ and ‘N’ words? Can they ever be so? I, for one, can never imagine myself ever using them in conversation during the remainder of my lifetime because they’re just too ugly and repulsive – and will remain so in my mind forever.
But who made the declaration that they are such bad words? That’s what bothers me.
I did some research and found that the ‘N’ word was widely used around the world and apparently caused no offence. However, by the 1900s it had become a pejorative word, especially in the USA, and it seems that a journalist was responsible for it becoming the ugly word it is today when, in 1904, Clifford Johnson documented the “opprobrious” character of the word – blaming the Southern States who wanted to be as insulting as possible.
The ‘K’ word was used to describe all black people in the southern region of Africa, having been used extensively in the Arabic world. It was used by Boer trek farmers to describe a person not yet converted to Christianity. It was such an innocuous word that many books used it in their titles. Great reference books like Encyclopaedia Britannica used it extensively. In fact it only became a “bad” word during the 20th century and, according to Wikipedia, use of the word became actionable in court by 1976 in South Africa. That’s rather a quick turn around from good to evil – and who was the man who declared it should be illegal?
Will an Irishman, following the lead of the Yanks and the Eye-Ties, take someone to court for calling him a ‘Paddy’ or a Welshman a ‘Taffy’ or someone from Liverpool a ‘Scouse’? Will they all eventually become banned words?
Well I’m fucked if I know – but I think we’re all just a little too precious sometimes.
And here’s the big one: why isn’t there an offensive word for a White, Anglo Saxon Englishman? I really cannot think of one – how can that possibly be?
If you happen know one then please let me know – but remember that the F, C and B words have already been taken.
SHE WAS ESCORTED BY HER FATHER WEARING A PINK DRESS
Apart from the deterioration of the English language that seems to have occurred parallel with the popularity of social media, I’m starting to get really offended by the fact that there are many people who apparently have never been taught how to write a polite letter (or email).
I mean, it’s not difficult to grasp. All you have to do is to imagine you’re actually talking to someone face-to-face. You say “please” and “thank you” and that sort of thing.
So why do so many people write terse messages?
They issue demands, they don’t politely ask. They don’t thank others. In fact you can almost see them not smiling when they’re writing. Then they get their spacing all wrong and the entire thing looks as if it’s been thrown together without much thought – many don’t even bother to use spell-check.
Weren’t they taught the very basics of message composition at school?
And why, oh why, are many of them so “stiff”?
You don’t say “further to our telephonic conversation” in a letter or email – just as you wouldn’t in a face-to-face conversation). You say something like “ it was very productive chatting to you on the ‘phone this morning”.
And be VERY careful about using too many caps. In a written message it looks just like shouting. I once nearly lost a good friend because of this so I use it parsimoniously these days.
Very nice people are often considered to be rude and/or aggressive simply because of their use of the written word. It’s a great shame really.
Please don’t be one of them – thanks. (See? It’s easy to be polite.)
Based on whatever feedback I get from you b-d’s I’ll be writing more on this later. And I haven’t even touched on grammar and spelling yet!
Am going to enjoy the sunshine now.