Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Word Choice

Or more correctly choice words. Four letter words. I use them from time to time. Sometimes those little zingers are just the thing. Sometimes they are overkill or frankly, as I tell the kiddos, there are better word choices out there, anyone could use that word, so go find the RIGHT word.

That said, I think that our touchiness with subjects that deal with alternative lifestyles, sex, violence, and gender, are supported with the creation of a curtain of "obscenity" and that curtain is woven together with banned words. We deem obscene that which we are not willing to face, deal with or acknowledge. Erasing words from the collective vocabulary is the human equivalent to an ostrich burying its head in the sand.

This story in the Other Paper caught my eye the other day.

If the mainstream wants to ostracize a group, then the easy way to do that is to make that groups vocabulary or words taboo or obscene. Culture depends on a common language or vocabulary. Word choice matters.

While I am not a lawyer and therefore some of what Chris Fairman says fails to make some sense to me, I do agree with the premise of this article:

Fuck reviews notable Supreme Court decisions that, Fairman argues, have empowered institutionalized censorship in the form of state anti-obscenity statutes and actions by federal agencies like the FCC. The book also includes chapters on “Genderspeak in the Workplace” and “Fuck in Teacher Speech.”

Fairman is concerned not only with state-regulated speech, but with moralists who push for self-censorship and government enforcement of their own linguistic taboos.

“Refraining from the use of fuck only reinforces the taboo,” Fairman writes. “Silence empowers a small segment of the population to try to sanitize our vocabulary under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law.”

I do know however that this sanitizing of speech is insidious. It is a question of who gets to decide. I have a real problem with the "government" being that who. I also have a problem when those choices are made with the desire to exclude. Who gets to decide is the real question.

Words are the vehicles, which we as humans, writers, journalists, mothers, fathers, children form our thoughts and ideas into something tangible to share. Words have power.

Don't believe me. Take a gander at the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. A big giant F-you to the king of England - and obviously words with teeth enough to start a war...**

**Disclaimer - While I have not read Mr. Fairman's book, it is on my to be read list. That said, I have read the bill of rights and the declaration more than once.

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