A Mythunderstanding of Slang and the Morality of Profanity

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by gendanken, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    I used to love pointing out that the sadist who put the ‘s’ in ‘lisp’ was the same one that stuck an ‘r’ in “rhoticism”, defined as the inability to pronounce the letter ‘r’. Humans being the type of organism that would scalp your mother over undercooked peas, such a harmless observation about language has actually managed to piss someone off. That was the fun part: I could always count on that one illiterate prick arguing in double negatives that “nobody owns no language” to put that extra sniff in my Awesome Scholar’s Arrogance.

    Because everyone knows educated people don’t start sentences with because, curse, use slang, and most certainly never aim to boldly split infinitives, these little etiquettes have given us the “polished peasant” who delights in knowing he finds Sara Lee’s “Nobody Doesn’t like Sara Lee” grammatically offensive as it associates him with class regardless of how much of the dirt on his face is chocolate frosting.

    In 2003, Lynn Truss wrote “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, a hilarious tale of a pedant mourning the death of punctuation: she refuses to board the buses at Victoria Station because posters on the side advertising Hugh Grant’s “Two Weeks Notice” were maliciously missing an apostrophe. Defining the capacity for nausea at the comma in “Bob,s Pets” as a Seventh Sense only the elite possess, she’d rather curl up in a box than live in a world where signs like “Waiter’s Wanted” exist to offend with their awful punctuation.

    Now, there is no question language is important: the human brain assembles the world a million ways a million times a day by juggling words in ways the best computers sweat through. It shapes culture in intriguing ways: the Australian aboriginal language Dyirbal classes nouns into four categories:

    1) animate objects and men
    2) women, water, fire, dangerous things
    3) edible fruit and vegetables
    4) miscellaneous.

    So where an English speaker, for example, is required to inflect nouns only in respect to number and verb agreement, the Dyirbal speaker must first identify that noun as either an animate object or male, if it’s female or poses a threat to his safety, and finally whether or not he can eat it before he can utter a single sentence.

    Isn’t that fucking interesting?

    It’s the closest thing to cultural empathy, learning to speak a language that forces your brain through so many steps that ultimately interpret women as measles.

    Some languages, like Latin and Chinese, have no words for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and even though it’s not true that Irish has no word for “sex”, it is true that it doesn’t have a word for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ either. Some languages, like Japanese, have the “adversative-passive” tense for verbs which, like the insanity clause, allows people to abdicate responsibility: Mishima didn’t commit suicide; he was suicided.

    But despite awesome German nouns like “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” or the Spanish word for handcuffs meaning ‘wife’, language, like all heroes, has a tragic flaw.

    Without a pinch of salt, it achieves the alchemy of transmuting the ugliest hypocrisies into a ‘spreading-of-democracy’ or arbitrarily vilifying human impulses by labeling them a ‘sin’. In a fell swoop, it undermines a person’s social class and therefore value by lumping how he speaks into a subcategory called ‘slang’ we’re taught to associate with imbecility without having to prove why that person is below us.

    It slaughtered Lenny Bruce, a genius smarter than the morons who never had to explain why Bruce was being arrested other than because he used words like ‘cocksucker’ and was therefore immoral and therefore disobedient. In 1966, two such cocksuckers conducted tests on black children and concluded that from their absent use of Proper Grammar they were little more than animals. So what else could condescending bigots do but set up a slew of “Bereiter-Engelmann” preschools, institutions where these awful little savages could be taught a little class by imitating white people ordering pork rinds on the telephone?

    Exactly how is being repulsed by the way a person speaks different than being nauseated by their skin color? It’s a bitter pill to swallow for us pedants: both are forms of willful negligence allowing you to assume value without having to create it. So what if it’s amusing knowing your gorgeous ear is sensitive to the erroneous modifying of verbs with adjectives? There is little qualitative difference between Ms. Truss refusing to board a bus transporting awful grammar and Lurleen refusing to because she’d have to sit next to a ‘nigger’. Who decided the ‘f’ and ‘b’ words were profanity anyway? How about some real nasty ‘f’ bombs like fired and Federline or even nastier ‘b’ ones like Bells, oops, I mean bills?

    So here’s the lesson: there isn’t a single person, group, or entity on this planet that has ever owned something as powerful as language and neither is it possible. The real moron is not the one blurting ‘fuck your asshole’ but the one presuming he knows what that person is because he buys into the myth of slang or profanity being intellectually and spiritually inferior and therefore forms of immorality: it grants him the petty narcissism of being able to show that he’s offended.

    But does this mean grammar is racist and we should therefore storm its Versailles of elitism and behead it?

    Before we start whetting blades, I leave you with this:

    In 1327, Welsh conspirators needed to murder King Edward II without clear evidence of their involvement. One of them sent this note to the perpetrators: “Kill Edward not to fear is good”. Purposely ambiguous, punctuation was left out in case the plot backfired. So poor little Edward did die at the mercy of a scalding iron shimmied up his anus where, quite frankly, the one thing that could’ve saved his colon was a colon.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member


    Love this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcepgXwWbjI
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  5. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    That was fucking awesome.

    Anyway, Ms. Wynn, kinda glad you showed up here because I do believe you have a thread up somewhere about how much you deplore people that curse.

    Seeing as how you love to beat your skull on deconstructions, turn that forehead on yourself for this thread:

    Why does saying I would love to kick Fraggle's pontificating asshole offend you?

    Why does your brain automatically cut a human 's worth or value when it hears a bad word?
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  7. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Now, I realize I have no cute videos of pets licking children or pictures of Wall Street Occupiers and Jesus getting pepper sprayed by the most awesome cop on the planet but COME ON PEOPLE.

  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Dictionary.com assures us that the word (which has cognates in all the Germanic languages) is of imitative origin. Huh?
    Like "lisp," this word was not created for use by the people who suffer from the affliction. Rho is simply the Greek letter P, which is pronounced as a European-standard flapped R. We also have the word non-rhotic, describing the many British dialects (including RP or "Oxford/BBC English" if I'm not mistaken) in which an R after a vowel is silent: staht/start, wheah/where, foh/for, youah/your, buhd/bird, heah/here.

    Considering that there are at least five different ways of pronouncing R in the Indo-European languages alone, I find it difficult to believe that anyone lives who can't pronounce any of them!
    • The gargled uvular R of northern France and Germany.
    • The even more guttural R of urban Brazilian Portuguese.
    • The "lowered third formant" (I copied that from Wikipedia, whatever it means) of most American English dialects.
    • The flap used by just about everybody else...
    • Which can also be lengthened into a trill which is a distinct phoneme in Spanish but is widely used for humorous effect in other languages.
    Americans claim that they can't pronounce the Spanish R, until you ask them to say the homonyms "rider" and "writer" and then explain that this flap to which both consonants have degenerated in our country is the Spanish/Italian/Greek/Russian/Japanese/nearly universal human R.
    These are the same people who say "between you and I" because they know "him and me went to the store" is wrong, who think "dove" is the past tense of "dive," and pronounce the T in "often" and the C in "arctic." What's next, the S in "island"? That was a lexicographer's error, the word is not related to "isle"; at least "often" and "arctic" have a historical claim to their silent consonants.
    My favorite is the (apocryphal) book dedication: "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God."
    Many contracts stipulate "one month notice," indicating that the phrase is just an accretion rather than a possessive.
    It's bad enough that English spelling has only a casual relationship to pronunciation--the only major European language that never underwent a spelling reform. If we now expect people to stop and think whether the word they pronounce as "waiters" should be spelled waiter's, waiters' or waiters, our expectations are cruel.
    That categorization paradigm is an extension of what we call "gender" since gender is the only category in Indo-European--although it applies rather arbitrarily to nouns that have no sex and therefore is almost surely a simplified version of an older, richer paradigm. Other languages have as many as eleven categories.
    Learning a foreign language is always a valuable experience because it challenges your own model of the universe. This is why every child should be taught a second language when they're very young and it's so much easier. Since the majority of our thoughts are formed in words, having a second language allows us to test their sheer reality.
    I don't know why that urban legend is still hanging around in the era of Wikipedia. Every language has a word for negation and that word or some inflection of it almost always becomes "no." In Latin it's non, which requires no explanation, and in Mandarin it's bu, the same particle you put in front of a verb to mean "not," "don't," etc. Both "yes" and "no" carry so much emotion that they are often replaced by stronger words. "Yes" in particular is difficult to trace back from one language into its ancestors. The Romans said ita, but the modern Romance languages are often divided conveniently into les langues d'oc and les langues d'oeuil, based on whether their word for "yes" is something like Italian si or something like French oui.

    Oh BTW, the Chinese say shi for "yes." The literal meaning is "(it) is." In Cantonese it's pronounced hai (or it may actually be a different word, I don't know much about Cantonese), the same Chinese word that the Japanese use.
    European linguists jump through hoops trying to fit every language into their own familiar syntactical paradigm of subject-verb-object. Japanese uses a topic-description syntax. This is where those cute koans come from: "The master and the pupil walked through the forest. (One) kicked (the other) and they parted forever." In Japanese the verb can stand by itself with no apology for the ambiguity.

    This is also why European linguists insist that Chinese has adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions. It does not. It only has nouns and verbs, a few oddball parts of speech like numerals, and a couple of particles that really don't do much more than help you parse the sentence. Hong does not mean "red." It means "to be red." So niao hong does not mean "bird red" as though people in the world's oldest continuous civilization speak baby talk; it means "bird is red." Hong niao means "being-red bird."
    You're born with skin color and can't change it (at least until recently), whereas language is something you're taught and can conceivably change. To hate someone for his color is to hate him for the accident of who his parents were. To hate someone for the way he speaks is to hate him for the accident of.... oh crap.

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    Various anglophone cultures have at times sent their children to schools where they were taught the "proper" or "standard" or "upper class" accent or dialect. Even here in the USA, I have a friend in Virginia whose parents sent her to a private school where she acquired a Yankee accent and lost their own Southern drawl. In England they're taught "Received Pronunciation." In Latin America today only actors are taught to speak with a Mexican accent so when a family on a soap opera sits down to dinner it doesn't sound like they weren't all born in the same country, but it's only a matter of time before just plain folks want their kids to sound like somebody else too.
    Last week's Style Invitational word contest in the Washington post defined "grammar" as: "The rules of language as spoken by the generation immediately preceding yours." (And I can't resist adding their definition of "Yoda": "A humanoid creature of supposedly superior intelligence who could not learn to speak English correctly in 900 years.")
  9. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    To be sure!

    The deploration is all your doing.

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    Because I think: Why would Gendanken, or anyone else for that matter, want to hurt anyone? ... Is it wise of me to continue to communicate with her, given that she says she wants to hurt others? ... I think I betray myself if I continue to communicate with someone who has the intention to hurt others.

    It's not about cutting a person's intrinsic worth or value, but it is about me having the desire to distance myself from certain people.
    Because cursing, swearing and other forms of negativity are lower states of consciousness. Someone intent on a higher consciousness does not seek or indulge in lower states.

    As I am not pure, I still enjoy some ruinous fun, despite knowing that it is ruinous.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Well, that is "rhotacism," actually, although "rhoticism" is a word too.

    Why do you blame this on language - rather than on those who use it?

    The issue is rather, why people can be repulsed and nauseated to begin with.
    Why are their minds not like earth? The earth isn't delighted when beautiful things fall on it, and doesn't get upset when ugly things fall on it.

    I am reminded of a certain passage from the second chapter of "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

    People who take offense at particular language uses may have a variety of reasons for that.

    For example, there is the self-absorbed elitism of classical upbringing, and then there is simple sensitivity to any negativity.

    Liberalism is, in the long run, not a viable outlook on life.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    With that definition of grammar, no wonder even Yoda can't master English.
    Actually, with that definition of grammar, especially Yoda can't master English.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  12. Ripley Valued Senior Member

    Well, I rarely swear in writing—not because I deplore cursing (I enjoy it tremendously) but because it heedlessly discloses my sense of deliberation. I mean, I just can't pull it off and make it sound spontaneous like you Gendanken, or how Xev or Dr Lunatic did. There's an art form to cursing when writing that, when done improperly, exposes the dilettante from the artist. It's amazing how many dilettantes are out there—the offense they yield is in their forced delivery, and not in their choice of words.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  13. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    Many persons use swearing and expletive-deletives to convey emotion and intensity. In the presence of some, the terminology can be downright edifying.

    A person who can use swear words intelligently is not offensive to me, provided they are not being disrespectful of other persons.

    A person who has no scope beyond a gutter vocabulary just plainly holds no interest for me.
  14. Ripley Valued Senior Member

    But that's the crux of the argument against using profanity against another: used intelligently, it hits. And if that intelligence—which is a respectable quality—conveys disrespect against another, then, why, there just might be something apropos about their disrespect.
  15. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    There are other means to convey lack of respect than by the use of emotional and inappropriate vocabulary. The English language is quite capable of evisceration without resort to vulgarity, in my observation.

    If one resorts to such vernacular, one must be observant of separating the situation from the individual. Demean the circumstance but not the person.

    The audience will draw it's own conclusions.
  16. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Nitpiggers, oink!!
    Allow me,

    No, they don't.

    The article "a" you wrote up there in "a word" means a single word and not every language has one. These languages, like Irish and Finish, merely rearrange the words of the question into an echo response as they lack a simple "yes" or "no" in their lexicon.

    "Are you wrong about "no" words in Irish, Fraggle?", asked Gendanken.
    "I am", said Fraggle.

    The problem is that people take that to mean these speakers have no way of negating something and are therefore ripe for stealing their lunch money; however, these speakers can express negative and affirmative statements as perfectly as the simple word 'no' does.

    Watch Wynn's video. Then read the links.

    Now, Latin...

    Also has no equivalent of "no". Latin uses sentence adverbs like 'certe" (surely) in conjunction with other words, like 'non':

    "Damnatum?Certe non" (Am I condemned? certainly not) (passage loosely taken from Cicero)

    The negator 'non' is never used by itself, the way we answer 'no' on its own.

    Are you making this up as you go or maybe I'm wrong? I thought the word 'shi' in Chinese meant "it is", which is a way of saying "yes".

    I love the Darth Vader meme that got started years ago over a bootleg copy of Star Wars in Cantonese, where Darth Vader screaming "Noooooooooooooooooo!!" is translated into "Do not want".

    Not sure what the 'huh?' is meant to convey.


    Yeah...( did you know it used to not be that way? Americans speak an English closer to the "original" of England. The Brits dropped their r's shortly after New Englanders started colonizing. Don't know why, though)

    Yeah....all interesting stuff (especially about Americans believing they can't execute the rolled 'r' of Spanish) but my intro was just humor.

    Isn't it tragic, though? A lisper having to eckthplain to thomebody that they have a lithp?

    Now that I think of it, the English pronunciation of the 'r' in 'rider' and 'writer' is not the same as the rolled 'r' of Spanish. I don't know if that awesome trill I feel on my palette when saying:

    "Requete chula, mi negra!"

    is what you mean by 'flap' and, if so, what you mean by it 'degenerating from the universal R means'. In any case, it is not the same. "Rider" in my mouth folds the tongue like a taco and nips the gums near the molars.

    The Spanish "r" folds backwards and laps the palattate with a delicious quiver....RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

    Americans have to consciously mimic it to achieve it at all. Say 'writer' to yourself right now and tell me what your tongue does.

    The same ones 'begging the question' clueless to what begging a question actually means and using the term 'niceties' to mean 'table manners'

    Pardon, but sometimes its hard getting the tone of what someone is saying.

    Was the 'oh crap' used to communicate a sudden realization of something?

    Love this:

    Wynn and Riply, next posts are yours.
  17. Gustav Banned Banned


    i guess
    not really

    i still prefer to learn my english from.....

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    ...that goddess

    /scuttles off to miss marina
  18. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    So what's the sound of necrotic brain tissue drawing a conclusion?


    (You really do have-- and I mean every vowel in this word-- ATROCIOUS taste in women)
  19. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    I thought Gendy had left us again.
  20. Gustav Banned Banned


    lumping women into the 2nd category necessarily implies that?
    care to share your reasoning?
  21. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Sure does.

    Teach a feminist a little Dyirbal,which forces her brain to interpret women as not only inanimate but associated with poison and you've made her Gendanken.

    Kidding. But its a neat little way of perceiving the world, speaking a language with little to no consonants or one which classes their nouns weird.
    You use the word 'mortgage' freely day to day, but saying it with French on the brain forces you to think about what a mortgage actually is: "deal with the devil"

    Like your hairline, I come and go.

    Now, welcome me back or die.
  22. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    Can't even spell my name. My hairline is doing just fine...although it is getting a little grey around the edges. It must suck being you...all bitter all the time.

    Welcome back.
  23. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Fine, then.
    Like your paycheck, I come and go.

    I can pluck a string on that viol you keep playing and change that tune of yours by simply saying I love and appreciate the value your manly awesomeoness contributes to this empty world of mine.


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