Friday, June 21, 2013

Hector from Hagerstown Poses a Friday Thirsty on Words.

Q: Are there really words "we" cannot or should not say?


24 comments:

  1. Why is anyone even surprised?

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    1. This was my thought, too. Paula Deen is exactly the person to still think in these terms and use these words.

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  2. You are 'free' to say anything you want to say, but there are always consequences for that freedom. Some words or statements have worse consequences than others.

    I don't think Paula Deen is sorry she used the n word. But she's sorry the public found out and she's really sorry her contract won't be renewed at the Food Network.

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  3. I said the "n word" when I was talking about racism in the south thirty years ago vs. today to a composition class . I had a bad experience back then--I was looking at an apartment and the manager told me proudly that she didn't "rent to niggers." Scratch that one off my list. I actually said the word to the class because it sounded stupid and patronizing to report that she didn't "rent to n-words". I mean, seriously.

    We were talking about racism, and in context of course I was trying to convey how white people used to say the word openly to other whites thirty years ago (I've lived in the deep south for about twenty of the last thirty years). I can only speak as a white person--and there definitely has been a big difference in how openly another white person would say the word "nigger" in front of me. I would have said the word "kike" if she'd used the word kike.

    Telling that story got me reported to the university. I didn't get in "trouble" but I definitely am not going to use that word again with freshmen. They aren't mature enough to handle it, even within an appropriate context. I don't think they understand context.

    Certainly there's been a palpable shift even in the past ten years, where using the word in any context whatsoever, even to discuss the word itself, is now verboten. I think the real turning point was the Michael Richards rant.

    Still, having one word be so fraught with anxiety seems dumb to me. I'm a woman but I'm not stupid. I know the word "bitch" can be used all sorts of ways, not all of them insulting. Depends on who, and where, and how they're using it. However if people are going to be so sensitive about it that they can't see context, I'm not going to say the "n-word," even when talking about the "n-word". Life's hard enough as it is.

    As for Paula Deen, well, she would have been one of the white people in the south saying that word to me thirty years ago. Or last week. Whatever.

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    1. College freshmen are not ready for the use/mention distinction, though they certainly should be. Sadly, I don't need to tell my current crop about stuff like this - they live it. This is a part of the country where I saw a guy in a convenience store the other day with a shirt saying "The Original Boys in the Hood," with a graphic of the KKK on it. Get me the hell out of this place, for real.

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    2. Louis CK has a good bit about this - he talks about how saying "the n-word" is actually a form of cheating, because it allows people to throw it around a lot more. As he puts it, " you say 'the n-word' and I think 'oh, she means 'nigger.'' You're making me say it in my head ... why don't YOU fucking say it instead, and take responsibility, for the shitty words you want to say?" A very George Carlin-esque bit.

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    3. I'm not going to say it. Let's get Mikey to say it.



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    4. Stella, I would keep using it. I've used it before in my comp class (we used to read and write about "The Meanings of a Word" http://englishiiirockstars.wikispaces.com/file/view/Gloria%20Naylor--The%20Meanings%20of%20a%20Word.pdf . I think I'll do it again next semester (teach that essay). The freshmen are immature, but they can learn new tricks. Of course, I teach in the inner city and they use the word all the time, so it leads to interesting discussions about the use of the word originally, when Naylor wrote this essay, and today.

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    5. I mean, of course, that I would keep using it in contexts like this one. Words only have as much power as we give them, and it's not a bad thing to get college freshman to think about that.

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    6. 'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

      Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

      'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

      'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

      'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

      'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

      Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

      'Would you tell me please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

      'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

      'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

      'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

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    7. It's not just freshmen anymore. It can be sophomores, juniors, and even seniors. Oh lord, the anti-intellectual, overly sensitive seniors I have seen!

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    8. Back when I was young (and had more faith in my students) I once said the word "cunt" in class to demonstrate a point--and because I also feel that omitting volatile words is just patronizing--and lord, the evaluations it got me!

      They're not ready for serious words, and they never will be. Not when the vast majority of the English-speaking world flies off the handle when anyone uses the word "niggardly."

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  4. Words? Oh, please. Ask Larry Summers about how open minded faculty are.

    You should not pursue research that your institution is not willing to stand behind. You academic freedom exists only to the extent that your administrators can cover their asses.

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  5. She sounds so sincere, she could be Dean Deen.

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  6. Everyone is so focused on her use of the "N-word" and the "Sambo burger" that they lose sight of what started all this, a lawsuit in which Deen and her brother are accused of racial and sexual harassment and discrimination in their restaurants. Calling an employee the N word, discriminating between “good” and “bad” black people, humiliating and treating AA staff differently than white staff, including making them use different facilities. This isn't just a somewhat clueless older white person not being PC. This is about open and blatant discrimination.

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  7. Paula Deen was featured on an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and was shocked - SHOCKED - to discover that her Southern ancestors owned slaves.

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    1. Anyone who has watched Paula Deen for all the years she's been a celebrity MUST know she's not the brightest bulb in the box. And I don't think it's ALL an act (though she definitely plays it up for show). She's demonstrated a rather disgusting pride at being uneducated (I would call her a "dumbass" as well). She's also demonstrated a surprising vulgarity (the best word I can choose to describe her behavior/actions/words/demeanor) as she's gotten more comfortable with her celebrity. Ever see her skeeve out on an attractive young guy? Ick! And that's just one example.

      She might be a perfectly pleasant woman, but then most people who are racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. are perfectly pleasant ... until they encounter the group(s) of people who trigger their prejudice.

      None of this surprises me. None of it. And her apology was most likely completely sincere. This may be the first time ANYONE ever confronted her with how her behavior shows something distressing about her character.

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    2. "She might be a perfectly pleasant woman, but then most people who are racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. are perfectly pleasant ... until they encounter the group(s) of people who trigger their prejudice." <-------THIS!!!!!

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  8. Can you name one American her age who has NEVER said it? Not once? Under any circumstances?

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    1. very few, but that's a side issue (which of course means it's the one most of the press is paying attention to).

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  9. "Oh lord, the anti-intellectual, overly sensitive seniors I have seen!"

    One of Dr. Seuss's less popular works IIR.

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  10. I am much more careful than avoiding mere words; I never say anything in class that could potentially resurface as an (out of context) quote--in a student complaint, an evaluation, or a comment on "that site". They don't hear an opinion from me: it's all impersonal, generic, unassailable. Unquotable.

    I just let my actions speak for themselves. Let them decode the philosophy behind them if they can; by then it will be too late.

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