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Postby sekani » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:48 pm

@image http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/Parental_Advisory_label.svg/220px-Parental_Advisory_label.svg.png

One of the more common New Year's resolutions I heard this year was regarding language. A podcaster I listen to regularly vowed to stop using the word "retard". I had considered giving up the word "faggot". Being a black man, I sort of get a free pass on "nigger", but so many of my loved ones still cringe when they hear it that I'm scaling back on that word as well. The reasons for such a change in any case should be obvious; these words carry a more negative connotation in society than actual profanity today, and it's becoming harder to justify their use.

I have a fairly crude and offensive sense of humor, and a lot of my closest friends do as well. As such, when joking amongst ourselves, it's not uncommon to hear "nigger" and "faggot" and "retard" and other colorful descriptors tossed around liberally as part of our conversations. Obviously there's no malicious intent behind anything said, that's understood from the beginning. We're all laughing and having a good time.

Enter the rise of social media. My friends and I communicate online in much the same way we do in person. The crude language is still one big joke to us. There's just one important difference: our conversations now have spectators. Without the context of our relationship in plain sight, these spectators assume the worst. Obviously, anyone who uses the word "nigger" is a racist. Anyone who uses the word "faggot" is a homophobe. Anyone who uses the word "rape" hates women. And anyone who uses the word "retard" is just down right mean. In an environment where people think and react in 140 characters or less, context is frequently lost, and most people find it simpler (and more politically correct) to remove such offensive language from their vocabulary, instead choosing to use safer words like "dick-eating shit-fucker".

So, what if? What if I just removed these offensive words from my vocabulary? Or for that matter, what if everyone removed them from their vocabularies? Would that really help anyone? Who knows. More than likely, society would quickly find other words to be offended by. Those who are genuinely interested in spewing hate-speech would find new words to get their message across as well. That may be already happening today; as part of the controversy surrounding the Richard Sherman incident, the football player commented that "thug" seemed to be the "accepted way of calling somebody the N-word" now. Language will evolve a lot faster than the attitudes of those who speak them, it seems.

So, what conclusion did I come to? While I have complete control over what I say, I have next to none when it comes to what people may or may not be offended by. I've attempted to be intentionally offensive and failed miserably. I've offended more people than I can count by accident. I am not absolved of the responsibility of choosing my words carefully. But, I still want to keep that choice there. Fully censoring myself for what I honestly feel would be a pointless gesture of good will helps no one in the end.

Besides, I don't talk that much anyway.
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