Tuesday, March 06, 2007

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON BAD WORDS. Ilyka at Pandagon notes that I generally criticize rightwing women without stooping to make fun of their womanly attributes. I appreciate the implied compliment, but I won't congratulate myself for it.

For one thing, I consider such behavior elementary good manners. I do not make fun of Glenn Reynolds for his hideous facial rictus, for example, because he cannot help it, but I do take him to task for his smugness, fraudulence, pin-headedness, and other such avoidable failings.

Also, I am of the opinion that all women are beautiful, even the ugly ones. If you don't understand that, I'm afraid I can't explain it to you. It has something to do with upbringing.

Also, I still say "cunt" and "pussy" a lot. Now, when used in reference to the female pudend, these terms should be unobjectionable to any thinking person. But sometimes I use them in unflattering reference to human behaviors, and that can raise -- and has raised, in my comments -- objections that I am saying something bad about women by using female genital referents as negatives.

My only answer is this: language is my metier, and I try to use it to my best advantage. One of the best tools toward that end is the unexpected choice. Sometimes I put academic, literary, or other elevated types of language into situations that do not seem to call for them. (George Plimpton was a pro at this schtick. I remember him writing about Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre, and saying of an act that was about to emphatically get the hook, "The crowd desired that he would be silent.")

Sometimes I go another way and use crude language as a crotch-kick against pretension -- as when I called this thick-necked Men's Rights blowhard a pussy. As for "cunt," well, it's just a fun word.

This response also plays to Ilyka's wider theme: the myth of Political Correctness. No normal person gives a rat's ass what any professor, committee, or City Council thinks of the use of any given signifier. At the same time, normal people know what offends and doesn't offend them -- and in many cases, it is not the specific words so much that make the difference as the way they are used. Consequently, most ordinary folks of all races would be able to understand and accept Lenny Bruce's "I want to introduce you to the niggers in my cabinet" routine, or Blazing Saddles ("Don't move or the nigger gets it!"), but would consider this white jackass, who thinks it's cool to say "I hate niggers" because Chris Rock said it, to be, well, a white jackass.

In general, it goes a long way toward overcoming any language sensitivity issues people might have if you endeavor to talk to them instead to trying to put something over on them. As long as I stick to that program, though I do consider all criticisms seriously, I feel I cannot go too far wrong.

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