“Bad Words” Are in the News Again

The NFL is currently looking at penalizing a team when if any of their players use the n-word (15 yards for unsportsman-like conduct).  Seventy percent of the NFL is black and apparently most of the offenders are blacks trashing  talking other blacks.  Most of the arguments for the censorship are historic in nature.  The proponents remember the ugly years of racism and are disgusted with the n-word’s current proliferation.  On the other hand, it is a word not uncommonly used by some younger blacks (and white racists).

My vocabulary is somewhat salty.  I will say damn, hell, and shit.  And I’ve even dropped the f-bomb (but only with friends).  (However, I find the mf-bomb disgusting.)  I can usually adjust my vocabulary to fit the crowd I’m with.  For example, at home or in the office, I’m pretty conservative, but when out with field crews, I can get crazy.  A friend, justifying his colorful language, told me that since there are so few words that people really understand, he didn’t want to limit his vocabulary.

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However, I do have a very low tolerance for words or expression that are sexist (particularly those that demean women), racist, or homophobic in nature.  When I hear these words, I will either express my displeasure, or simply walk away from the conversation.  The NBA recently fined Kobe $100K for something he said to a ref that was deemed to be homophobic.  I have no problem with this.

Years ago, I was in a meeting at my work office.  I inadvertently dropped the f-bomb.  A serious hush came over the meeting.  To break the tension, I apologized to the only woman in attendance.  That seemed get things back on track.  However, after the meeting was over, the woman I had apologized to told me that she went to the University of Wyoming (implying that she had heard the word before) and she didn’t appreciate being singled out.   She wanted an explanation of why I apologized to only her?  Good question, I was pretty much speechless.  Since she was a friend, that is where it ended.  I stood corrected.

NFL referees have enough to do without being speech monitors.  So I don’t personally favor any penalties during a game.  But teams could certainly insist that certain types of behavior are unacceptable (either on the field or in the locker room).  Some wags have pointed out the NFL is being somewhat inconsistent by highlighting the n-word, yet allowing the Washington Redskins to keep their name.

The whole issue of bad language becomes murky for me when I consider movies like Gran Torino.  I loved the movie, and occasionally found myself laughing at the main character’s (played by Clint Eastwood) creative use of ethnic slurs (frequently directed at his neighbors whose roots were in Southeast Asia).  The movie involves a dying widower coming to grips with his life and his prejudices.  So being politically correct is not always easy.

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This entry was posted in Movies, Personal Essays, Uncategorized, Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Bad Words” Are in the News Again

  1. Allen says:

    I don’t know. I don’t understand very well why people speak one way with certain groups and other ways with other groups. On the surface, at least, it seems they are trying to please each group. I think it’s better if people speak as they really are, letting their speech indicate how they think and behave.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I guess as I really am is fairly crude (but not by today’s standard). But for my home life, parents, and to some extent work, I tend to clean up my act so as not to make others around me uncomfortable. I don’t really consider that hypocritical, just a way to keep the group I’m with comfortable. We all have to make compromises, and this is one of mine. And, for this blog, I clean up my language some.

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