Archive for the ‘language’ Category

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Uncle Sam’s tacit approval…

December 12, 2016

of “political correctness” tyranny….

The first time I recall having experimented with a “racist” epithet was, I believe, in the second grade. It was at recess, in the school yard by the big steel swing set where classmate Robert and I were doing a little scuff and spit over the last available seat. Robert was a “negro”, the accepted “polite” form of the time. I called him a nigger. He punched me in the nose. That was the end of that. We were friends after that.

There is no telling how many millions of dollars that little interaction saved the American taxpayer. I’m not advocating for violence, mind you, but I’m not advocating for some hydra-headed bureaucracy employing thousands of people dispatching an agent or three to shake their fingers at rude brats and lay out the permitted lexicon. Robert seemed to have handled the task rather nicely, for free.

Similarly, I spent my last couple of years in college at a small university in Florida where My Spanish professor was a Cuban refugee and many of my friends had made their way from that island nation to south Florida on makeshift rafts and other flotsam and jetsam. Let’s face it, when a teenager learns a foreign language, learning the popular pejoratives is a social requirement. Context and timing are fine details learned later, often by trial and error, like when I committed the error of addressing my friend Rufino as “maracon.” He was an athlete, and if he had caught me I have no doubt that his lesson in manners would have been considerably less benign than Robert’s had been many years before. Nevertheless, Rufino and I remained friends, and as with the Robert incident, there is no telling how many millions of dollars that frantic night pursuit through the palmettos saved the American taxpayer.

Jump forward about fifty years to the day Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar etched the same epithet into his eye-black, the dark smears athletes use to ward off glare, as a taunt to the opposing players. He was suspended without pay, had to donate the nearly $100k in lost salary to same-sex advocacy groups, and participate in “sensitivity” exercises. It would have been far simpler, and would have brought his intra-cultural communications awareness up to date more directly, if someone with a personal complaint about the little display of locker room banter had just taken a swing at him.

Needless to say, things are quite different from when I was younger. For one thing, the job of teaching “family values” and community standards has migrated from the family and the community to vague bureaucratic clusters of authority in orbit around the federal government. It all kind of grew out of the Civil Rights movement and related politic of the past four or five decades, like a boil may develop on the ass of a student who spends long hours sitting on hard seats to absorb knowledge. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes positive actions spawn unintended negative sidebars.

The so-called “PC”, or “Political Correctness” phenomenon, a case in point, achieved a level of power and influence that many find to be incompatible with traditional understandings of the Constitution and philosophies of the United States as a society. Those wielding the power, or those profiting and benefiting from its application, strongly disagree, of course.

Political correctness is difficult to explain, since it’s largely subjective in nature. Perhaps it can be illustrated by recalling certain aspects of childhood, both the real and the somewhat mythical. I am thinking of how, in the final months before Christmas, kids would be acutely aware of how their conduct might influence the outcome on that anxiously anticipated morning. We didn’t become angels, but the atmosphere of consequences being especially welded to behaviors during that time period was palpable. Certainly, parents and other interested parties in the adult population must have reaped some benefits from the “Santa Method” The “PC” of the twenty first century is like that.

Those with the power, and it can be anybody, make the rules, set the standards, sort the lexicon into Permitted and Taboo piles, endorse selected belief systems while condemning others, and generally work to engineer the culture to their liking. This is nothing new. Human cultures have always established their accepted ways in this manner. However, when the Colonists rebelled against England and put together a homegrown system of governance of their own, it was structured to prevent such centralization of power and authority into elite cliques and to make it truly a government “of the people, by the people, for the people, ” as Lincoln later phrased it.

Note that I have been discussing what I see as the downside of a “Politically Correct” movement in general. I believe the separation of a population into classes of the Ruled and the Rulers, while absolutely a “normal” human behavior, is a handicap to the modern society as a whole. The thing that takes a normal “grouping” action and gives it the potential to do harm is the endorsement of government, which is supposed to be an expression of all of the people. The founders were acutely aware of such dangers and worked very hard to avoid the pitfalls of pure Democracy, which can become a matter of “mob rule”.

To be more specific, and to revisit the incidents in which I had a role many years ago, the community response to offensive language was previously a matter decided within families, who were in turn influenced by extended family, neighbors, and the community in general. Cultures have always sought cohesion, but I have watched the current wave grow over a lifetime. This “PC” twist is not just a temporary ripple in response to a specific episode or issue. It is an overall shift towards a more prescriptive, centralized, national government that seems increasingly distanced from the individual on Main Street, USA. This is a two sided coin, of course, and a complacent populace has allowed it to build, in part because most have felt untouched by it or somehow immune.

The “please and thank you” aspects of daily life were, in fact, considered largely to be either “off limits” to those in Washington, DC, or of little interest to them. Mother, father, the church, and others taught us what it was “nice” to say or do, and what was not tolerated in those areas. That would differ from family to family, and from community to community, and those with much in common would associate, while those with significant differences would not. The role of any centralized form government was focused on the central, common denominators under the accepted rule of law, in such matters as felonious crimes of violence and property.

Through various mechanisms, and in response to a number of certain events and circumstances, The United States has become sharply divided between those striving for a more “statist” society while attempting to override or diminish the value of individuality, and those who are poised to defend a more traditional Constitutionalist approach. “Gated Communities,” where everyone is expected to adhere to codes of behavior and appearance devised by a ruling committee, are preferred by some people, but living in one is voluntary. Converting the entire nation into one big “Gated Community” would not be voluntary nor would it serve the preferences of those who want to be free to express themselves as individuals rather than as just part of a group that paints their houses and landscapes their yards in unison and subject to approval. The iconic example today would be the Affordable Care Act. The title smiles gently and sounds caring, but in practice essentially nationalized the health insurance and medical industries and has benefited just enough people to maintain an air of legitimacy, while being little more than a Mafia-style protection racket. Buy the prescribed insurance or the Knee Breakers will take your tax refund money away from you. By associating the health insurance mandate with the Internal Revenue Service, it isn’t much of a stretch to re-label noncompliance as “tax evasion” and other life changing white collar felonies.

When my friend Robert punched me in the nose, and my friend Rufino threatened me with serious bodily harm, along with a long list of other “learning experiences” I have logged during my life, the values and expected rules of social interaction favored by our society and culture have survived, adapted as needed to changes in the world and the neighborhood, and been successfully passed on to a couple more generations. We as a people have faced challenges before, and I’m not afraid of our way of life being taken away from us. I sense that this time is different, however, and the danger instead is that we will simply throw it away. We’ve already started. The ACA isn’t the only stop sign we’ve run.

Bureaucracy, which one cannot avoid in a nation of 325 million people, has gained excessive levels of power and authority on a broad scale. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the way regulations are structured and funded. Simply put, if a federal agency wants to move people in a certain direction, it may do so through regulation. The agency wants everyone nationwide to follow a certain line or program, so it threatens to withhold funding from states that don’t impose supportive regulations of their own. Another way is to issue the “unfunded mandate” type of regulation, and offer funding to those who march in step and to withhold funding from those who do not, as well as to issue penalties. The ACA has elements of the latter. I thought about how someone might simply arrange their tax withholdings to zero out so there would be no funds to confiscate for failing to purchase the mandated insurance. I anticipate that, if it has not already done so, the IRS will soon close that “loophole”. Odd, isn’t it? A tax action that was considered good personal financial management just a few years ago either is now, or soon will be, a federal white-collar crime worthy of imprisonment.

I look forward to the day when we, the people, wrest our responsibilities and liberties back from our own government and once again adhere to a code where one doesn’t fear for one’s well being or freedom for saying, writing, or endorsing words and ideas that someone else just doesn’t like. The right to be rude and ignorant should once again be a freedom, along with the potential consequences of speaking or acting in such a manner. The government’s responsibility is to protect us while we wind our way through such issues, not to play the irate Nanny telling people how to chew their food and not to say things like nigger, spic, slope, chink, wop, kike, frog, etcetera, etcetera. Where is George Carlin when you need him?

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Lexical Semantics…

December 8, 2016

and my woeful inadequacy therein….

I learned several years ago that if I wanted to have a civilized conversation with someone, internet arenas dedicated to commentary and discussion were one notch below a Hells Angels get-together for suitability. It didn’t used to be that way.

Back in the days of Dial-up connection and the iconic yet corny-from-the-start “ You’ve got mail” announcement from AOL, the early “chat rooms” were rather benign by today’s standards. Behavior mattered, and habitually rude and or insulting behavior would earn “banishment” from a “moderator”. This was not an infringement on Freedom of Speech. The sites were “owned” and operated by individuals or companies like AOL, and they were free to establish their own parameters for “membership”. The enforcement of the rules was accomplished through the culture of the base membership, with a moderator stepping in as the last resort.

I wandered about trying several discussion boards or communities before joining one that seemed broad enough to be interesting and mature enough to be enjoyable. I followed it for more than ten years, off and on, and still have the password, though I doubt it is active anymore.

Technology and society have seen a few changes over the past 20-25 years. The last site I “joined” and interacted with on a somewhat regular basis was the “comment” portion of my local newspaper’s digital edition. That was a couple of years ago, and it didn’t last. Such places are now primarily dedicated to verbal combat and adolescent behavior. People jump on with screen names and hide behind fictional identities to say things that would get them seriously hurt in the real world. They are called “trolls”, among other apt nicknames, and they took the pleasure out of swapping howdy-dos over the internet.

Another one I tried briefly advertised itself as being “libertarian and tolerant of all views”, but turned out to be run like a boot camp by some hot dog who seemed more interested in meting out penalties than in communicating. Click.

From time to time, I succumb to the temptation to stick my toe in what still looks like water but which I know to be sulfuric acid. As I scan the articles claiming to be news, I usually come to a comments section at the end where readers can offer their feedback on the subject. The first one in line usually gets by without a hitch, but subsequent ones are highly likely to attract flies, or trolls, or both.

So, this morning I had just read an article obviously slanted for the “liberal” point of view, with specific emphasis in this particular case on mocking the so-called Confederate Battle Flag and those who defend it. I have found this sort of “pissing contest” to be rather pointless, but for some reason I felt compelled to drop a short comment after someone else’s comment.

In essence, I pointed out that America seems to have its own version of the Taliban, deciding which icons and monuments can stand and which must be destroyed. The Confederate Flag didn’t pass their PC muster and therefore had to go.

The “return shot” was as swift as it was incredible. A young lady from California sporting an Hispanic name and either questionable command of the language or of the keyboard scolded me, charging that I obviously don’t know the meaning of the words I used. Oh, wow! Oh, wow in scientific notation! This college educated former editor was being scolded by a post-adolescent Green Card for not understanding my native language! I couldn’t make this up! I also couldn’t stop laughing!

I started to prepare a short essay on my understanding of the words conservative, moderate, liberal, Taliban, and some points regarding the First Amendment, and then just backed away from the keyboard and smiled.

“Nice try,” I sneered at the monitor. “You almost got me.”

 

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just for argument’s sake…

September 2, 2016

semantics-somatics_5-final_zpszradcfkh

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On communicating clearly…

June 11, 2016

…without getting punished….

I don’t even remember how I got on the topic, but I’ve just spent an inordinate span of time trying to find a definitive roster of words, phrases, idioms, and thought balloons which I am summarily denied the freedom to use, and I’ve come to an enlightening conclusion. There isn’t one.

It reminds me of early childhood. I was sternly cautioned to NEVER utter certain words. I wasn’t told what they were, but being a resourceful child, I discovered them through the process of elimination, beginning with the venerable Anglo Saxon word for “excrement”, which I printed in block letters with a blue crayon in my table drawer in First Grade.

I don’t actually know where I learned these words because, believe it or not, neither my father nor mother used profanity. Well, for the most part. My mother was known to cut loose with a few minor expressions of angst on occasion, and not necessarily without just cause.

By the time I made it into junior high school, then, I had a fully developed repertoire of Potty Mouth that would make a sailor cry, and I was fairly adept at wielding it with a growing infrequency of contextual misfires. By the time I strapped on a Navy uniform, I could verbally peel paint, but, of course, I was told by those in authority, which was virtually everybody, that an officer and gentleman doesn’t use that kind of language. As had been the case from first grade on, the admonition and attendant real and implied threats were not accompanied by a list of what I mustn’t say. It was presumed, again, as I suppose it always had been, that I knew.

Later, in Corporate America, when I was given the opportunity to sport an appropriate charcoal grey pinstriped suit, white shirt, and a conservatively colored diagonal striped necktie, Windsor knot, and step into a pair of wing-tips, I encountered the same old manual I had under previous indoctrination procedures.

“Just be sure you never do THAT…..”

“Do what?”‘

“….You know.”

and:

“Just be sure you never say THAT…..”

“Say what?”‘

“….You know.”

A couple of years later, at a Regional Sales Conference in a major city, one attended by thousands of my peers, their Supervisors, their District Managers, and reportedly even God Himself (actually the company president….same difference, according to some), I met as man who had the audacity to break all of the rules. Now, I’d never seen so many pin-striped suits, white shirts, and wingtips in one place in my life, and when somebody with “credentials” told a lame joke, ten thousand grinning idiots laughed on cue. Well, I don’t recall the gentleman’s name but I’d say he must have been about forty (which was “old” to me at that stage), and he must have had outrageously elevated sales figures or been somebody’s brother in law, because he had on a rumpled blazer, grey slacks, non-descript shoes, and his hair was not exactly well groomed either. One of the Vice Presidents, a notoriously devout man and a stickler for propriety, was giving a presentation and had thrown out a general query regarding goals for the coming year. The man in the blazer barked out a rather ambitious claim, which got everyone’s attention. The VP challenged his ability to deliver on that, citing obstacles that would be in his way. The man considered the challenge for a moment and then boomed out, “Well, sir, there’s more than one way to kiss a cat’s ass without gettin’ hair on your teeth!

Except for a few unintended guffaws, the arena was dead quiet. Not only had the man DONE “that”, but he had SAID “that” as well. To this day, I suspect he must have been related to Evel Kneivel.

So, fast forward about forty plus years to the twenty teens, when, as seems to be the way of things, the populace is still being cautioned/threatened to never do “THAT“, or to say any of its cognates from the universe of the spoken and written word. For the most part, it isn’t so much a case of updating the list as it is a matter of adding on to it. That’s what I was curious about. What is ON that list, anyway. Not only do I remember George Carlin’s seven forbidden words being at the start of that list so long ago, but I remember the expansions and updates over the years, though I can’t recite the specific words off the top of my head.

Maybe nobody else can either, which would explain the lack of a list, but if people from the judiciary can talk sternly about “hate speech”, and the like, somebody must have a reference somewhere.

Be that as it may, I’ll wait no longer and have decided to compile such a list myself. It will take some research, and perhaps a bit of the old reliable trial and error, but I’ll manage. So many of the things that would have put me in the coat room for recess, earned me a session of my mother’s considerable potential for wrath. or put the kybosh on long term career plans in earlier times, would now potentially place me in front of a judge, or worse, at the mercy of bureaucratic vengeance. Either that, or it might make a third grader yawn.

My list will be organized into “sections”. I would say “families”, as that would be more accurate, but, believe it or not, the word “family”, according to blogger Dr. Joe Wenke in a Huffington Post article from September 1, 2013 I once read, “the phrase “traditional family values” is itself a form of hate speech,” apparently because groups not supportive of same sex relationships use it to describe, well, their opinion of what traditional family values might be. Like I’ve said, obscenity is a subjective concept

This could be an interesting study, actually. Times have changed, and as has been the way down through the ages, political juice has a great deal to do with whose mouth gets to chew on a bar of Ivory soap and whose does not. Today is reminiscent of (from what I hear), say, eleventh century England, when The Good Old Boys could pretty much call it as they saw it and everybody got along fine except for the recreational homicide, which, of course, was entirely normal as well as being the precursor for twenty first century election culture. That all went up in smoke, preferably lavender scented and with a lute played in the background, when those perfy Normans showed up to rewrite a perfectly functional Anglo Saxon dictionary and lay down an endless and ever changing cacophony of rules about where to speak and how to wipe.

It seems that much of George Carlin’s paint-peelers of the seventies are now standard fare on Prime Time TV, while the minor verbal noogies we used to toss around out by the swings at recess could today be reason for National Guard tents to show up next to the gazebo in the town park.

In any event, stay tuned (can I say that, or does that sound too much like “go tune yourself”….?)…

 

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“Speak English…!”

February 21, 2016

whatever that means….

People being hypocritical and downright ugly when it comes to politics is nothing new. The bright side is, we aren’t having shootouts on the floor of Congress. Things are calmer, believe it or not, than they were in the early nineteenth century. That notwithstanding, I wince at some of the things candidates and/or their supporters will do in the race for the Most Crass trophy of the campaign season. If Trump wins the White House, it will be a rare Win-Win Bifecta.

The opposing camp is not devoid of turd-in-the-punchbowl moments, however, as in the recent Sanders rally in Las Vegas where civil rights icon Dolores Huerta was rudely shouted down with cries of “English only! ” when she volunteered to translate for Hispanic attendees. That’s quite a swan dive into the River Styx for a crowd so far left they have to rappel down the port side of the dais to find their platform.

The indignant bursts of angst over people having the audacity to speak anything but the precise language spoken and understood by the complainants is nothing new. In fact, it is extremely “human“, but usually originates with those of limited education and those afflicted with an iron clad “my way or the highway” or black and white manner of thinking.

Perhaps, though, it would be more effective to inquire whether or not those goose-stepping to the beat of “English only” chants are fluent in any of the more than 250 aboriginal languages spoken in North America today, just as they have been spoken for thousands of years. If that sounds unfair, perhaps we should limit it to English, as the protestors demand. OK.

Shall we require that speech be limited to the East Anglian English that characterizes the New England dialect? Perhaps the southern New England form that was greatly influenced by the Dutch colonists in what is now the New York City region, with the stereotypical “ Brooklynese ” as it’s banner would be preferred by some.

Die-hard Yankees sometimes roll their eyes at the sound of the “Southern accent” and consider it to be the sign of ignorance. To the contrary, the middle Atlantic areas of what today constitutes Virginia and the Carolinas were settled by the “upper crust” of England, the wealthy, and those loyal to, and supported by, the crown. All regions have “sub-dialects”, and the south is no exception. The “Black English” stands out, particularly today. It is a mixture of the ancestral African languages, the Southern English spoken by the slave owners, Creole, and more. As with any dialect or sub-dialect, it contains its own unique pronunciations, words, idioms, and cultural foundations. Cajun, of French-English-Southern derivation is another.

South central Pennsylvania, parts of northern Virginia, and New Jersey sport a noticeable dialect influenced by the origins of those who settled there as well, sometimes misnomered “Pennsylvania Dutch“. They were the Midlands English, the Welsh, German, and Scandinavian people who came here for various reasons. My teen years were spent in southeastern Pennsylvania and often heard things like “about the house” pronounced more like “aboot the hoose”.

When I lived in western North Carolina, there were isolated pockets of civilization back in the mountains, in what were called “coves” essentially dead end valleys, where there were still remnants of a dialect known as “Appalachian English“, with distinctive elements of a strong Celtic and Gaelic influence. It is a Scotch-Irish derivative with some Old English features.

Wherever Europeans settled, and wherever their descendents moved to as the West was settled, one can find words, phrases, pronunciations, often peculiar to limited local areas, reflecting the intermixing of older dialects and cultures.

We are indeed a “mixing bowl”, whether those who suffer cramps when they hear a word or pronunciation outside of their limited lexicon like it or not.

Ah, but that’s not all. The “English” spoken in England long before Europeans set foot on the American continents was itself fractured, and for the same reasons American English has no single pedigree.

Prior to the Norman invasion and conquest of England, Gaelic and Celtic tongues were long established, and the Anglo Saxons of Jutland and West Germany brought with them the earliest form of what we call English today. It would be unintelligible to any of us now without focused learning.

Early written materials were mostly in the West Saxon dialect of English. The other three primary dialects were Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish, and none could easily understand or communicate with any of the other three. Not until the reign of Alfred the Great (877-899) were the separate “Englands” and their languages united under one crown and one “official” dialect. Besides defending against Viking raiders, his emphasis was on education and establishing “Wessux” as the preferred and recognized dialect. The teaching of English began to replace Latin as the scholarly language.

The Norman Conquest complicated things further. Not only did the French language become the “official” language of the country, but the Norman French culture changed England forever. Then, as we see today and as was mentioned at the beginning of this piece, discrimination and division of peoples by such minor factors as how words are pronounced, the practice wasn’t a new human behavior.

Those of Norman French origin, to whom the language and culture were the norm, and those who learned and adopted the language and culture, gaining favor in the eyes of the conquerors, represented the “upper classes”. The “native” English (those claiming the designation in 1066, though other cultures and languages had preceded them), were the lower, laboring classes. The English raised the crops and livestock consumed by the Normans. The English called their animals “cows” or “pigs”, which became beef or pork to the Norman French. Language determined social status, and many other things.

Hundreds of years later, our language continues to borrow from the languages and cultures of immigrants, perhaps most noticeable today being Hispanic, Asian, and perhaps soon the Middle Eastern peoples.

So, what is one to say, what is one to do, when admonished to “Speak English”? How does one separate the individual ingredients of “dump stew”?

Personally, I would do nothing, as someone who would make such a suggestion obviously has a severely limited understanding of what English actually is.

 

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…and on the eighth day….

December 27, 2014

god created Oxymorons….

Insults began to grace the air as soon as there was more than one sentient upright biped on this boat and the two conspired to create language. The purpose of language and its use as a soft weapon was obviously to facilitate the primary amusements of the species, those being religion, war, politics, and other competitive sports.

Periodically throughout human history, we seem to become stuck in a rut of bawling”No fair“, similar to that invoked by preschoolers. While such a turn of events may seem to be an effort to escape one of our primary biological functions in the economy of the universe, that being to exterminate each other…..or to at least make an ass out of the other guy, the behavior is really just another tactic in the process. Turning the other guys’ language into a fractured grab-bag of taboos is just as effective as the body checking, bought votes, and sanctimonious bellicosity of our other entertainments.

We need to realize that this framework describes the underlying foundation of human existence across the board, from causing one’s preschool playmate to run home in tears, to having a nicer lawn than the jerk next door, right on up to the ultimate self-defeating irony of genocide. One way or another, every thing, every idea, and every human being is assigned a spot along the hierarchy from Dirtbag Loser to King of the Mountain, the caveat being an inevitable state of chaos as 7.2 billion declarations of who and what belongs where jockey for superiority.

Amazing. We’ll put a man on probation for stealing another man’s car, but uttering a word that offends another’s sense of self importance could cost one his life.

I remember when the late George Carlin decided to stand before the world and recite out loud Seven Verbalizations that had caused countless children to have their mouths washed out with soap by the same human beings who liberally used and laughed about those very words the same evening over a few beers.

Around the same period, while attending college in Florida, I found myself amidst a large population of first and second generation Cuban ex-patriots. I learned some of their language, epithets and profanities first, of course. Untimely experimentation with one particular Latino tidbit temporarily put my well being in jeopardy as I skulked from shrub to shadow evading a certain pummeling by He Who Was Emasculated by my choice of words.

One of the dumbest expressions of this Instinct-to-Annihilate currently enjoying top billing, at least in Western cultures, is the whole Racism concoction, and its incest-based cousin, the Hate Crime. A half a world away, life or death proclamations are made according to whether or not a potential corpse thinks about The Top Banana in a manner approved of by the fanatic with the AK-47. Our domestic version holds that if one commits any offense along a scale ranging from disrespectful representation to deranged homicide, responses and consequences to such behavior are defined and structured according to whether the actor and acted upon share similar DNA, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender preference, etcetera, or not. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that would parallel, say, a rule forbidding poker players who hold different hands from outscoring each other.

Now, I’m not a religious man by any interpretation, having found it literally impossible to identify the True god, goddess, or transgod from among the 7.2 billion candidates. But, should one actually be proven to exist, It is undeniably blessed with a raucous sense of humor, not to mention a bit of a mean streak, and I’d bet dollars to donuts It enjoyed a misspent youth launching spitballs, shoving potatoes up the tailpipes of paddy wagons, putting rubber cement on toilet seats, and coating doorknobs with Vaseline.

 

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The Lexicographers…..

June 21, 2014

and other casters of stone # one….

I have been known to offer uncomplimentary remarks about the Word Police upon occasion, and about how the concepts of manners and courtesy have been blown so far out of proportion that I sometimes wonder if Cotton Mather has been reincarnated as the inspired, inerrant, infallible official Lexicographer for our society. Instead of ordained agents peeking through windows to ensure that everybody has gone to church as required, however, our twenty first century pucker-butts focus on matters of vocabulary to ensure that everyone remains obediently within the Approved Parameters of permissible attitudes, beliefs, and opinions as reflected in their speech. The use of forbidden verbiage is considered prima facie evidence of contemplating forbidden categories of “hate”. While it is permissible to “hate” members of the opposing political party, communists, and asparagus, choosing not to be fond of, or to not even give half a crap about another person for any reason included on the Official List of Politically Incorrect intellectual lawn cookies, and having the audacity to verbalize those sentiments, is nothing short of twenty first century heresy.

We are so hyper vigilant about such matters, that even the designated “good guys” have to use code to report what the designated “bad guys” have said. Remember the “OK” words you were taught to use as a kid when discussing certain appendages and body functions? It’s reminiscent of those days, except instead of such cryptic references as pee pee, number two, and others too silly to mention, we now rely on such camouflage as “The N Word” to say things without actually saying them. In fact, in addition to the example just given, virtually any reference to topics involving race, sexual orientation, or ethnicity must be made with great caution, preferably in code or by squeaky-clean metaphor. At the same time, utterances that would have earned me a soap sandwich as a youth (and did) can now be enjoyed in the raw any night of the week on Prime Time television fare. The iconic “F bomb” still requires a symbolic “beep”, however.

I thought this phenomenon was pretty much a quirk of the United States, but I was wrong.

I enjoy some sports but I don’t love any of them with the appropriately demonstrative, rabid, and noisy intensity expected of the American Male. I did notice and raise my eyebrows, however, when the American soccer team upset the Ghana soccer team recently at a FIFA World Cup Brazil match. In other parts of the world, soccer is a religion, but we tend to express our pathologies of that sort over American style football, basketball, and baseball. So I read the story.

I also noticed the story a few days later when Mexico, having played their own FIFA World Cup matches against Brazil and Camaroon, had become the subject of “disciplinary proceedings” by FIFA because their fans had badmouthed their opponents. Whoa!

So, apparently the cultural aberration of word anxiety is not limited to the USA after all, because FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the local ruling authority in soccer circles), is all puckered to the point of being nearly inside out over the politically, morally, philosophically Incorrrect enthusiasm of Mexican fans during their matches.

It seems the fans, fired up and passionate, as soccer fans are genetically programmed to be, chanted a naughty word en espanol during the usual “talkin’ trash” phases of the games, apparently using the term “puto” in reference to their opponents. “Puto” is impolite, at best, in any Hispanic dialect but roughly translates as “whore” in Mexican Spanish. I chuckled at first, but then it occurred to me that death and dismemberment in the stands has been standard operating procedure in the soccer universe for ages so I wondered at their emulation of United States type behaviors in response to a mere insult.

And then I read FIFA’s official “position” on such matters, namely discrimination.

First of all, since the soccer matches were being played in Brazil where prostitution is legal, I found the complaint to be somewhat incongruous. Heck, in the United States there are more than two and a half times as many people working for the federal government as there are “putos” in Brazil. Secondly, it wasn’t a case of slander or libel because the references were generalized to the nth degree and no direct or personal finger pointing was involved. American football fans have been known to dress up in body paint and weird costumes to loudly encourage their home teams to “slaughter ’em“, but I have yet to hear about any complaints of conspiracy to commit murder.

Nevertheless, killing somebody and hurting their feelings are different animals here in the USA, as they apparently have become in the world of international soccer as well. I was amazed at the FIFA statement about “discrimination”:

“FIFA takes a firm, zero-tolerance stance against any form of discrimination and racism and this is enshrined in the FIFA Statutes in article 3 which stipulates that: ‘Discrimination of any kind against a Country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion’.”

Holy cow! (with apologies to agnostic bovines) Their parameters for allegations of discrimination or racism don’t leave much wiggle room for suggesting to someone that you don’t have so much as the same favorite ice cream flavor they have, or that you simply don’t like them, unless one plays dumb and claims the negative emotion arose spontaneously and for no reason whatsoever.

This morning I noticed another report about the globally popular World Cup competition. It seems Mexican fans once again disturbed the fabric of the universe, this time by casting aspersions on the masculinity of the opposing team’s goalie. The “offending” word was not revealed, but I’d bet pesos to tacos I know what it was, because I once tried out a newly acquired piece of vocabulary on my Cuban friend Rufino when I was in college down in Florida back in the sixties and I was lucky to escape with my life.

Considering FIFA’s dictatorial approach to vocabularies, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, shoe sizes, and favorite vegetables of anyone aspiring to play soccer on their turf, a similar scenario played out today would have Rufino calling his lawyer and a half dozen bureaucracies, with litigation and court mandated atonements in mind, instead of chasing my scared little butt across campus and off through the palmettos by moonlight with rearranging my facial furniture in mind.

As with similar situations here at home, I question references to discrimination and racism as they are meant in the present day sense. We’re not talking about “back of the bus” mandates or any of the other “Jim Crow” laws of the pre-nineteen sixties here. We’re not talking about blatant refusals to employ, to admit to schools, or neighborhoods where one cannot purchase a home. We’re not talking about lynching and beating incidents. Essentially, what began as a campaign to correct some egregious wrongs and denials of the rights declared by the Constitution to apply to all citizens, has mutated from a Civil Rights movement to the establishment of an authority to monitor proscribed words and behaviors which may be construed to imply a mindset of concrete plans to commit vile acts if not so monitored.

Bad news, ladies and gentlemen. It has always been a quirk of reality that some people just don’t like some other people, for various reasons, which may or may not make sense, and I strongly suspect that this is never going to change. People have taken turns practicing behaviors ranging from protruding tongues to genocide in an effort to dictate universalism or to act out our genetically mandated sense of territorialism seemingly forever. It never works out. The underdogs eventually manage to come up with a few sharp sticks and some throwing stones of their own, and they do the role reversal thing. That doesn’t work out either. The only opportunity for a real change of course is enjoyed by the faction already on top and therefore having no reason or desire to change.

 

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