Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taboo.

Taboo is not just a board game Mormons like to play on Sunday nights (or Friday nights, depending on what crowd you roll with). Taboo is a way to use language as power. Taboo words can shock, offend, and even damage another. By overusing a taboo word, you can essentially strip it of it's power to harm. The gays did it when they adopted the term for themselves. So did the Mormons. Both originally "taboo" references for their culture.

The amazing thing about taboo language is that it really CAN hold power- if we let it. Last week I asked you about your use of "douche bag" verses "tool." Similar meanings in that a tool will take the parking space you've been waiting properly for; a douche will do it on purpose- just to piss you off. (Thanks, Matty.) The basic consensus is that a tool is a blunt instrument, worthless on it's own unless yielded with some skill by the one who possesses it. Dumb. Lame. But with no malintent. A douche- on the other hand (and this is graphic, so I apologize)- essentially a douche will get inside you, take you for all you've got, clean you out and expel himself when he's gotten what he wants, leaving you empty inside. Malicious. Cruel. And selfish.

I have a particular abhorrence for the latter term, as it is graphic and incredibly distasteful. But it is becoming more and more commonly used. And this worries me. If we use such strong language to describe someone who simply wears pooka-shell neclaces and visors, how will that word hold meaning when it is really necessary? It's much like the boy who cried wolf. If you've got something to say, be aware of the language you're using. It may seem acceptable. You might think it sounds edgy or cool. But in the end, the more you use it, the less of an effect it will have on your audience. And if your intention is to warn a friend from going out with a real douchebag, you'd better save it for the truly, horribly disgusting, self-centered pigs that (unfortunately) really DO exist.

18 comments:

Salt H2O said...

From what I've read, the term Gay for homosexuals was a stragegic move by their campaign to be accepted by the masses. It is easier to develop empathy for the gay rights than it is for homosexual rights.

Saying that someone is mallicious cruel and selfish has a much stronger affect than calling them a douchebag.

farrah said...

Good point.
I remember as an 8 year old, explaining to my friends that I didn't need to swear, because I had a vocabulary. That swear words lacked the power actual descriptions did, and that such curse words were simply words we were afraid of.
Of course, I also recall suggesting "pinapple" as a worthy curse word.

adriane said...

in my world, a guy who wears pooka shell necklaces and visors with his collar popped is not a douche. he is a SWEET BRO. :)

Sarita said...

Just the other evening, we were talking about great movies that taint themselves with incessant f-bombs. While I can stomach a few, despite my disdain for needless swearing (real words are better), the over usage just kills the novelty it MAY have had. I believe in calling a spade a spade, but using such words (especially the graphic distasteful ones) on a regular basis just cheapens things all around.

caroline said...

when is ass-face appropriate?

Tannerama said...

Oh, I'm sure we'll come up with something.

Also, whats with the recent rash of "word funerals"? Apparently there is a large contingent of people in DC that want to outlaw the word "Bitch." Ironically, these are the same people that get thrown into a tizzy being told that they can't bring fingernail clippers on a plane.

So, its okay to bring a sharp object onto a crowded transport as long as I don't use the "b-word"?

adriane said...

i think ass-face is nearly always appropriate. i think, on most occasions, it would garner more laughs than offense.

k8 said...

i do like to limit my casual swearing so as to make the words more effective when i really need them..that said, ass clown is always funny. always.

f*bomb. said...

Somehow our recent RS lesson ended up with people talking about not using profanity to be funny. On and on about how a certain word was just always funny; but that we shouldn't use it. No matter how funny it is.
All I could think was how desperately I wanted IN on knowing what the hell that word could be!

adriane said...

i don't know why, but no matter how "good" and "righteous" i might feel at the time, there are definitely certain swears that make me laugh, no matter what and no matter who is using them.

you know, you could always resort to saying naughty things in another language, as i have. since my mother is korean and i have a vague knowledge of all naughty korean words, when i use those words with my other korean/half-korean friends, we just laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. regardless of what we're talking about.

f*bomb. said...

See? This is what I'm talking about!
What are these swears that everyone finds so funny anytime they are used? I mean...I'm not asking you to use them HERE- I'm just slightly befuddled that I have no idea what they might be. And that makes me just a little bit disappointed with myself.

The Dally Llama said...

Grammar Police:

Unnecessary apostrophe: First paragraph, fourth sentence. Its, and not it's.

That mistake may warrant a cuss. Your call.

f*bomb. said...

Really, Dall?
But...Isn't that posessive?

aaronymous said...

Grammar Police(back up):

No ma'am, it's is a contraction of the words it is. It's one of those grammatical exceptions to the rule.
When used as a possessive, it's just its.

The Dally Llama said...

Aaronymous nailed it. Its is the lone exception to the rule that you use an apostrophe with possessives (I'm pretty sure it's the lone exception anyway). The only time its gets an apostrophe is when in contraction form, i.e., it is = it's.

-But don't beat yourself up over this. You're to be commended b/c you've got the most grammatically correct blog of any blog I've read. You nail there/they're/their distinctions, use affect/effect properly, and don't misspell things. Now if you'd just quit with the British English spellings...

k8 said...

good heavens man, whose blogs are you reading??? Mixing up their, they're and there? Not knowing the difference between affect and effect? are you stalking junior high school My Spacers?

The Dally Llama said...

Watch it. I only stalk high school MySpacers. I have my standards. Seriously. -And you'd be surprised how many adults routinely goof up on stuff like that.

Another comment like that, and you might have a guest proofreader visiting your blog...

f*bomb. said...

(soopernerd...)