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The Offensive Thread

Discussion in 'Serious' started by VipersGratitude, 30 Mar 2018.

  1. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    So, a few days ago I "defended" the use of an epithet, so I'm making this thread because, without further explanation and taking that thread severely off-topic, it makes me look like a bit of a prick. I put "defended" in quotation marks (twice now) because I wasn't actually defending it, rather I think the offence people infer upon language is counter-productive.

    Moron and imbecile were both medical terms, which were then co-opted by the larger public to label someone who did something incredibly stupid. Out of sensitivity the medical term was changed to retard, and guess what happened. Pinker called this the Euphemism Treadmill, and it isn't limited to epithets - There have been multiple variations of the term for toilet over the years so as to not cause offence in polite society. The term "black" can also cause offence depending on what part of the globe you're on, the list goes on and on. In America, for example, garbage collection turned in to sanitation, which turned in to environmental services.

    I am of the opinion that words do not equate to thoughts, so by policing language one simply pushes that language further along the treadmill; That's all the progress it can manage, but it also has a digressive effect in giving the true bigots a verboten language road map with which to navigate society while hiding their bigotry.

    I'm not saying I'm right about this, just of-the-opinion, which I hold softly. What are your thoughts?
     
  2. Corky42

    Corky42 What did walle eat for breakfast?

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    I'm not sure i understand what you mean, maybe my brains gone to sleep today so apologise if I've got the wrong end of the stick.

    Having said that are you saying people shouldn't get offended at the words someone uses? Because if so i would disagree as (imo) words have meaning and the freedom of speech isn't an absolute, it comes with responsibilities and one of those is to not knowingly using language that may cause offense.

    However i also feel people are quick to take offense, especially on the internet, without first finding out if the person knew it would cause offense, it's one thing to be offended by words it's a whole other thing to chastise someone because they didn't know they were being offensive.
     
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  3. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    I'm not talking about direct, wilful offence, rather the words that just creep in to the vernacular. In this case it concerned a meme about a certain adjective of screeching.
    I would imagine the most relatable word of it's ilk for our age group would be "faggot", an offensive term for gay people, but also a synonym for scaredy-cat to many, many 70's/80's kids who had yet to even learn about differences in sexual orientation.
    To me, intent is everything. The phrase "You're an asshole" can be used as both an insult, and a form of bonding if used with a friend who's being difficult.
     
  4. CrapBag

    CrapBag Well-Known Member

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    I hate the N word full stop but what I hate even more is that it's okay for black people to use it.

    Either its bad or its not

    I'm fat but I don't think it's okay to call other people fat.
     
  5. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    The words we use determine the way we think. Of course all of us have mostly very subtly, but occasionally very widely divergent networks of meanings and concepts associated with each word in our vocabulary. Add to that the usual sociocultural and personal differences, and it's all bar fights in gestation.

    Intent is everything, but it is also invisible, ad hence inscrutable, whereas action is pretty visible and hence apparently unambiguous. Correspondent inference occurs: the perceived most probable outcome of an action is inferred to be its intent. If people perceive a certain expression to mean, or to be most likely to be interpreted to mean that, then that is what they'll assume it was meant to mean. You know what I mean?
     
    Last edited: 30 Mar 2018
  6. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    That's an issue of appropriation. If people call me by a pejorative term, I will embrace and adopt it and hence take that power away from them: you know what? I am a n****r, a bitch, a queer, a geek, an asshole, and I'm proud.
     
  7. CrapBag

    CrapBag Well-Known Member

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    I'm still not going to use derogatory words to describe myself or others, nor is it right,
     
  8. bawjaws

    bawjaws Well-Known Member

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    I saw an interesting video recently where the black author Ta-Nehisi Coates gave a good answer as to one of the possible reasons why there's a difference between black people using the n-word and, say, white people using it.
     
  9. Gunsmith

    Gunsmith Maximum Win

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    well I think I know how this thread came about ;)

    i was going to type a lengthy response but vipers hits it on the head, its a culmination of things mostly centred around digital communications as to why we have a generation of overly sensitive mewling bastards who cant grasp that how language is used is more important then what language is used.

    so? if they want to use it as a common dialect among themselves then so be it, you may find offence at it but then they have every right to think otherwise and not give a toss, it is not yours or anyone else's job to police what people say just because you don't like the context of how its being used according to your social standard.

    there are more important issues going on that require your efforts :)
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
  10. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    It's funny you should bring up the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, since Pinker is one of it's biggest critics. He called it a ill-defined myth based on circular reasoning, citing Schaller's "A Man Without Words" - The story of Ildefonso, a deaf immigrant who had no language skills at all. Once taught sign language he was able to recount experiences, and judgements on those experiences, from his non-lingual days. There have been no conclusive proofs or disproofs of the hypothesis . While many accept a weak version of the hypothesis - that language can influence thought - they are regarding the structural aspects of language rather than the words themselves. The jury is out on it in a broad sense, and in regard to the particular granular aspect we're discussing I don't think anyone believes that learning, say, a racial slur makes a person more racist.

    For clarity, this is what I said in the original thread. I didn't call anyone a mewling ******* since I think this is a discussion worth having in an acutely politically correct time and didn't want the discussion shut down.

    In the linked post I suggested that the current wave of political correctness is due to the internet and diverse cultures and contexts coming together. Well, that and the fact that the virtue signal of offence is an easy path to social capital...would you agree?

    I love etymology, and according to wikipedia, at least, the first recorded use was in 1574, however the first derogatory usage was two centuries later in 1775. During the early 1800's, in the Wild West, it was spelled "niggur" and similar in non-racial intent to the words "dude" or "guy", much like it is used today in certain places. "Travler, marm, this niggur's no travler; I ar' a trapper, marm, a mountain-man, wagh!" - George Ruxton, British explorer and travel writer, 1848. If it's either bad or it's not, then how can it's meaning change over time? This only underlines that language, and offence from that language, is entirely based on context. There are no absolutes when it comes to language. Etymologically a bad word is a gay word, derived from the old english baeddel - for a hermaphrodite or womanish man.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
  11. Corky42

    Corky42 What did walle eat for breakfast?

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    I think i understand what you mean better now. :)

    I also think you're correct when you suggest that the current wave of political correctness is due to the internet and diverse cultures and contexts coming together, context has a lot to do with it IMO.

    Normally people adjust the language they use depending on who the audience is, CrapBag's example of the N word is a perfect example of that, however on the internet you don't always know who your audience is so the small adjustment we make during social interactions to, for want of a better word, lubricate those interactions sometimes don't work, one mans oil is another man's water.
     
  12. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    Than. More important than. :p

    I'm with Luria on this one. In humans, language is inevitable, because people have a theory of mind. You see this in Mundy-Castle's experiments on proto-declarative pointing (one-year olds look at the parent and then point at an object to direct their attention to it, but they don't do that with e.g. dolls or even pets. They communicate with people, because they know people have minds, because people communicate with them) or how twins can develop their own private language between them. Deaf sign started the same way. I would argue thay Ildefonso already had some form of rudimentary language --people must have communicated with him before, even if only by crude acting-out, depicting and pointing gesture.

    Luria also argued that in developing language we develop that theory of mind, but also planning, problem solving and self-regulation through the more sophisticated internal dialogue it facilitates. Language doesn't create thought, but certainly influences it. Abstract concepts are hard to contemplate without language. I would argue that as Ildefonso, as he acquired formal sign language, would have retrospectively elaborated on his experiences. We all do this anyway (our memories are really reconstructed on the fly, which means that they are unreliable and can get retrospectively edited. In therapy we often do his deliberately and explicitly) and language acquisition in itself is an inevitable part of this process. He'd have had to map new linguistic concepts to pre-existing ones, and as a consequence both get elaborated.

    So does learning a racist slur make one a racist? It contributes. How do you think children learn to be racist? But it has, of course, to be understood to be a pejorative term. As you say, context matters.

    EDIT: As an aside, this link between language and thought has been noted since medieval times. Hence the term "deaf and dumb", and the idea that a mastery of the classical languages was necessary for rigorous academic thought.

    I think you're right on both counts. That, and the fact that people live in a conceptual word, but their brain treats it as if it were the real one (and they don't see the irony of arguing about this on the internet). This was for sound evolutionary survival reasons, but as our frontal lobes and conceptual thinking rapidly outgrew our practical, real-world relevant "that rustling in the long grass may be a lion" thinking, our limbic system did not keep up, and still treats everything our brain imagines as reality.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
  13. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    An alternate explanation could be the limitations of Dunbar's number giving rise to stereotypes in a tribal setting. Which is a nice segue in to another question I've been pondering - Are stereotypes necessary for making sense of the world and, if they are, does that make language policing a losing battle?
     
  14. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    Our brains are pattern-matching machines. Whether it is to spot the giveaway symmetry of a camouflaged tiger's face in the long grass, to working out complex cause and effect, they try to infer in order to predict. This is a process of analysis, filtering out random noise, then synthesis of complex reality to a simplified, coherent heuristic simulation that our brain has the capacity to run (and at a practical speed of processing). So our thinking is always reductionistic and categorical. Stereotypes are an inevitable result.

    Language is really just one expression of that process. Every word is a stereotype, if you think about it. That's how language works (and also, arguably, why it works). When I type 'scissors' here, and you read it, chances are we both now instantly have some sort of simple platonic idea in our head of a metal pair of scissors, not the wide variety that exist from brightly coloured plastic children's scissors to heavy no-messing tailor's scissors to the contraption cooks use to cut open a chicken carcass. We'd have to add words to add those qualities (to wit: 'children's', 'tailor's' or 'cook's' scissors). Then adjectives to add descriptions of size, colour etc.
     
  15. Archtronics

    Archtronics Well-Known Member

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    I don’t think it carries the same weight anymore especially amongst younger people, who have never experienced it being used as derogatory term.
    You only have to listen to pop music nowadays and hear how often it’s used by people of all backgrounds.
     
  16. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    Now that we've established a theoretical framework to think about offensive language it's time to tackle the practical side - Where should the line be drawn?

    Direct insults should obviously be discouraged; The question at hand is about generalised adjectives that relate to deficiencies or abnormalities. While I have my own thoughts on the topic I'll leave it to the group to discuss since I absentmindedly munched my way through an entire chocolate egg this morning and now I feel like sweet, sweet death.
     
  17. Corky42

    Corky42 What did walle eat for breakfast?

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    The only line i would draw is when someone incites violence.

    Just because i may find something someone says offensive doesn't mean a) i have to listen to it, b) have to respond, c) have to educate them on why it's offensive, d) that they'll even care or listen to reason.
     
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  18. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    I'd add inciting hatred or persecution to the list.
     
  19. Corky42

    Corky42 What did walle eat for breakfast?

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    The problem for me is that hatred is an emotion not an action so it's difficult to prove and persecution comes in so many forms it could be applied very widely.
     
  20. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    Inciting hatred would, for me, be a statement that says people should have hostile feelings towards a certain person or group ('All Muslims are terrorists'; 'God hates fags'). Incitement to persecution would be statements that say people should treat said person or group in a negative, hostile or rejecting manner ('Jews should be made to wear a star'; 'Gays should be banned from teaching').
     

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