Date: Wed, 2 Nov 1994 02:00:00 LCL


Subject: Re: offending idioms

bob lancaster said:

Of course, this sounds great, and civility and good manners are the foundation

of a society worth living in. But its universality here is disturbing. Are

we truly barred from any language that anyone might find unpleasant? No

one can feel good about being crippled, but should we really expunge the word

from the vocabulary? Do we stop reading Shakespeare and Chaucer, or Bowdlerize

them? Many people without hair don't like to hear the work "bald." What do we

call them? Hair Challenged? It is all too possible to sanitize language

until it's essentially dead, and it seems to me we're well on the way.

i think that this is missing the point of sali's claim and the issues

that i raised that he was responding to. no one said anything about

deleting words from the language. we were speaking of the value

judgments that go into making dictionary usage labels. my

interpretation of sali's call for civility and politeness boils down

to: some people are more offended by some words (for some reasons)

than others. some words (e.g., "nigger") are given special status by

outgroup members as the "really bad words", but other words can be

used just as harmfully, sometimes through thoughtlessness. thus,

it's not enough to have a list of bad words cited for their

horrificness by the mainstream culture. somethings have to be done

on a case-by-case basis, and the mainstream culture is a bad gauge of

what offends people who are, in some of their facets, outside of

the mainstream.



M. Lynne Murphy e-mail: 104lyn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Lecturer, Dept. of Linguistics phone: 27(11)716-2340

University of the Witwatersrand fax: 27(11)716-8030

Johannesburg 2050 South Africa

"Language without meaning is meaningless." --Roman Jakobson