July 20, 2015 by Liberty
Note: In the preproduction of this article it started with the intent of writing plenty of nasty words to get a offended by. As the production continued, a few things started to stand out. First of all, it’s kind of a cliche to talk about offending people in an offensive way. It’s been done. Second, it’s rather counterproductive to making use of my major points in this blog. If you happen to still find this post offensive then, quite frankly, you can go waffle yourself.
I’m offended. Yes. I… the writer of this wonderful (well… satisfactory on some days) blog… am offended. Why should you care? You shouldn’t… but I’ll continue anyway. I’m offended by the willingness of most people to hobble communication through the constant addition of more unusable language.
People insist upon taking perfectly usable and powerful terms and throw them out of our vocabulary. I am a writer… I am an artist… (Okay… That’s too far but let’s pretend.) I feel as though people are going into Picasso’s studio and saying, “if you use red, you’re a communist!” (Yes. I know that’s a historically inaccurate metaphor.) People are taking the tools of communicators, comedians, leaders, writers, and every single person in this world and saying, “Well… you can’t say that.”
Not only that but everyone else is standing by them shrugging their shoulders like it’s not a big deal.
How To Be Offended – In One Easy Step
I know you’re a busy guy or gal. Do you ever feel the need to get offended by something but you just don’t have the time to search through hundreds of articles, look up all the trending protests, and practice your appalled look. Well… then I’ve got some good news for you. I’m going to teach you how to be offended in ONE EASY STEP!
Step One: Be Offended
Take note. You do not need to be presented to anything offensive to become offended. People do not make you offended. You choose whether or not you’re going to be offended. Since you can choose whether or not you’re going to get offended, it ultimately doesn’t matter what the other person says, you can get offended.
Words are not offensive. There are no sets of words I can say to offend you. I could use whippersnapper, doodlebug, or even carteroo and none of the necessarily HAVE to offend you. You have the choice to be offended by whichever one or one’s you desire.
Let’s say you are offended by the word doodlebug. Would you be equally offended if someone said, “I absolutely hate when people use the word…” in a hushed tone, “doodlebug.” If you aren’t offended by that then you proved my next point. If you are still offended then you might as well honk yourself because life has got to be tough for you.
Context is everything when it comes to offending people.
Some of the most offensive things people have said to me used the words of compliments. I can instantly imagine someone saying, “Well… Aren’t you a smart one?” in a ridiculously sarcastic tone. I feel offended by that.
Also, some of the most cherished compliments would have sounded like insults out of context. The context of a relationship can turn cruel sounding words into more of a spank between lovers than an assault. (That comparison is going to get me in trouble…)
The Purpose Of Foul Language
Of course, the purpose of fowl language is to ensure we can properly distinguish one delicious bird from another… Sorry…. If I don’t write a few bad jokes in every article I get uncomfortable.
Foul language exists for a reason (much like fowl language.) Foul language exists to improve communication between people. The decision to use a more harsh term is the decision to present a more emotional statement than without the foul language. The more foul the terminology, the more emotional the statement is intended to be.
If I have an honest conversation with someone and say, “That is stupid.” It means one degree of emotion. If I say “That is (expletive) stupid,” that turns up the volume on the degree of emotion. Of course, if I say “That is (more harsh expletive) stupid,” it goes even higher on the emotional scale.
Now… there are other ways of showing strong emotions but unless we’re looking to give Shakespearean monologues there aren’t any other good ways. Using expletives are a shortcut. Other means are much longer and less direct. Quite frankly, in most cases I think “that thine heart shuns thy cerebrum upon realization of thine own stupidity.”
(I have a weird feeling that Shakespearean fans will be offended at more poor attempt at imitation. That is in fact, why I use expletives instead.)
To try and take this language away is to try and reduce the depth of human communication.
Are you emotionally affected when you hear some particularly word?
Well… Guess what? That is the point. People are not using that term with the intention of not provoking emotion from you. If you want them to stop offending you then the only way is to stop letting it offend you. (Or be a wippledopper and try to force them not to.)
In Favor Of Politeness
While I completely support anyone’s right to say absolutely any word they want, that doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of politeness. In fact, trying to destroy offensive words outside of polite contexts is more of an attack on the value of politeness than supporting word choice.
Politeness is aesthetically pleasing. It’s the reduction of bumps through communication. Using a harsh word instantly adds an emotional reaction to the conversation. It may be honest but to be respectful, it’s reasonable to sometimes lighten those emotional reactions using less harsh words. Sure, it’s not brutal honesty but it’s kind of like wearing a suit for a job interview. Social constraints exists for a reason. Is it wrong to wear jeans to your job interview? No… but everyone will take note of how not aesthetically pleasing it is. Is it wrong to not be polite? No… but…
I don’t say certain words in front of my mother. I don’t say certain words in front of people I highly respect. I don’t say those words to be polite. I don’t speak emotional words in front of 99.9% of people I speak with (in the same way I don’t answer the question “how are you doing today?” honestly. It’s a politeness thing. If I gave them a rant about how I was really doing they’d look at me like, “you’re not from around here, are you?”) Quite frankly, it’s probably more of a compliment towards our relationship if I swear in front of you than if I don’t. I’m trying to communicate with more honesty and less aesthetics.
Ultimately, people choose politeness because, while honesty in communication is good, they don’t want their mother (or teacher or most people) to have to ride the emotional roller coaster of an honest conversation.
In some ways, you could say cursing is trying to leave your listener with a certain emotion. Teachers, mothers, doctors, and many people don’t ask that burden of you. They don’t curse at you. Perhaps it’s best to provide the same courtesy to them. (Again, cursers just offer the emotions. No one HAS to accept them.)
Insisting On Respect
If I had a professor that said, “Please do not curse in front of me.” I would respect that request (or leave the class.) This is a mostly voluntary situation on both sides of the equation. The professor does not have to teach me. I do not have to be taught by him.
If I had a friend that said, “Please do not curse in front of me.” I would again respect that request (or have one less friend.) This is another voluntary situation. We both have the choice to be friends with each other. Sure, I kind of appreciate exchanging cruel insults with a person I highly respect for minor disagreements but I get that it’s not everyone’s favorite form of communication.
On top of all that, I think it’s reasonable to avoid emotionally charged words for some people if you’re in a voluntary relationship with them. For example, if you have a son that’s a “snapperdoodle,” as an offensive way to put it. I would politely avoid the word “snapperdoodle,” in front of you (unless I had more data on the subject.) I would avoid that word because it fails to meet the purpose of using foul language.
Foul language is intended to clarify meaning. I know you could be highly offended by the word snapperdoodle or you could just not care. The range of reactions go from completely outraged to nothing. For me to use the word snapperdoodle would do the exact opposite of clarifying my message because I would have no idea what your reaction would be. Instead of snapperdoodle I’d just use Pancakopoly and call it day.
Now for the really fun part…
With all this, there is a certain self-assuredness that you have to have to insist upon people being polite when dealing with you. There is a complete and mind-blowing arrogance when you insist upon people being polite when YOU ARE DEALING WITH THEM.
Imagine someone going to a comedy show and getting offended when the comedian makes a joke. It’s completely stupid. The audience member does not have to stay sitting in that audience. They didn’t have to go in the first place. They didn’t have to get offended. They paid for doodles sake. And then, they act outraged. The comedian didn’t drag the person into their seat.
That audience member is desiring respect for their presence. The comedian, apparently, is expected to cater his message to what that one individual finds particularly offensive. Of course, if the comedian offends anyone the whiner in the audience doesn’t like (usually religious people or conservatives) they’ll preach freedom of speech for the comedian.
Imagine someone coming into your home and telling you what you’re allowed to do or say. It’s insane. It takes such a high level of arrogance that I just don’t know how to respond to it.
As I write this blog post, I know, there are going to be people that get offended. Many of those same people will try to communicate with me offering no evidence, just their subjective feelings and act like that means something. If I’m wrong, AWESOME, correct away. If I’m offensive then just leave or grow up.
Insisting upon certain words being used is a disgusting attack on the beauty language. As a writer, I find it painful and offensive. That being said, why should you care?
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