Curses! Foiled again?

Twice in the last few months, I’ve been taken to task about my word choices. Apparently, I curse a lot. The fact that it’s been other adults getting in my face about it, and there’s been nary a child in sight on both occasions, well, it pisses me off.

The first occasion happened last December, when I was on vacation with my family on a Caribbean cruise. It was late at night (1am or thereabouts), and my brother, his girlfriend, and I were standing in a nearly empty cafe as I regaled them with the tale of some incredibly rude people I’d encountered earlier in the day at a wine tasting. The words “doucherocket” and “asshole” left my lips, as did the phrase “pulled the pin on the bitch grenade”. For me? That’s mild. I wasn’t speaking loudly, and none of the 16 children on board the ship (yes, sixteen – a number gleaned from a conversation with a crew member) were even in the whole atrium area, much less in the cafe where I was standing. Nonetheless, a man who was sitting about 15 feet away at a table with a woman, a man who was probably about 10-15 years my senior, came over to us and said, “Excuse me, would you mind watching your language?”

Shellshocked, I replied, “Yeah, sure” and continued on with my story. He walked away back to his table. It took about 30 seconds for it to really sink in. I then said to my brother, “Why the hell am I watching my language when I haven’t even dropped any F-bombs, and there’s no children anywhere around? I don’t even KNOW that guy! The hell???” A few minutes later, we moved on to our respective cabins, and got on with our night.

The next day, my brother told me that he’d had a hard time sleeping that night because he was so angry at the man who’d censored me. Said that he really should have gone over to his table when we were done talking and just sat down, listening. When asked what he was doing, he’d calmly reply that since that man felt it acceptable to eavesdrop on our conversation, he figured it’d be totally okay if the same was done to him. My brother’s girlfriend (bless her heart, she’d just met me for the first time the night before we sailed) said that she was truly surprised I hadn’t completely gone off on the guy. Honestly, I am too. But to tell the truth, I was so surprised to be spoken to in such a manner by a stranger, scolded like a child, that it knocked me completely off my game.

The more recent occurrence came when I linked to a YouTube video on my Facebook wall. Now, Facebook has filters, and I use them with joy and gladness in my heart. I have clients on fb who don’t need to be exposed to whatever filth and randomness that I want to share with non-clients, and there are friends’ children on fb who don’t need to be exposed to my language and adult themes. So I pay attention to what I’m posting, and I’m cautious about who gets to see what. That’s called being responsible, if I’m not mistaken.

So I post a link to this video, and I quote something from the video (which included the word “motherfucker”) as well as saying, “Press play, bitches.”

The very first comment I get is from a guy with whom I went to junior high and high school. It has nothing to do with the video I posted, or the band that I’ve recently been championing. Nope. His comment was, “wow do you really have to swear so much?” My reply was simply, “Yes.” To this, he says, “no you don’t. You are an educated women.”

Some other friends got in on the conversation, defending my right to say whatever the hell I want on my fb wall, and I mentioned that I used filters. I gave him the opportunity to be removed from that filter, all he had to do was speak up and say so. He tried to say that there were kids and elders on fb who could read what I posted, apparently ignoring that whole “I use filters” thing I’d just told him.

This guy knows precisely fuckall about my educational status other than where I went to school for grades 7-12 yet decides that I’m “an educated women”. We went to the same school, yet it appears that we took very different things from our classes. He graduated, I didn’t. But because I apparently can write coherent sentences and use that pesky punctuation and know when to use the fucking plural form of a word, I must be “educated” and therefore, we get the same tired old bullshit accusation that cursing is only for those who suffer a deficit in their vocabulary skills. For the under-educated, the non-worldly, the crude unwashed. Of course, that’s been dispelled time and time again, including by allegedly one of the smartest men in the UK today, Mr. Stephen Fry.

The Joys Of Swearing

There have also been studies that prove that swearing helps relieve pain, and well, I’m in chronic pain, folks. Anything I can possibly do to ease it, I’ll do. If it means letting off a chain of words that other people may deem inappropriate from time to time, then so be it.

On Facebook, you can create locations with Facebook Places, locations to which you may “check in”. It’s fb’s answer to Foursquare. This former schoolmate of mine created a location – one to which he tends to check in at the end of the day, so that he can let us know that he’s “pinching the last log of the night” or something eloquent and newsworthy like that. Sometimes, since he recently suffered the loss of a family member, he will check in to this location and post maudlin thoughts about not waking up the next day being totally okay, because then he’ll be with this family member who is departed. Now, I’m not bashing the guy because he’s mourning his loss. We all do that, and it’s a terrible thing to have to go through. I take issue, however, when the man who is chastising me about the appropriateness of the language I choose to use on my heavily filtered fb wall decides that it’s totally apropos to post about his grieving as he’s checking in to “My Shiter”. Charming. I’m having a finger shaken at me about what’s proper by a man who can’t even spell “shitter” correctly, and yet chooses to post updates from his own on a regular basis. Hello, Kettle? This is Pot. Shut your piehole, you hypocrite.

What I find even funnier about this whole thing is that the video to which I was linking was for a band called The Retar Crew, and their anthem clearly shows how amusing it can be when you have educated, smart men who choose to rap like they’re hardcore. It opens with a verse about homeopathic remedies. The line I quoted was, “If it’s weird, herbal, and German and I don’t got it, I can GET it, motherfucker.” This, to me, is goddamn funny. See for yourself.

Click here for The Retar Anthem

So let me just go on the record, officially, as to how I feel about words. I don’t have any illusions that it’ll be the one and only time I’ll have to do it, but at least now I can just link the next person who has to get up my nose because they find my language to be a bit salty for their liking.

Words are words. There are no bad words, no good words. There are only words, and there is the intent behind them. St. Carlin taught me that lesson when I was very very young, and I took it to heart. Do I have some sense of decorum? Yes, of course I do. Which is why I watch my words around children (especially the ones in parrot stage who have no idea what they’re saying) and the elderly. Not that I think the elderly haven’t heard worse in their day, it’s more of a “know your audience” sort of thing. But in the end, there are only words and intent.

I have lived in a house where the word “cunt” was used with great vehemence and anger multiple times every day. It didn’t matter that that anger wasn’t directed right at me – the words that person chose to use and the strong anger behind them affected me greatly. When I was in high school, there was a delightful gentleman named Troy who thought it great fun to address me as “cunt” (with other various adjectives attached, depending on his mood that day) every single day. And yet, I can’t stop giggling when somebody in this house perhaps does something less gracefully than they would like and then sends up the cry, “YA MOTHA’S CUNT!!!” in exasperation. It’s not the word. It’s the intent.

I choose my words carefully. I always have. Sometimes, I make the wrong choices and am misunderstood, but I try my best to minimise that sort of occurrence. However, I love words. I love playing with them, I love seeing what they can do, and I love all of them (“gammaglobulin” being one of my favourites). I am pleased to learn more of them, when I can, so that I have more words at my disposal when I need them. But I don’t consider any of them entirely off-limits.

Any. Of. Them.

I will make it a point to know my audience, simply because it’s a smart thing to do. And I will always make sure that the intent behind my words is evident. To that end, however, if you tell me that there’s one word or another that I should remove from my lexicon completely, you’d better have a damn good reason. So far, I haven’t heard any good reasons to remove a word from usage. None. Sure, some words are out of vogue, and language changes all the time, so sometimes words, their meanings, and their spellings are in flux, metamorphosing into something wildly different from what they were in the beginning. Some people will claim that a certain word can only be used by certain people as defined by their race or gender or nationality. Me, I think that’s bullshit.

I asked, recently, about a particular word that pops up in rather a lot of popular music. Since I am not melanin-enhanced, I was told that if I were singing along to a song that contains that word, I should simply skip that word. Because of the colour of my skin, that word should never be uttered by my lips, no matter the reason.

Music is pretty important to me, and I tend to keep a lot of it around. I have rather eclectic tastes as well. None of the music I have, however, could be classified as “hate speech”. Again, it comes down to intent. I’m not going to get into semantic nit-picking over how the same word can have a different spelling to make it less hurtful. The word is the word. Whether it ends in an ‘a’ or an ‘er’ makes no difference to anyone else if I say it, apparently, because I’m not the right skin colour. I think that’s crap. Why should it be a big deal to anyone else? If you have had a word aimed at you with malicious intent, you are WELL aware of that intent. Don’t even try to tell me that you’re not. You know. We all do. But I find it wildly amusing that if I were to say That Word (even just singing along with Salt N’ Pepa or Cee Lo Green), people would become wildly offended because I’m one skin colour and they’re another. Somehow, my enjoyment of a song in its entirety makes ME the asshole. Yet it would be an even more grave offense if I were to call a male a “pussy” or a “bitch”.

In essence? Fuck that.

Yeah, I choose my words carefully, and I know my audience. Better, my audience knows ME. When you’ve spent a little time dealing with me, you’ll realise very quickly that though I may use all the words I have at my disposal and sometimes might even make up new ones (“twatmuffin” being a current personal favourite), my intent is always clear. I will never refer to a person as “a Nazi” or “like Hitler” unless they are wearing swastikas and have actually said that they are a member of the Nazi party, or if they happen to be dressed as Hitler for one reason or another. When I fatfinger the touchscreen on my phone and it sends the word “kike” instead of “like” in a text message, the person who gets that message is going to know automatically that I am not bashing the Jews (how does my phone even KNOW that word anyway?), because they know my intent and also they can read for context. Because seriously, if that were to happen (and so far, I’ve managed to catch it before it sent every time, but I’m not always as vigilant as I could be), it would be a pretty stupid way to sneak that little epithet in there, wouldn’t it? Ditto that for when I’m typing “Regards” at the end of an email to a client and accidentally hit the ‘t’ instead of the ‘g’. Whoops! Hey, words are slippery little fuckers sometimes, and they seem to take an inordinate amount of joy in swapping themselves out for others at the least opportune time, especially now in the age of autocorrect. But we dust ourselves off, issue apologies, and move on.

In the end, if you’re getting upset with me because my language is too much for your delicate little sensibilities, then either go away or stop being retarded. And yes, I mean that in the true sense, that your own development has clearly been retarded, slowed down, stopped in its tracks, muffled, if you think that those words are somehow more than just squiggly lines and dots that we managed to make some sense of and called it “language”. They’re nothing but a collection of sounds, lines and dots that allows us to communicate. They are not issued from the devil, they will not make anyone’s ears fall off, nor will they blacken my tongue for uttering them. Put on your big people pants and stop listening for keywords and triggers. Start listening for context and intent. If you’re going to eavesdrop on my world, you don’t get to bitch to me about which words I use. You may take me to task for intent all that you would like, and I’m happy to debate it. But when you ask me to watch my language, you are clearly not paying attention. Reactionaries get no love here. Take your delicate little self and go hide someplace. While you’re there, you’d better pay a little attention to how YOU speak as well. It doesn’t have to be a “bad” word to be hurtful or rude.