Thursday, April 12, 2007

Inappropriate Words

How do words become inappropriate? Through use, misuse, or both?

If I were to say "spam" as an expletive or profanity, you would laugh at me. If I were to curse at all, you would probably laugh at me. Mom wouldn't, she would ground me. But all that is beside the point. Spam that. (For some reason things you wouldn't really want a child to know is always funny - as long as it is not your child). Anyway, if "spam" were to catch on in the context of derogative language - at what point would it become inappropriate?

This week a radio talk show host, Don Imus, made inappropriate comments on a grand scale. He's not even a real "shock jock". Imus is considered more of a mainstream political commentator - although he is one who pushes the envelope of acceptable regularly. Without repeating him, Imus made fun of the Rutgers University women's basketball team. His words were racist and sexist. I wouldn't want him talking about my sister like that. I don't think he should talk about anybody like that.

On Spin City, the characters were discussing a local shock jock's radio show. Mike called it something close to"unadulterated filth that appeals to the lowest members of society" - the unwashed schlubs, as it were. Stewart said, "So, do you watch the show?" Yep. The reason inappropriate words get used is because they get ratings. They have an audience. They get repeated by the masses.

If things get repeated, what's the danger? We become desensitized. We spread the hate. So, we have two choices - make no words taboo or don't say/think hateful things. It would require some serious brainwashing to get people to do either one of those things. It might be worth it, but it would require lots and lots of work.

I think that society should take a lesson from good parenting. If you don't want your children to repeat the bad words you say, don't say them. You don't let them repeat Uncle Scott (the Marine) for instance. If the children learn bad words from somewhere else and say them in front of you, for heaven's sake don't laugh at them or encourage them. Until then, maybe we should put all of society in time out for using inappropriate words.

Stephen

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