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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Language may be offensive to some...

OK, so before we start today, I need to warn you, my language may not be completely clean and G-rated today.  I may say some words that you might not like.  Heck, I may even go so far as to offend you with symbolic pixels which will cross your eyes.  Shucks, it may even strike a nerve and cause you to blush, become enraged, and write a letter to the editor insisting that I be taken off the air, and my sponsorships be cancelled. 

If this sounds like something you don't want to read, please stop reading now.  If you keep reading, I take no responsibility for what you may happen to read next.  You have been warned.

(OK really?  How am I not supposed to take responsibility, I mean I wrote it.  I take full responsibility.  This is mine, and I own it.  Your offence is your own, but these words are mine, excluding any quotes you read.)

You've been warned...


When I was a young lad of about 7 or around there.  I was in my Sunday school office with my sister and mother watching her count the offering.  My family was always active in the church, and it was my mom's job to do the accounting of the Sunday school offering, and watching her do it gave us something to do between Sunday school and the service. I don't remember the details of what happened next, but needless to say my big sister did something to me which caused me some level of distress.  (I was a brat, I probably deserved it.)  What ever it was she did, I could not let this offence pass without standing up for myself, but what I could I do?  I was in church, my mother was there, and I was surrounded people who I'm sure would disapprove of the violence which I'm sure she deserved.  She was also 4 years older than I, and tall.  My butt would have been well kicked I'm sure.)  I decided the best course of action would be to express my dissatisfaction in words.  Strong words.  Words that would hurt her, break her, and ultimately show her the error of her ways and bring her to apologise to me for whatever great wrong it was she had committed.  Once again, with my mother there I couldn't drop a huge bomb, so I decided to ultimately censor myself, and with great and conscientious thought I told her to 'F' off.

That's right...  Right there in the Sunday school office on the holiest day of the week, I said the letter 'F'.

The effect was not quite what I desired.  My mother shot me a look of all looks, packed up the money, grabbed me and pulled me out of the office like only a mother can.  Her peers I'm sure were there, which added to her embarrassment and fuelled the addressing I got there-after.  I was delivered to my father for punishment.  My father looked at me with disappointed eyes and told me we were going to have a little chat when I got home. 

Through teary eyes, I explained that I had made a conscious decision not to swear, and chose the letter 'F' to specifically not swear.  It was explained to me that even though I had only used the letter 'F' the meaning behind the word was quite clear, and that it should be considered just as bad as if I had actually said the word.  (Next time you hear anyone say the phrase 'The 'N' Word', remember that.)  Now although this was the 70's or maybe early 80's and corporal punishment for kids was still quite accepted, I did not get a spanking for this one.  My Dad had a way of sitting you down and calmly explaining why what you did was wrong, and why you needed to be punished in a calm and rational way.  I never really listened, I just kept dreading the spanking that was to be coming.  Fear is not responsive to rationality.  Anyhow, in this case no spanking was issued.  I'm sure all you children of the 80's know what standard punishment for bad language is.
Suck on this!
That lesson always stuck with me for some reason.  I guess my parents did a pretty good job after all.

Now a division of the
language police.
Anyhow, I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but recently a small town called Middleborough passed the following:  A $20 fine on public profanity.  Yes that's right, in Middleborough it is now against a town by-law to swear in public.  (Do you call them by-laws in the States, I don't even really know.)

My Dad once told me that swearing is lazy, and there are always considerably better words in the lexicon to establish a feeling of emphases, which is when swearing is most commonly used.  The other common use is shock value, which once again is kind of lazy.  I mean if I wanted to shock you, I'm more likely to tell you what I think about environmental laws than I am to swear.  Besides, it offends way more people.  Regardless, the good people of Middleborough are no longer even allowed to be lazy.  In fact, the bad people in Middleborough aren't either.

Mr. Rogers HATES ambiguous laws
I'm pretty sure that somewhere in there this is against the American Constitution.  You guys down there take your freedom of speech pretty close to heart.  Us Canucks have mostly the same law, but it is limited to denial of hate speech, which I have a bit of a problem with.  I mean I can say words which are considered hateful, but if it can be proven that I said it with the intention to be hateful or something like that I can be charged?  I don't know, it is a weird law.  I try not to say anything that might be misconstrued as hateful, but I certainly use words which offend.  You figure out the difference. 

My question is this...  What is the limit of your swearing threshold.  What might be offensive to one person might be perfectly acceptable for another.  Did they have to write all the offensive words down on some charter?  If not, then it's left to interpretation of what is offensive.  If so, does that mean every time someone reads the law aloud, they have to be fined for each offensive word?  What about words that kind of sound like swearing? 

"The bastard took his bitch, a shih tzu, to chase the cock and some balls around the park, but ended up in some pussy willows being carried by an ass." 

Perfectly acceptable and clean sentence in the English language, but might cost the speaker $140! 

Uh-ho-ho-ho, I am dirty, no?
An speaking of the English language...  What if our friends in 'La Belle Province' visit the small town of Middleborough.  Perhaps they see a small carving of a seal for sale in the downtown area, and delightedly exclaim... "C'est la phoque!"  For those of you who don't speak the language, sound it out, and pronounce it a dirty as you can!  There, now you've said it correctly, and you may owe your town $20.

The real problem as I see it is not that the citizens of Middleborough don't want people swearing, heck I even get that.  The problem is that it is against the constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States of America, and since the fine is only $20 it is not worth ever fighting in a court of law.  It is just another tax grab against the lazy, the people with rich lexicon, and the French.  I hope they are putting the monies towards something useful at least.  I mean, you know the government.  Always models of efficiency when it comes to our tax dollars...
Simpsons, brilliant satire