Monday, May 02, 2005

Things I won't say

I'm pretty liberal when it comes to curse words. I'm not foul-mouthed, but when appropriate I can let loose with the blue language. But there are two words I have difficulty with, the n-word and the c-word. (I'm not going to use them here, this is afterall a family blog.) It's not just that I won't say them, the way I won't use the term sub for hoagie or boombox for radio. Instead, I have a very visceral reaction to these words. When I say them, I feel both embarrassed and awkward. I feel like I'm blushing, even though I have no idea if I blush or not.

I don't know why it's these two words. I imagine it has to do with being born in the 60's and coming of age in the 70's and 80's. Race relations and feminism were both very big topics. I imagine the n-word is less charged for kids growing up today, but no matter how much rap I listen to, I still can't use it. I'm sure there are riot grrrls out there reclaiming the c-word too. More power to 'em.


JamesDiG said...

In a film I wrote, we have people hitting each other with bloody tampons, freely discussing anal sex, peeing on each other's toilet seats, and doing and saying other horrid things. But in the test reading, the only problem was with the "N" word, so we removed it.

It just went too far!

By the way, I'm still loving your blog.

g said...

i wonder if it's because neither one could be applied to you (in any way that makes any sense).

the n word makes me feel that way, but, avert your eyes i'm going to type it, cunt doesn't. it's just a body part. :) and while the argument could be made that the term implies violence against those who possess one in much the same way the n word implies violence against black people... i think there are a lot of other words, bitch for one, that do the same thing. so what's the big?

liberal elite said...

Hey G!

I think you're right that part of it is that the words don't apply to me, so their meaning is more tied up, for me anyway, in how they are offensive. They are cannot merely be descriptive for me.

It's clear that in-group, these words are ameliorated. But then they need to jump from in-group use to general use. I think the n-word is on it's way. I'm a little less certain about the c-word.

cawshis said...

It's strange how quickly I became used to the use of the n-word. It was such a big part of the slang growing up (80s-90s) that I just started saying it all the time. Imagine the culture shock of going from the Bronx where it's n-this and n-that to my small liberal arts college where I was routinely the only person of color in the room! Some folks were accepting but sometimes those gringoes actually corrected me!

The c-word just sounds harsh and it's such a nasty word to use! I read some article (I think in Harper's maybe) about C-word being the atomic weapon of relationship fights. Dropping that word in an argument with my wife would be like punching her I think. As in the end result of either scenario would probably be divorce. Or a stabbing in my eye.

g said...

context definitely has to be taken into account. as with any name calling, most people are insulted if they're the target. but if you're talking about the word itself, the n-word is almost exclusively an insult word which, like fag, has been reclaimed by some. the c word is an insult word, too, but it's different because it refers to a specific part of the female anatomy, rather than the woman as a whole. of course, it's disgusting because it reduces a woman to that particular body part... but it's interesting that most people don't find dick as offensive. being a walking penis is ok, but being a walking vagina is not? ;)

liberal elite said...

Another interesting thing about the c-word is that I have trouble with it even in non-insulting (at least not directly insulting) contexts. For example, in the compund c-hair (sometimes blonde c-hair or red c-hair).

Ex. "You need to lift that up a c-hair."

In contrast, n-rigged is less obnoxious to me, but more outright insulting.

These are, of course, personal reactions to the words. There's nothing inherent in them that makes them bad.

boredoom said...

Do what I do: swear in Swedish. When I let lose with the c-word in the office nobody knows what I'm saying.

liberal elite said...


boredoom said...

I heard that! ::readies bar of soap for next meeting with ed::

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