Yesterday I reported on Fortnum & Mason’s use of queen in an advert in support of Gay Pride: “Proud to be the queens’ grocer”, with the plural possessive of the common noun queen, rather than the singular possessive of the proper noun Queen. Not everyone is entirely comfortable with this use of queen, seeing it as an offensive and demeaning slur. But the import of words, even slurs and other problematic vocabulary, depends crucially on context — on who’s using them, in what circumstances, for what purposes. Given that, you can read F&M’s queens’ as affectionate, in fact celebratory.
Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category
Four items from the front matter in today’s New York Times Magazine: the compound poolside memoirs; the euphemism go to Spain; the term binky ‘pacifier'; and citronella for warding off mosquitoes.
Now at the Jewish Museum in New York (through September 21st), an exhibition of Mel Bochner‘s recent conceptual art. From the NYT on May 2nd, in “Secret Power of Synonyms: Mel Bochner Turns Up the Volume in ‘Strong Language’ ” by Ken Johnson:
Words have been the subjects and primary constituents of the enigmatic yet acerbically provocative paintings Mel Bochner has been creating over the past 12 years. “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” an elegantly produced exhibition at the Jewish Museum, gives them their due and traces their roots back to text-based works that Mr. Bochner created in the ’60s and early ’70s, when he was one of New York’s pre-eminent Conceptual artists.
This morning: a classic Doonesbury on foul language; a Rhymes With Orange citing the spurious “rule” that an English clause must not end in a preposition; and a Zippy looking back at an ad icon of the 1940s and 50s (“drink more flavored liqueurs”, says Judge Arrow).
The current flurries over Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling are rich veins of overt and coded racist language, explored at great length in the news. That provides me with an opening to post today’s Scenes From a Multiverse, entitled “Racism 2.0″ (you’ll notice that I’ve been experiencing an avalanche of recent cartoons of linguistic interest; sometimes they come in clumps or waves):
And the Hispanics / Latinos. And the Arabs / Muslims. And…
From several sources recently, reports of the Great Northern Jerk-Off. No, nothing to do with masturbation; jerk-off here refers to a competition — like bake-off, a competition in food. (more…)
Fleer’s product was pink (hence the strip’s title, “In the pink”), apparently because that was the only coloring the inventor had on hand.
The world of museums is full of marvelous oddities: in particular, remarkably specialized museums, of all sizes (there are also grab-bag museums: local museums, exhibiting anything having some connection, however remote, to the locality, and eccentric museums, gathering together all sorts of things that have caught the collector’s eye).
Two specialized museums that have come by me recently: one that’s a fresh mention of an old friend, the Frog Museum in Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland; and a new acquaintance, the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik.
From Benjamin Tolbert on ADS-L:
My University now has a “budget realignment task force”.
I think this = “people who decide who and what is cut.”
That list has had previous discussions about euphemisms for firing or discontinuing employees (“letting them go”), of which there are no end, all designed to avoid the nasty truth through administrative jargon. This is a particularly impressive example, a four-word compound noun (in seven syllables). Awkward and clunky.
There might be even worse examples out there. Much more embarrassing than sex.
Yesterday’s NYT had an op-ed piece by Jesse Sheidlower on “The Case for Profanity in Print”, taking up a topic that I’ve posted about frequently (often mockingly, often with input from Jesse): the paper’s insistence (almost without exception) on alluding to taboo vocabulary without quoting it, even when it’s the point of the story. (It’s a family paper, they say, and the children must be protected. If so, then they should simply avoid allusions to the language at all, rather than contort themselves to communicate what was said without actually using the words. And, by the way, children are not innocents about such things.)