Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category

Nazis and neo-Nazis

August 21, 2017

Discussions on many Facebook pages about the use of the term neo-Nazis to refer to marchers in Charlottesville VA on August 12, with their swastikas, torch-marching, Hitler salutes, chanting anti-Jewish slogans and “Blood and Soil” (Blut und Boden) — plus specifically American touches like the Confederate battle flag, KKK hoods, and open displays of assault rifles. Some participants in these discussions maintained with some passion that they called the marchers Nazis, because that’s what they were.

I can’t of course legislate how people talk — but if you want both accuracy and punch, neo-Nazi is the way to go.

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Gay slurs in New Zealand

August 16, 2017

… with quotations from a Stanford linguist.

The story: “Garry Mallett’s explanation of the F-word falls short” by Jeremy Olds yesterday in the NZ website Stuff (stuff.co.nz), about fag(got), beginning with events in Hamilton City NZ (south of Auckland on the North Island):

OPINION: It’s unclear why Hamilton City councillor Garry Mallett believes pink is a “homo colour”. Perhaps he thinks it’s effeminate; perhaps he thinks it’s cute.

Whatever the case, when Mallett described a pink piece of paper from an agenda last week as a “homo colour”, before using the word “fags”, his comments were perceived as homophobic by his colleagues, including councillor Angela O’Leary.

While he apologised for his language this morning, Mallett was last night defending his comments, saying gay people are comfortable with the labels, and to think otherwise is to be “sucked into this politically correct vortex,” The Spinoff reported.

“Many homosexuals freely and willingly identify with these words. Indeed, to some extent, homosexuals have ‘commandeered’ these words such that many non-homosexuals feel uncomfortable using them,” he said.

Ah, the right to use fag openly and proudly as a slur, threatened by the pansies, fruits, and fairies who have begun reclaiming fag for their own use.

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Ostentatious euphemisms

July 15, 2017

A recent tv commercial for Jack Link’s beef jerky builds up to the punch line, the claim that the jerky

beats the snack out of other snacks

ostentatiously using snack as a euphemism for shit.

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Woolly Mammoth flips us the bird

June 16, 2017

A few days ago, Michael Palmer posted this logo, commenting “I was unaware that Arnold Zwicky was in the theatah”. It’s the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, with its logo in rainbow for Pride Month, and the woolly mammoth is my totem animal. Oh yes, and I’m gay, so it all fits.

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Then I recalled having written about the theatre company and one of its productions, with fuck in the title, so that it presented an issue for publicity and for publications reviewing the production — notably, the ostentatiously modest (no fuck for us, please, we’re a family newspaper) New York Times.

But apparently I never actually wrote the story up; memory is a fickle, fickle thing. In any case, the play is Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, which had its world premiere at the Woolly Mammoth in 2013, and I’ll write about it now. Even better, the Times‘s handling of the situation when the show came to NYC last year is truly wonderful.

Now: some bits on the Woolly Mammoth, on experimental theatre companies, and on Posner’s play. Then on the play in the media, with the the NYT as the capper.

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Shit yes! Fuck no!

June 11, 2017

Apparently the obscenity policy of the Syfy channel: shit is fine, fuck has to be bleeped. This on cable tv, in the middle of the night. At Syfy, there are some lines that Cannot Be Crossed.

An observation prompted by my viewing the glossy, hysterical, high-energy vampire flick From Dusk till Dawn on Syfy in the dark of the night. The film is jam-packed with occurrences of shit and fuck, in a variety of uses, including this crucial line at end of the film:

Kate [played by Juliette Lewis] asks Seth [played by George Clooney] if she can go with him to El Rey, Mexico, but he declines, saying, “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.”  (Wikipedia link)

That’s what’s in the film, and the fucking is important to the character, but Syfy bleeped it — along with every other occurrence of fuck, while leaving a veritable shitstorm untouched. The effect is bizarre.

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Macho Muffler Man vs. the elite geek

June 2, 2017

Today’s Zippy pits Griffy against a familiar figure in the strip, a Muffler Man roadside fiberglass figure — in this case a lumberjack figure, selling tires rather than mufflers, but still part of an automotive theme:

Not just selling tires, but presenting himself as hypermasculinely disdainful of analytic academics.

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Verbal magic in the workplace

June 2, 2017

Today’s Dilbert:

Your people are distressed about the cell-like connotations of cubicle? Easy solution: change the term, to something that sounds more substantial. Yes, they’ll still be working in cell-like spaces, but they might feel better about it. Apparently, the magic of euphemistic, elevating jargon can sometimes work even if the audience knows that it’s jargonistic invention.

Larkin and the Gray Lady, again

May 17, 2017

I’ve been on break from remarking on some of the obsessions of the New York Times — its periodiphilia, its taboo avoidance, and so on — but I’m moved to return to the second of these topics because the Gray Lady has managed to reproduce, in deail, one of its previous encounters with taboo vocabulary, a tussle with poet Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse”.

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Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: three cartoons for the 1st

May 1, 2017

It’s May Day, an ancient spring festival — think maypoles and all that — so, the beginning of the cycle of the seasons. (Everybody knows the Vivaldi. Try listening instead to the Haydn, here.) And it’s the first of the month, an occasion for still other rituals, including one that calls for everyone to greet the new month, upon awakening, by saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” (or some variant thereof). There’s even a Rabbit Rabbit Day Facebook community, with this page art (not attributed to an artist):

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The three-rabbit variant is the one I’m familiar with. (I got it as an adult from Ann Daingerfield Zwicky. Since she was from the South, I thought it was a specifically Southern thing. But today I learned, from an astonishingly detailed Wikipedia page, that that is very much not so.)

Today also brought a Facebook posting from my friend Mary Ballard, to whom the whole inaugural-rabbit thing was news, and, by good fortune, three cartoons from various sources: a Bizarro I’ve already posted about; a Mother Goose and Grimm with an outrageous bit of language play; and a Calvin and Hobbes reflection on the meaning of the verb read.

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The maiden, the monster, and the hero

April 15, 2017

In the LGBT precinct of Facebook recently, this Jim Benton cartoon (eventually this posting will be about Benton, but first the folktale scenarios):

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The basic scenario is Beauty and the Beast: a beautiful maiden (that is, a virgin), often a princess; and a monster, a grotesque creature, either literally an animal (a gigantic ape, a dinosaur, a mutant lizard, a dragon, whatever — but male) or a man animalistic in form, sometimes in nature as well. The monster desires the maiden: to devour her (literally), to despoil her (sexually), or merely to love her (romantically).

A third character, the Knight, figures in an extended scenario: a hero, a handsome and virile young man, often in armor, often a prince, whose role is to challenge the monster in battle and overcome him, thereby rescuing the maiden — for himself; she is his prize. In the extended scenario, two males are rivals for the maiden.

In Benton’s version, the hero challenges the monster, demanding that the monster deal with him rather than the maiden. And so the monster does. Sometimes in a love triangle, the rivals become lovers. (Combat between men is sometimes a route to mutual respect, male bonding, and friendship; in this case, the relationship goes one step further.)

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