"burn your house down… brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers" - good and evil in people

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  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Louise wrote: »
    The thing that bothers me is, if they don’t report what the alleged slur actually was then how can we know it was even a slur at all?
    I had a look at a random bunch of BBC stories on sectarian abuse and it seems normal not to specify the offensive chant or terms of abuse used, yet I've never heard anyone express any doubt that any of these incidents were not as described or didn't happen.

    Yeah, I've never doubted that something offensive was said. What I always wonder, when I don't know exactly what they said, is how offensive it was.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    edited September 2020
    Russ wrote: »
    I'm denying that any language is inherently and objectively racist/misogynistic etc, and locating the phenomenon of offence within the listener (and the subculture they live in) rather than in the word or phrase itself. There are no bad words; only words that some people will take badly.

    And locating the taking and giving of racially-related or gender-related offence within the general category of offence rather than as a separate phenomenon.
    In the trivial sense that strings of syllables have no meaning outside of a particular language they're not objective. In any non-trivial sense in which the meaning of a word is determined by its past usage, this is counter to common sense and general informed opinion: most dictionaries mark some words as derog.
    The idea that the true meaning of the speaker's words is what the speaker says it is is generally referred to as the Humpty Dumpty theory (as in Carroll's Through the Looking Glass).

    Your mention of the word 'twat' further down the post only makes sense if you expect everyone to agree that it is insulting independent of the reaction of the person so referred to.

    Cleaned up quoting code. BroJames, Purgatory Host
  • Russ wrote: »
    I'm denying that any language is inherently and objectively racist/misogynistic etc, and locating the phenomenon of offence within the listener (and the subculture they live in) rather than in the word or phrase itself. There are no bad words; only words that some people will take badly.

    This is either trite to the point of meaningless, or wrong.

    Sure - words are just a bunch of phonemes strung together. They don't have intrinsic meaning unless you embed them in a culture, where they form part of a language. At that point, a particular set of sounds acquires meaning.

    But people don't exist outside culture, and while there are a large number of subcultures, they all exist within our wider shared culture.

    So you could, in principle, take a particularly vile racist epithet, and agree with your friends that you will use that word to mean "teapot". And if you do it enough, and your community is isolated enough from the offensive use of that word, then maybe at some point, in your mind, it just means "teapot", and then at some future point, you'll venture out in public and go to a cafe, and ask someone to pass the <offensive racist epithet>, and be confused at the shock and offense that is felt all around you.

    I suppose that you're trying to argue that your word for a corner shop falls in to this category, but I'm afraid that claim doesn't hold water. Because you're not divorced from the wider culture in which you live. You read, quite widely. You write, and I'm going to guess that you watch TV and movies from time to time. So you can't claim to be separated from the wider culture, and the generally-accepted meaning and use of the word that you mention.
    And locating the taking and giving of racially-related or gender-related offence within the general category of offence rather than as a separate phenomenon.
    [..]
    How is that different when the meaning that they take from the words is one that is derogatory to their race or gender or nationality ? It isn't.

    If you address someone, in anger, as a "bloody idiot <racist epithet>" you let us know that, at some level, you think of people of their racial background as <racial epithet>s. And if you know that <racist epithet> is a highly offensive word used by racists to denote people of a particular racial background, and persist in thinking about that kind of person as that word, what should we think?
  • Louise wrote: »

    The thing that bothers me is, if they don’t report what the alleged slur actually was then how can we know it was even a slur at all?
    I had a look at a random bunch of BBC stories on sectarian abuse and it seems normal not to specify the offensive chant or terms of abuse used, yet I've never heard anyone express any doubt that any of these incidents were not as described or didn't happen. I can easily guess at what sort of slurs and chanting was going on where Scottish football is concerned but I don't need people to be resubjected to it for my benefit so I can tell them whether they're allowed to be offended or not.

    We’re not talking about football chants, we’re talking about one person saying one thing that another person claims is offensive to them.
    It's not my place as a member of the Church of Scotland to tell a Catholic person that I'll be the judge of what's a slur to them.

    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    You may be comfortable with others having that much power over you, and/or trust them not to abuse it. I’m not, and I don’t.
  • And if you know that <racist epithet> is a highly offensive word used by racists to denote people of a particular racial background, and persist in thinking about that kind of person as that word, what should we think?

    It’s always possible that someone has been brought up from the cradle by parents who use such language, to the point that they cannot help the unbidden use of it in their thoughts even if they’re striving as hard as they can to avoid using it out loud.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    Can you give an example of when a group of people has picked an arbitrary word and declared it to be a slur?
  • It’s always possible that someone has been brought up from the cradle by parents who use such language, to the point that they cannot help the unbidden use of it in their thoughts even if they’re striving as hard as they can to avoid using it out loud.

    It is - and those people tend to be immediately embarrassed and apologetic when such a use slips out, because they understand that the use is wrong, and they're struggling hard against it.
  • LouiseLouise Epiphanies Host
    Firstly, only some of those were football chanting. Plenty 'individual says things to other individuals' eg. to a police officer, to school pupils, borough councillors, boxing club members...

    Secondly, there's a word for letting traditionally privileged groups take it upon themselves to decide what is prejudice against the people they've traditionally persecuted, a variety of words in fact, and when it comes to conjuring up unlikely or extreme imaginary scenarios to justify that kind of thing, yeah, that kind of argument has a history too, and it isn't a nice one.
  • Louise wrote: »

    The thing that bothers me is, if they don’t report what the alleged slur actually was then how can we know it was even a slur at all?
    I had a look at a random bunch of BBC stories on sectarian abuse and it seems normal not to specify the offensive chant or terms of abuse used, yet I've never heard anyone express any doubt that any of these incidents were not as described or didn't happen. I can easily guess at what sort of slurs and chanting was going on where Scottish football is concerned but I don't need people to be resubjected to it for my benefit so I can tell them whether they're allowed to be offended or not.

    We’re not talking about football chants, we’re talking about one person saying one thing that another person claims is offensive to them.
    It's not my place as a member of the Church of Scotland to tell a Catholic person that I'll be the judge of what's a slur to them.

    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    You may be comfortable with others having that much power over you, and/or trust them not to abuse it. I’m not, and I don’t.
    Bull to the fucking shit. The man used a word that has a history of being used as a slur. Even in the UK, where it is less common and has other meanings, it is understood to be a homophobic slur.
  • Ruth wrote: »
    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    Can you give an example of when a group of people has picked an arbitrary word and declared it to be a slur?

    The closest example I can think of is TERFs declaring "cis" to be offensive.
  • Ruth wrote: »
    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    Can you give an example of when a group of people has picked an arbitrary word and declared it to be a slur?

    The closest example I can think of is TERFs declaring "cis" to be offensive.

    That's hardly arbitrary.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Ruth wrote: »
    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    Can you give an example of when a group of people has picked an arbitrary word and declared it to be a slur?

    The closest example I can think of is TERFs declaring "cis" to be offensive.

    That's hardly arbitrary.

    No, but it's an attempt to use the commitment to avoid offence to control language that isn't actually offensive.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Ruth wrote: »
    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    Can you give an example of when a group of people has picked an arbitrary word and declared it to be a slur?

    The closest example I can think of is TERFs declaring "cis" to be offensive.

    That's hardly arbitrary.

    No, but it's an attempt to use the commitment to avoid offence to control language that isn't actually offensive.

    But the bone of contention at the moment is about a particular subset of that, where the offendee picks a totally arbitrary word, and controls what the (supposed) offender can say, although what part that example plays in the argument I'm not sure. Reductio ad absurdum, perhaps.
  • Ruth wrote: »
    Assuming that you are also committed to never using any word that they say is a slur to them, that means you’ve handed them full and total control over your entire vocabulary. All they have to do is declare the word “apple” a slur and you can no longer say it, unless you decide that actually you can judge what’s a slur to them and what isn’t (and therefore that “apple” isn’t).

    Can you give an example of when a group of people has picked an arbitrary word and declared it to be a slur?

    Niggardly. It means ungenerous or mean and is completely unrelated to (and, indeed, predates by a few centuries) any ethnic slur except through a coincidental similarity in spelling and sound. But God help you if you use it.
  • Niggardly. It means ungenerous or mean and is completely unrelated to (and, indeed, predates by a few centuries) any ethnic slur except through a coincidental similarity in spelling and sound. But God help you if you use it.

    Seriously? We just had that discussion. I thought we ended with most people agreeing that it wasn't a bad word in itself, but that using it in public ran too great a risk of being confused with the other word, and so causing offense. And also that it was ripe for use by racists who think they're being cute.
  • Niggardly. It means ungenerous or mean and is completely unrelated to (and, indeed, predates by a few centuries) any ethnic slur except through a coincidental similarity in spelling and sound. But God help you if you use it.

    Seriously? We just had that discussion. I thought we ended with most people agreeing that it wasn't a bad word in itself, but that using it in public ran too great a risk of being confused with the other word, and so causing offense. And also that it was ripe for use by racists who think they're being cute.

    It's also not arbitrary. It's a word specifically referenced in this manner because of its close resemblance to a slur.
  • If that's arbitrary, then so is uckfay offfay, (pig Latin).
  • RussRuss Ship-mate
    Niggardly. It means ungenerous or mean and is completely unrelated to (and, indeed, predates by a few centuries) any ethnic slur except through a coincidental similarity in spelling and sound. But God help you if you use it.

    Seriously? We just had that discussion. I thought we ended with most people agreeing that it wasn't a bad word in itself, but that using it in public ran too great a risk of being confused with the other word, and so causing offense.

    Yes. So this is an example of a word which can be uttered without malicious intent, but which someone may self-censor to avoid offending others.
    Which is the model of language use which I've been suggesting to you.
    Sure - words are just a bunch of phonemes strung together. They don't have intrinsic meaning unless you embed them in a culture, where they form part of a language. At that point, a particular set of sounds acquires meaning.

    But people don't exist outside culture, and while there are a large number of subcultures, they all exist within our wider shared culture.

    Once you've acknowledged the apparently-trivial point that it is shared usage that gives a word meaning, then I put it to you that it follows logically that when different subcultures use a word differently, neither usage can be right or wrong.

    Unless the language in some sense belongs to one group rather than the other. The English can get a French word wrong to the extent that the French language belongs to the French people and therefore it is their usage that is definitive.
    If you address someone, in anger, as a "bloody idiot <racist epithet>" you let us know that, at some level, you think of people of their racial background as <racial epithet>s.
    If I call someone a "bloody idiotic Scotsman" then yes it means that at that moment I think of them as a Scotsman. But I may know multiple words for Scotsmen and choose the politest most of the time and the rudest when I'm furious with one.

    If on the other hand my vocabulary contains only the one term, then I'll use it both in anger and in admiration, and trying to deduce some permanent underlying attitude to the Scots from one outburst is fruitless.



  • That one word does not automatically imply disparagement does mean that all words do not.

    Secondly, if you're annoyed with a Scotsman, why would you reference his Scottishness at all?
  • Are you okay, @Russ? I figure there must have been quite the earthquake where you are, since the ground shifted so much from your claim that words have no meaning to your assertion that such a thing as "racial insults" actually exist. Still a bit perplexed as to how racial insults can exist but not be inherently insulting.
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