Offensive Language*



People often complain about "Offensive Language" in movies, on television, wherever. Generally theyíre referring to profane language, dialogue that involves those words that society has labeled as the Bad Words. Weíve got the S-word, the F-word, a couple of different C-words. (Sometimes, just to keep people wondering, Iíll complain about the "Z-word" or the "Q-word" and then sit back and let their own imaginations fill in the blanks.)

Generally, if you donít want to encounter this type of "Offensive Language" you have the option to not watch the film, change the television channel or listen to another radio station. Film-makers and television broadcasters have been compelled to provide warnings with the entertainment the present, advising the public of the presence of "Offensive Language." And so they should. In fact, I donít think they go far enough. Personally, I feel that they need to be more specific in identifying exactly what type of "Offensive Language" I may encounter if I choose to partake of their wares.

As a writer, Iím willing to tolerate an S-word or F-word if it helps to define a character, establish a mood or move the story along. ("Fat, friendly Fireman Foster fried frankfurters on Friday. Fabulously fantastic fun!") I can live with that. However, there is another type of "Offensive Language" that is disturbingly prevalent and no one provides any warnings whatsoever. Iím talking about Verbal Ignorance.

"I aksed him why he dittint talk properly as supposed to the way he did."

I am offended by that abuse of language. It just drives me nuts! Iíll make allowances for regional dialects, accents and that sort of variance in pronunciation. I love accents. I find them fascinating. The sentence noted above owes nothing to an accent. It is the result of a speaker who simply couldnít be bothered to even listen to what they themselves were saying. Letís address the offensive factors of this sentence individually, shall we?

Firstly, we have "aksed" in place of "asked". "Asked" is the past tense of "ask" which means to make an enquiry or put forth a question. (Yes, Iím being pedantic. Bear with me. I have a point.) Now, to actually annunciate the assemblage of letters A-S-K in that order takes a little, itty-bitty bit more effort that it does to annunciate the same letters in a different order, A-K-S. Go ahead. Try it. Say "aks" (or "ax") out loud. Now say "ask" out loud. Did you notice the difference. Saying "ask" required about the same amount of effort required to blink? Saying "ax" required even less.

If someone is not even willing to make that much effort to pronounce a fairly common word, you have to wonder why their eyes donít dry up.

Secondly, we have "dittint" in place of "didnít". This person is perfectly capable of pronouncing "did" properly, and often does. Theyíll even say "did not" should the need arise. Yet, when presented with a simple contraction or "did not" they will insist on cramming a "T" into the middle of the word.

Maybe we should require people to be licensed to use contractions. Youíre (sorry, I mean "you are") not allowed to use contractions until you reach a certain age and prove that you are capable of using contractions properly. Children have to reach a certain age before we let them decide for themselves if they want to see a film with the F-word in it. Radio broadcasters can lose their license for using the profane type of "Offensive Language" on the air. In light of that, I think itís perfectly reasonable to require a license for contractions. If you misuse a contraction, you should be subject to a fine or imprisonment or public flogging or whatever.

Thirdly, we have "as supposed to" in place of "as opposed to". Referring to my handy thesaurus, under "supposed" we find such words as alleged, assumed, presumed, reputed and rumoured. Flipping the page to "opposed" we find antithetical, conflicting, contrary, incompatible, inimical, in opposition and opposite. Now letís look at the context of the phrase. For example, "I chose the butterscotch pudding as supposed/opposed to the tapioca." You can see where Iím going with this. never, ever, in the history of food, has butterscotch pudding been alleged, assumed, presumed, reputed or rumoured to actually be tapioca. On the other hand, butterscotch pudding has often been chosen in opposition to tapioca.

Once again, we are dealing with a person who simply canít be bothered to pay any attention whatsoever to what they are saying themselves.

There are, unfortunately, many more examples of "Offensive Language" of this type.

I walk away from these people. In much the same way that I have the option to not watch a film with "Offensive Language" I also exercise my option to simply walk away from someone using verbal ignorance as their particular type of "Offensive Language".

After all, if they care so little about what they have to say, why should I pay any attention to it?




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*Inspired by an opinion expressed by Bill Poulin and heís absolutely right.