Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cussin and taboos

Still avoiding the magnificent Osama surge, or leaving it to those who are really on top of it, I’m moved to share some thoughts on language and taboos. It takes ages for some things to bubble to the surface of the mind, and the new swear word has finally revealed itself to me.

There are lots of ancient, historical information on the progression of ‘vulgar’ language, of crude insults. I’m talking the stuff intended to cause the greatest hurt to the intended recipient.

But I’m starting from the early English texts of Chaucer and Shakespeare. (Word is magic, Shaky spelled his name in so many different ways, Word can tell me the correct form it seems) So starting with these dudes…

Chaucer pioneered writing in this spoken English language, the language of the people. Both employed sexual innuendo, but used the robust Anglo Saxon ‘four letter words’ and without venom. They used coy sacrilegious insults, more coy than has been common in our time. Their main insults were to wish horrendous diseases on people.

We have now managed to destroy the blunt beauty of the Anglo Saxon by loading a bunch of short sharp words with a vicious, venomous intent. But that in itself wears thin and the words really lose their value as insults.

I have been called, well we won’t go there, but I am skinny, wear glasses and have an appreciation for female pudenda. I find it hard to take the intended insult seriously. That is the problem with insults, once they become funny or owned rather than vicious attacks intended. Just take the way homosexuals neutered gay by owning the term.

What concerns me is that the new, insidious insult is related to paedophilia. There is not, and never can be any comfortable accommodation with this abomination. It has been used against me several times over the past few years, always by men who don’t have the intellect to think through the idiocy of their insult.

I don’t particularly like being around children, but I have a deep respect for their right to develop without abuse by adults they should be able to trust. Using the paedophile variants undermines an essential campaign to stamp the abuses out.

The first time I was accused I sweated. How do you prove a negative? Fortunately I didn’t even need to respond as the trumped up charge was apparently discounted very quickly when the coached victims were interviewed. I can understand the attack; I’m a real bastard to pick a fight with. I never let the enemy know where the next hit will come from, and I don’t expose myself.

The latest is a result of my activities dealing with neighbourhood disputes stemming from a growing rage out there. Bullies are funny creatures; they bluster, threaten then go for whatever words they think might hurt. This time the attacker is actually being accused of real child abuse. Well, he like most who use the tactic is a hopeless, gutless bully.

I guess religious types will still get there nickers in a knot over their group of insults, but I’m more sympathetic to the crap women have to accept. The real concern is that insults trivialise language and vital issues.

Paedophilia must not be trivialised in this way. We must never allow children to be abused as they have been historically. We must not allow the weak in our society to devalue something as important as this.

Cussin is as old as time, but we need to put a lid on this one. Each step society takes forward brings up an equal reaction. Surely we are culturally sophisticated to say ENOUGH!


D.K. Raed said...

I'm at a loss, Cartledge. Usually I can figure out what is being intentionally unspecified by the clues provided. But I'm drawing a blank here. Whatever it is that got under your skin, I do know the best way to deal with bullies is to fight back.

I like inventive invective myself, but never directed at children, or the weak or innocent. There is no sport in mental abuse; it must be directed towards those who appreciate witty ribaldry. That said, it was sad day when oaths like 'zounds fell from popularity.

Cartledge said...

I guess I'm old fashioned, coy or whatever. There are a group of pedophile words, accusations are making zounds sound antediluvian (well it is, lets face it).
I love good robust Anglo Saxon repartee, even as appropriate play words.
What scares me is this new trend is nothing to do with playful and everything to do with hopeless hate. I hate all forms of hate.
I do love language used properly, and we have a rich heritage.

Cartledge said...

d.k. to be fair I should be less coy. The first time I faced this was the result of a relationship where the children were being used by the father to get me. For one child it wasn’t an issue, she was happy to take on the hate. But the coaching didn’t get past initial police interviews.
The kid still hates me, sadly. But what is worse the now young adult still uses the word paedophile to describe anything animate or inanimate that upsets her. She had no idea what it meant then and still has no idea.
The current ‘bully’ tried the same approach. He knows what it means and added other terms like ‘rock spider’. It seems this guy, in his late 30’s has no problem hitting on any female, except most adult ones reject him quickly. He is now looking at answering charges from a 13 yo.
The game isn’t new, the mindless insult is. I get angry that kids are being used two ways now. Call me what you like, I can deal with it, but please protect those too young to protect themselves.

abi said...

Hang in there, Cartledge. Don't let the bastards get you down.

Cartledge said...

abi, first time round that insult stung. I'm not amenable to insult in the normal course of things, because words don't really mean much unless you have some respect for those delivering them.
I am concerned more at the trivialization of unacceptable behaviour by adding it to the litany of swear words.
No the bastards will not6 wear me down.

D.K. Raed said...

I'm very sorry you are even having to deal with this sort of thing. To purposefully corrupt the mind of a very young person with such hate is evil. How you combat it is tricky. A fine line to walk between seeming too insulted and seeming to not care at all, eh?

We went through a very bad case in San Diego in the 90's. It involved an unusual looking man named Dale Akiki. He was so unusual looking that when he was accused of the most outrageous behavior, he was practically condemned without a trial. Eventually it did go to trial, where it was all quickly dismissed. Now, it's not the same as you've cited, this guy was accused of many more things than a sane person can imagine. What was amazing was the many child psychologists who jumped in & "proved" that the children were all telling the "truth" about Mr. Akiki. At the time, the newspapers ran constant coverage of him with his very odd appearance plastered on every story. Today his image is nowhere to be found online. But I recall how chagrined the public was when the details emerged at trial & it became obvious the man had simply been targeted due to his appearance. If you google his name, there are many articles (but no pictures). Here's one of the less sensational pieces:


Please don't get me wrong ... I'm not saying or implying anything other than that after witnessing how this man was railroaded for years and how easily manipulable the childrens' memories proved to be, I sympathize with what you are describing. The heartache of an unprovable negative is so unjust!

Cartledge said...

d.k., i understand exactly what your re saying and i agree entirely. You know we probably share the same sort of views on punishment for punishment sake, but anyone who preys on the vulnerable turn me into a real right winger... well you know what I mean.
But I think anyone who trivializes the issue with false and unsupportable allegations or just as a stupid swear word should face some penalty.
I experienced one case where a broken but still decent guy was hounded to suicide through a whisper campaign.
My kids were still pre teens and supposedly among the victims. They all came to his defense then, but couldn't beat the whispers. They learned early about that sick part of our society, the ones who will stoop to anything to destroy another person. And these people were a church community!!!
I'm not worried for me, it is becoming a common, cheap attack for people without other recourses, like intelligence.
But again, i really do agree with your summary.

dada said...

At the beginning of this thread, I had no idea what was being said here. But as it continues, I'm beginning to get it. (I think.)

As with a movie Mrs. Dada and I attended this past Monday (one of my choosing, then dismay after it began) entitled "Atonement."

My spirits sank as I realized it was an English film sans closed captioning. "DAMN!" I thought. How will I make it through two hours of this w/o a clue as to what's being said.

But the further into it I got, the better I understood. Much like this thread of comments. Perhaps the difference being, the movie turned tragically beautiful in the end, whereas the ending for this script is still being written I suppose.

Sorry for digression. It's a defense mechanism I employ when confused.

Cartledge said...

I don't expect this story will end beautiful in any sense. But perhaps I could make my mutterings more accessible by adding long mood setting scenes. Sorry, my dig at US film ;)

Enigma4ever said...

of Watergate Summer here..

I thought I commented before...but I guess I didn't ..

this is a great post about an issue that gets overlooked....

I think we talk better- speaking with clarity when we know we are heard more...

But language is so important...

Do you read Chomsky ?

I bet you do...

Cartledge said...

Chomsky? Indeed, don’t always agree with him, but I really respect his love of language. I have trouble with American usage, but of course the reverse is equally true. I know there will always be cuss words, and they seem to stem from social taboos of a given period. Some it is the violent presentation which is offensive, with others simply using them out of proper context is offensive.