Last night I had a round-table discussion with my woman and her parents about a great many topics. At one point we talked about naughty language and my use of it and acceptance of its use by others on my facebook account. Particularly, my woman’s mother, Bev, was concerned that people who knew me only superficially would formulate a negative opinion of me based on my use of profanity, and worse that they would judge her and her daughter negatively for associating with me.
This didn’t bother me too much, as I explained that if this hypothetical person got to know me they would probably like me, and if they wanted to judge me for my good-natured use of profanity then they probably weren’t the type I wanted to associate with anyhow.
Now I don’t want to get into another rant about how people miss the point or message when they focus too much on the words used to convey it, as I had such a rant very recently in my post, “Don’t Judge a Book by RAPE BITCHES KILL PEOPLE” (2 February 2012). Instead, I want to discuss how this conversation turned into a discussion about words which simply should not be used. In addition to cunt, some other candidates for banishment were fuck, retard, faggot, and nigger.
For the record I am very much against any kind of censorship. Many of my opinions on censorship as it pertains to language specifically were inspired by Orwell’s 1984, and the Ingsoc government’s implementation of Newspeak. There is a great line in Orwell’s essay on Newspeak which was included as an appendix to the edition I read, which states, “The goal of Newspeak was to limit thought insofar as thoughts depended on the words used to formulate them” (paraphrase). By corollary I believe the opposite is also true; more words will lead to a greater ability to express more subtle and nuanced ideas. For this reason we should not deride newly-created words and slang as bastardizations of once-pristine languages, but rather celebrate them as new evolutions of the language to express new ideas.
Similarly, the re-appropriation of words which have fallen into relative disuse must also be tolerated because they often express things in such a succinct way that to use other (perhaps less offensive words) would simply not get your point across. A classic example would be the widespread use of the word gay to describe much more than homosexuality. Still, the word gay is relatively inoffensive and can be used with impunity. On the other hand, faggot and its derivatives are much harder to defend. But really its such a perfect pejorative in the same way that gay is except that its more emphatic. No other word really cuts the mustard when you want to describe the faggotry of bigots, furries, scientologists, newfags, etc.
I could go on and on with examples of why we need certain words but that would be tiresome. The main idea is that we need every word because each expresses something, but in a slightly different way than its closest synonyms. Bill Maher and Seth McFarlane talk about this on this clip from Real Time. At 3:39 Bill basically states my exact opinion on the matter, but much more eloquently so you should check it out. In closing, I will say that words don’t have the power to oppress you any more than you let them.