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offensive words
Posted: 29 May 2007 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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A friend of mine is offended by the word “bitch” to the point where she won’t use the word, even in reported speech. “He then called her a female dog” she would say, making it quite obvious those weren’t the words used.

Interestingly, “bitch” seems to have an etymology every bit as obscure as that for “dog”.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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There’s a pretty good Wikipedia titled “Rastus”. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve even heard it mentioned. A certain relative of mine uses racial slurs quite freely but he is adept enough to use them to a person’s face and get a laugh. He’s so uniformly abrasive and offensive to just about everyone he knows that people genuinely like him, though they probably wouldn’t choose to be cooped up in a cabin with him for any length of time. It’s a perverse world.

A friend of mine is offended by the word “bitch” to the point where she won’t use the word, even in reported speech. “He then called her a female dog” she would say, making it quite obvious those weren’t the words used.

Now that you mention it, many people find things offensive primarily based on their belief stuctures.  Since I personally believe in nothingness, then all things which challenge nothingness offend me, which is to say all things offend me.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 06:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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That make for a tough life, Foolscap. How do you cope?

Here is that Wikipedia link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastus

The name is well known in the USA as a racial slur.

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Posted: 29 May 2007 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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That make for a tough life, Foolscap. How do you cope?

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/forums/

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Posted: 30 May 2007 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Pet shop proprietor: “You can have that bitch for $200, madam, or this bitch for $250.”
(Customer looks uncomfortable)
P.S.P. What’s the matter, madam, aren’t you familiar with the term ‘bitch’?”
Customer: “Yes, but I’ve never heard it applied to a dog before”.

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Posted: 07 June 2007 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Interesting take on a related topic: How does a dirty word get that way?

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Posted: 08 June 2007 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I find that article a bit flaky. 

Most often, swear words grow less vulgar with time.

But just as often they grow more vulgar; this happened to shit, which in Anglo-Saxon and mediaeval English was an acceptable everyday (if crude) word for an everyday (if crude) thing, and to bloody.

Back in Shakespeare’s day, when one’s lineage mattered a lot more, the word bastard was so offensive it was often written “b-d.”

I just don’t believe that. Shakespeare introduces two illegitimate sons of noblemen, the Bastard of Falconbridge (King John) and the Bastard of Orleans (Henry VI Part 1) who are routinely addressed as such in polite conversation. To be the bastard of a king or a duke might not be quite as good as being his legitimate heir, but it was a matter for pride nonetheless.

Likewise for God damn and hell, which were considered so bad back in the 17th century that they were often spelled with dashes.

Were they? I’ve always thought that habit was a result of the creeping gentility of the later 18th century at earliest. Can anybody confirm or disprove this?

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Posted: 08 June 2007 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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You’re right to be sceptical of the article. The word bastard was not censored in Shakespeare’s times. There is some substance to the second quote. Here’s the first cite I could find in a rapid google, I’ll dig up something more substantial from my shelves in the morning.

In any case, the year 1606 brought a new act that consolidated these disparate censorial duties under the Revels Office. Titled the Act to Restrain Abuses of Players, it also augmented the list of prohibited subjects with “jestingly or profanely” invoking “the holy Name of God or of Christ Jesus, or of the Holy Ghost or of the Trinity.” All by itself, this act radically reduced the verbal impact of a few of Shakespeare’s characters-such as Sir John Falstaff and Ancient Pistol-who were wretchedly profane in texts before 1606, and only terribly profane thereafter.

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Posted: 09 June 2007 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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We hear about the Victorian era as a prim and proper one. Did the “dirty” words go undercover during that period? In other words, has humankind gone through periods when “dirty” words became less acceptable?

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Posted: 09 June 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Yes.  Tony McEnery, in his recent book Swearing in English, says:

Jeremy Collier…, beginning with his 1688 work, A Short View of the Immorality and Prophaneness of the English Stage, ... started a debate that was both to change the language used on stage and act as a precursor to the assault… on the language used by the lower classes on the streets.... He deplored the use of bad language on stage and claimed that some of the language used on stage clearly breached laws against the use of such language. ... Collier encouraged the middle and upper classes to set a good example by not using bad language.

This led to the stifling propriety of the Victorian era, which had to be bulldozed by men like Shaw and Lawrence.

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Posted: 10 June 2007 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Eyehawk - 09 June 2007 12:22 PM

We hear about the Victorian era as a prim and proper one. Did the “dirty” words go undercover during that period? In other words, has humankind gone through periods when “dirty” words became less acceptable?

I think they went undercover. I read My Secret Life by Anon (now thought to be a Victorian toff called Henry Spencer Ashbee) which is pretty graphic not only in language. I remember being taken with the words “gamahuche” for cunnilingus and “minette” for fellatio which both sound French. He uses earthier Anglo-Saxon words too, and is no doubt cited in the most recent OED.

Ashbee has a wiki entry, and the whole book is online: http://www.my-secret-life.com/

Looks like they didn’t sublimate everything into science, engineering, exploration and Dickensian sentimentality. Lousy legacy though, generally speaking.

Just checked the my-secret-life site and there’s a dirty word occurence (sic) list there if you scroll down. It’s a valuable sociological and linguistic resource, honour bright!

[ Edited: 11 June 2007 08:14 AM by venomousbede ]
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