Language

What’s wrong with the word faggot?

Matt Damon has reportedly denied using a well-known homophobic slur “in his personal life”, after being widely criticized for revealing in a recent interview that he “retired” the term after his daughter told him it was unacceptable.

The Oscar-winning actor had told the Sunday Times that the word “was commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application”.

He said his daughter had taken him to task after he used the word in a joke “months ago”. “She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous. I said, ‘I retire the f-slur!’ I understood,” he said in the interview.

What are we to call that pile of sticks looking like unbundled fasces? Or, indeed, that porky, liverish, meaty treat from Mr. Brains?

Do bugger off

T’ain’t the word that’s the problem:

Health campaigners are calling for an end to the use of the word leper, saying the language frequently used by politicians and others during the pandemic has made people with leprosy even more marginalised.

The metaphor of the socially outcast “leper” has been used often, whether in media reports on stigma against early Covid-19 patients or by politicians in Italy and Brazil complaining about being seen as “leper colonies”. Campaigners now want an end to the use of what they call the “L-word”.

“This type of language perpetuates a mindset against people still suffering,” said Mathias Duck, global advocacy manager at The Leprosy Mission, a British charity.

“People affected were already marginalised before the pandemic, and the pandemic has pushed leprosy even further down the priority list.”

So, let’s change the word we use. We’ll call it Hansen’s. Cool, so people that no one want’s to meet up with will swiftly become known as Hansen’s. Let’s call is mycobacterium leprae, folks will swiftly be known as Mikes for being socially toxic. We’ll then move on to calling is “oopsnosedropoff” and those we’d not piss on if on fire will be known as “oopsnosedropoffees”.

Because it’s not the word that matters, it’s the states. True, leprosy is much more mildly infectious than most believe but the association with isolation is there from history. So too is the idea that there are some we’d rather like to see diverted from polite company. The two ideas are going to be associated, whatever the word used, just because that’s the way humans work.

We can even test this – and no, I don;t know the answer, it is a real test – are the two associated in languages other than English? The disease and the social state? Then it’s not the word in use in English, is it?

Humph

Who Is Eric Adams?
New York’s new mayor-in-waiting is in some ways a throwback to an older era of urban politics.

So if I’d written a headline calling a black guy a throwback the Twatterati would be after me, right?

Since it’s a progressive using the infelicitous phrasing they get a pass, right?

Bollocks

If there’s one word in the English language that I’d like to get rid of, it’s nimby. The acronym – for “not in my back yard” – is often used by developers and politicians to deride local protesters who stand up to housebuilding. “Nimbys”, they claim, are self-interested, live in nice houses, in nice places and want to deny these privileges to newcomers. In my opinion, the word is a spectacular example of how language can stand reality on its head: developers are not champions of the people and those who oppose them are certainly not selfish.

Idiot. The definition of nimby is those who are selfishly preventing development for their own local and personal interests.

Those who are doing it – really, not just claiming – for larger reasons aren’t nimbys.

Stop with the euphemisms

Agreed, there are true and real problems out there but this really does grate:

The corporation will write to the 260,000 outstanding customers in the coming weeks to warn that it is a legal requirement to hold a valid TV licence. Over-75s who qualify for Pension Credit will be able to claim exemption, but must respond to the BBC’s letter.

A BBC spokesperson said of the next stage in the process: “From the autumn, subject to covid restrictions, customers who have not made arrangements may receive a customer care visit from a specially trained support team to assist them in becoming correctly licensed.

“We are now planning how we arrange customer care visits and are looking at a range of options.”

Listen, Kokot

A ceasefire in the UK and EU sausage war should be announced within 48 hours in Brussels, a European Commission vice-president told members of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, preventing a ban on British bangers in the country.

Maros Sefcovic also warned Britain against continued “negative rhetoric”…

This actually being our country we don’t require some piča operating as the mouthpiece of the German Defence Minister telling us either what we may do or what we may say. You may, as we are being polite, take your sračka and swim in it. We might even suggest nasrať do rúk a nepustiť k vode!

Seriously, počul si, čo zajebal? We must not engage in negative rhetoric?

Fuck off lad.

To argue about an apostrophe

As I’ve remarked more than once I don;t actually know much about the actual rules of writing:

£17bn of UK arms sold to rights’ abusers

Is that right?

It’s not exactly the possessive, is it? Yes, they are the abusers of rights but, umm, just dinnae read right.

Etymology

The fruit and its leaves, known botanically as Citrus hystrix, are native to Sri Lanka and are also found in Mauritius and South East Asia, where the plant is known as Makrut.

It is thought it became known as kaffir lime in reference to the Kaffirs ethnic group in Sri Lanka who traditionally smeared it on their legs and feet to ward off leeches.

However, the word kaffir also became a term for a non-Muslim, or disbeliever, in Arabic, which was in turn applied to sub-saharan Africans who did not practice Islam. From here it became a racist insult used by South African whites against the country’s indigenous population.

And of course we do not use the word any more because we’re aware.

But do Arabs?

Would, for example, Nesrine Malik, that Sudanese Arab, use the word to refer to sub-Saharan non-believers?

French is weird

In French grammar, nouns reflect the gender of the object to which they are referring and male dominates female in mixed settings – so a group of friends with nine women and one man would nevertheless be termed with the masculine ‘amis’.

Activists have long pushed for textbooks to add an ‘e’ to feminise certain words, making them more inclusive. In their preferred teaching materials, “élus”, French for elected officials, becomes “élu.e.s”, for example.

Given that the elected are a pack of female genitalia you’d have thought this would be a feminine collective noun…..

This is going to be fun – define racism

Social media giants that fail to crackdown on racism will face multi-million pound fines under new duty of care laws to be unveiled next month.

On the eve of football’s weekend boycott of social media over abuse, The Telegraph can reveal racism will for the first time be prescribed in law as an online harm to be regulated by Ofcom, the official new duty of care watchdog.

What, exactly, is racism? For if there’s a legal duty there must be a legal definition…….

Isn’t language lovely?

Or possibly, the rhetorical effects of word choices?

argued in favor of laws that require transgender people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender

This “sterilization” is also known as “full transition to correct gender” which is an operation that you should be paying for, haters. To argue otherwise is to deny trans people lifesaving medical treatment.

Not enough I say!

“There are over 3,000 pejorative words for ‘woman’.”

Still a good decision all the same:

Derogatory terms for women, such as “bint” and “bitch”, will remain in the Oxford Dictionary of English because to remove them would amount to censorship, the publisher has said.

After all, where are we going to learn the 3,000 when we need them if not in the dictionary?

Sigh

Royal protection is provided by Scotland Yard’s SO14. Simon Morgan was a personal protection officer for several royals, including Prince Harry, from 2007 to 2013. Harry would have come to know his police protection officers, Morgan said, as some had been with him for years and were integrated into his life. “It is a trusted role, you build up a rapport with your principle. You can understand how much anxiety having your protection detail taken away can cause,” he said.

For years I’ve whinged – gently it must be said – about the way that Americans so often get the distinction between principal and principle wrong. Apparently this is another foreign invasion into the language which we must up with put.

A language question

So, the laddie in the cornershop speaks Gurkhali. In conversation he implied that, of course, he also spoke Hindi. It’s the “of course” bit.

So, these varied Asian languages, how far apart are they? Obviously, Burmese is a different language group, Tibetan, Chinese etc etc. But Hindi, Gurkahli, Bengali…..are they just a bit more than dialects as with, say, Florentine and Milanese? More apart like Italian and Portuguese?

I know they’re not different language groups, like Basque and Bulgarian.

But how far apart are they? More a matter of accent and vocab or entirely different?

My test on this would be can you speak the one, slowly and clearly, but be largely understood by a speaker of another? Obviously, marked as some foreign git but understood?

They’re idiots as well as stupid

Academics at an Australian university, it was reported this week, not only endorse the term “chestfeeding” – they recommend alternatives to “mother” and “father”, too. The proposals appear in Australia National University’s Gender Institute Handbook. Instead of “mother”, the authors suggest “gestational parent” – and instead of “father”, they suggest “non-birthing parent”.

Their joy at trying to change the words means they’ve missed the obvious point. That the distinction between “gestational parent” and “non-birthing parent” is the same distinction as between mother and fact – indeed, as between male and female.

Which doesn’t achieve what they’re hoping to achieve, does it?

There is a point here

This is an argument about three words: “Regardless of intent.” Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.

Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.

The difference between mens rea and strict liability offence, no?

No wonder The Times has never previously been shy about citing racial slurs in order to explain a point. Here is a famous quote by the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater that has appeared at least seven times in The Times, most recently in 2019, precisely because it powerfully illuminates the mindset of a crucial political player.

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights’ and all that stuff.”

Is this now supposed to be a scandal? Would the ugliness of Atwater’s meaning have been equally clearer by writing “n—, n—, n—”? A journalism that turns words into totems — and totems into fears — is an impediment to clear thinking and proper understanding.

Quite so. Why you’ve done the thing, why you’ve said it, does rather matter.

This, by the way, is from the column the New York Times refused to print….

The persistence of rhyming slang

For a little piece elsewhere I needed to use the built in image finder to add an, umm, image.

So, I looked for “septic tank” as it concerned a column by India Knight.

It started showing piccies of Shermans. Maybe Grants.

Which I think is nice…….

Racism at the New York Times!

After the excursion ended, according to multiple parents of students on the trip who spoke with The Daily Beast along with documents shared with the Times and reviewed by the Beast, many participants relayed a series of troubling accusations to the paper: McNeil repeatedly made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip including, according to two complaints, using the “n-word.”

Hmm, what did he say?

“I would change the journalist. He was a racist,” a third person wrote. “He used the ‘N’ word, said horrible things about black teenagers, and said white supremacy doesn’t exist.”

“He wasn’t respectful during some of the traditional ceremonies we attended with indigenous healers/shamans,” yet another wrote.

Gosh.

We found he had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language.

So, to say that “White folks can’t use the word nigger but black folks can because it’s a reclamation of the slur” is in itself racist because it’s a white folk using the world that a white folk cannot use. In fact, by using the word in that sense and context here I have just been racist.

At which point we really do need to proffer that Anglo Saxon Wave a little more, don’t we?