Last night’s dinner with colleagues brought up a phrase: You really should suck less by now.
And ain’t that the truth?
When did we become a culture of namby-pamby everybody-gets-a-medal because you managed to put your pants on the right way that morning? Bullshit exhausts me and I know it exhausts a boat load of others out there. So today, it’s time to Bitch Slap the PC Nation. It’s my opinion that we’ve come to use language both as a crutch and a shield to protect us (and those to and of whom we speak).
Not everyone’s kid is an honor student and not every child deserves a ribbon on relay day. Yeah, everyone is special, but my parents didn’t reward me for bringing home a report card – they rewarded me for getting As. The more As I got, the more game tokens I got at Chuck-e-Cheese and the more skeeball I played and the more useless crap I got to take home from the prize redemption place every six weeks. In a culture where teachers have become surrogate parents, why are they obligated to “keep it positive?” I got my ass hauled to the principal’s office and sent to detention when I acted like a little jerk. We also got paddled. We could do with more smacks on the ass and less ribbons.
The teachers in our public schools should have the liberty to tell a kid, “You’re screwing up, I’m not going to put up with it, and NO you can’t have that fucking cell phone in class.” Ten-year-olds aren’t adults and parents aren’t supposed to be a kid’s friend. They’re supposed to be parents. As an adult, my mother is one of the most rewarding friendships I’ve been blessed with – and while growing up, she was NEVER my friend. Stop coddling kids and tell them no. It’s your house and your goddamned rules. And teachers – I’ll stand by you and fight so that you can return to the task of being educators and ditch the nanny routines.
Mother of Pearl
Ah – the master of substitutions:
- mother of pearl instead of motherfucker
- crap instead of shit
- darn instead of damn
- obese instead of fat
You’re seriously missing the boat on the word that no one sees present in all of these phrases: intent. The intent behind the phrase is the same. Regardless of the words one uses to express their joy/anger/frustration/confusion/situation, it’s generally pretty easy to uncover the intent behind the words from square one. I’m not bashing people who prefer to keep words classified as vulgarities out of their vernacular or saying it’s okay for you to walk around throwing racial or sexual pejoratives like they’re beads at Mardi Gras. I’m saying to stop being so self-righteous and condemning others for choosing the more literal path and using words you wouldn’t personally.
There’s also inherent value in using words with shock value. Yesterday, I was introduced to a piece in The New Statesman on Twitter. Authored by Laurie Penny, she puts forth a concise and well-founded argument in defense of the word “cunt.” Yes, the shocking See You Next Tuesday, the word many a soul wouldn’t dare utter. From the article (which you can read in its entirety here: In Defence of the “C” Word):
All sorts of people have a problem with ‘cunt’, even those who normally consider themselves progressive and enlightened: last week, for example, I was invited to speak at a public meeting where I happened to use the word in reference to a member of the audience…Horrified silence fell in this roomful of hardened activists, followed a few seconds later by nervously appreciative laughter. The incident later exploded on the internet, with some complaining that I had had no right to use such a provocative and shocking word at a meeting; that the word is too aggressive, too graphic. These, for context, are people who are currently cheerleading calls for a general strike and/or the overthrow of the government, but they still consider a young woman saying “cunt” in public a little too, too much.
Why is it wrong to call a cunt a cunt? The definition is “an unpleasant or stupid person” (Compact Oxford English Dictionary). I come across cunts every day. Maybe if obese people were referred to as fat and told by their doctors with no bullshit what being fat can lead to health-wise, if health insurance companies stopped depersonalizing the care process by referring to death as a “negative patient outcome,” and schools actually had the leeway to tell kids they’re being jackasses and apply punishment for “adverse behavior,” perhaps our world would be a different place. Not everyone is made to be an entrepreneur and fuck the jackwagons that preach that game. My nephew is autistic – that is a clear diagnosis. I do not want to hear some bullshit line about him having a learning or cognitive disability. I can wrap my head around autism. I can wrap my head around fat. And I can certainly wrap my head around the fact that Sarah Palin is a cunt (per definition).
Words have value and with all of the literary softening we’ve built into our collective day to day, it’s no wonder we’re a culture with few exceptional achievers and a sweeping blanket of acceptable mediocrity and deafening of issues that should be at the forefront. I think that perhaps George Carlin said it best during a piece he did on language: “I bet you, if we’d still been calling it shell shock (instead of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time.”
Tell Me, Please
What is it we’re so worried about? Is it hurting people’s feelings? If that’s the case, I truly understand. But I’ve done some research and over 38 years, I’ve come to a conclusion that might assuage you a bit (if not allay some fears) when it comes to hurting other people’s feelings:
EVERYBODY GETS THEIR FUCKING FEELINGS HURT!
Yes, it’s true and nine out of ten therapists agree. I know – shocking. But if perhaps we were more concerned with having an honest conversation than with hurting someone’s feelings – the conversations we had during our days would be more meaningful. We all bitch about people who waste our time. Conversations shaped to save feelings are time-wasters…and dishonest. I want the friends who tell me, “Hey, Erika – that was fucked up.” I want the publicist who says, “Umm yeah. That wasn’t good. Here’s why.” I want the partner who isn’t afraid to say, “That thing you did yesterday really pissed me off.” I don’t want the sugar-coated version designed to save my feelings.
Sometimes we need to be jarred back into reality and words have an incredible way of doing that. And before the comments section explodes with those who say I’m advocating being an asshole and just being flat-out mean…you know that’s not what I’m saying.
So If We Speak…
We should do so honestly. PC terms do nothing to help us or our fellow humans improve. If anything, the sugar-coating does us more harm by making us feel as if everything is fine and it’s everyone else with the problem. I think it’s fine to call a cunt a cunt. If you prefer stupid head, sure – knock yourself out. The beauty of each of us is that no two of us think or speak exactly alike, but we can use our vocabularies in a similar fashion: to speak with intention. It’s why I hate buzzwords – they take up a lot of space without doing anything. They have no intention. They’re space-fillers.
In honor of Valentine’s Day coming down the pike, stop hiding behind words. Yeah, I know it’s a Hallmark holiday filled with greeting cards and silly phrases, but grab Cupid by his wings and kick him in the jimmy. Say what you mean.
Say I love you. Say “I fucking love the shit out of you.” You make the best damn panini in Texas. I’m a jackass and I don’t know how to say this but you’re awesome. I love your bean bag. Your goofy ears make me smile.
Say what you mean. That your kid royally screwed-up. Say that we feel our military veterans deserve attention for every ounce of memories they have to carry with them for defending our right to sit in our home offices and write blog posts about language and why we’re hiding behind a shield of words. Call it shell shock. Stop calling it genocide and start calling it a country that is systematically executing its citizens. Paint the picture, because you really should suck less by now. And we suck the most when we don’t say what we mean and learn from our mistakes.
What can you take out of your vocabulary today in favor of something that serves you (and the people in your life) better?
You’ve been slapped.