Wednesday September 28, 2005

Fuck this shit

Critical Miami is now a family-friendly blog. We may indulge in the occasional four-letter word, but it turns out not to be a problem. Cussin’ among kids is becoming so accepted that the Palm Beach school board is loosening rules against it. “This is bullshit,” will get you an in-school suspension (depending on the context). We gather this is the first step in codification of what’s been a widespread de-facto policy for years.

This is the sort of news that calls for profound, philosophical reflection on the role of profanity in society and human nature. Luckily, we don’t have to do the heavy lifting, ‘cause we’ve got the New York Fucking Times doing it:

“In some cultures, swear words are drawn mainly from sex and bodily functions, whereas in others, they’re drawn mainly from the domain of religion,” Dr. Deutscher said.

In societies where the purity and honor of women is of paramount importance, he said, “it’s not surprising that many swear words are variations on the ‘son of a whore’ theme or refer graphically to the genitalia of the person’s mother or sisters.”

The very concept of a swear word or an oath originates from the profound importance that ancient cultures placed on swearing by the name of a god or gods. In ancient Babylon, swearing by the name of a god was meant to give absolute certainty against lying, Dr. Deutscher said, “and people believed that swearing falsely by a god would bring the terrible wrath of that god upon them.” A warning against any abuse of the sacred oath is reflected in the biblical commandment that one must not “take the Lord’s name in vain,” and even today courtroom witnesses swear on the Bible that they are telling the whole truth and nothing but.

Among Christians, the stricture against taking the Lord’s name in vain extended to casual allusions to God’s son or the son’s corporeal sufferings – no mention of the blood or the wounds or the body, and that goes for clever contractions, too. Nowadays, the phrase, “Oh, golly!” may be considered almost comically wholesome, but it was not always so. “Golly” is a compaction of “God’s body” and, thus, was once a profanity.

So what we have here is not so much a loosening of restrictions on cursing; we have the acknowledgement that George Carlin’s 7 words are no longer considered our society’s worst oaths. The NY Times again:

Some researchers are so impressed by the depth and power of strong language that they are using it as a peephole into the architecture of the brain, as a means of probing the tangled, cryptic bonds between the newer, “higher” regions of the brain in charge of intellect, reason and planning, and the older, more “bestial” neural neighborhoods that give birth to our emotions.

Researchers point out that cursing is often an amalgam of raw, spontaneous feeling and targeted, gimlet-eyed cunning. When one person curses at another, they say, the curser rarely spews obscenities and insults at random, but rather will assess the object of his wrath, and adjust the content of the “uncontrollable” outburst accordingly.

The new law doesn’t really allow kids to exercise this kind of wrath in school. Instead, as the 7 words are gradually becoming more acceptable in conversation (and on TV), a whole new set of words is becoming taboo, mostly racial epithets. You bet those words are not going to be tolerated in schools, whether they’re used in a hostile way or not.

Anyway, some will acuse the Palm Beach school board of wasting time on trivialities, but that really is not what this is. It’s an recognition that society is changing, and our rules need to change.

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  1. Zak Attak    Wed Oct 5, 04:54 PM #  

    there is a pretty good “penn & teller BULLSHIT” based on the idea of profanity in our society. check it out if you can… FUUUUUCK!!!!

  2. wow    Sat Oct 22, 05:35 AM #  

    fred called in with threats and got me the grant…