Language, it turns out, is pretty important. After all, how do you complain to tech support, or order fast food, or be sarcastic, if you don’t use language? Language can be used to persuade, inform, convey emotion, and, this is becoming more clear to me every day, hurt people.
Every day in the news I read about language problems occurring where someone perceives something as inappropriate. It seems to be a new fascination with the media. It almost feels like the News has become a tattletale industry: “mommmmmm! Johnny said the T word!” or “Mommmmmm! Beyonce showed her T-Words in concert!”
Here are a few examples of I read about, each of them available from news files and reported today:
- Today, CNN anchor John King referred to the person-of-interest in the Boston Bombings as “a dark-skinned male.” A lot of people are upset by this. Without belaboring the point, race makes people twitchy in the USA. Some people see it as an affront, or as racial profiling. Some folks, of course, don’t see it as a problem.
- Here’s another example: A white teacher in Brooklyn shouted at her African-American middle school students today, while she was talking and misbehaving during the morning announcements: She asked “Are you a monkey? The Department of Education is investigating the incident, and the teacher has been put on leave.
- But here’s the one that really got me today. New Hampshire Legislator Peter Hansen, in commentary against Anti-Gun Legislation referred to women and girls as vaginas. Yeah. You read that right.
“There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims,” Hansen wrote.
Leaving aside his inept usage of apostrophes for a moment, how can anyone reduce more than 50% of the planet to their genitalia? Several readers suggested if he can call women vaginas, then we’re allowed to call him a dick. Some others noted that he probably used that word because he censored himself from using a 4-letter C word that is far more socially unacceptable.
Even more frightening was his insistence that he had done nothing inappropriate.
Having a fairly well educated mind I do not need self appointed wardens to A: try to put words in my mouth for political gain and B: Turn a well founded strategy in communication into an insulting accusation, and finally if you find the noun vagina insulting or in some way offensive then perhaps a better exercise might be for you to re-examine your psyche.
Even after his initial defense, his forthcoming “apology” seemed pretty weak. He exonerates himself from any blame, and then apologizes to the “offended people.”
Can there be any doubt my comment is being misinterpreted and taken completely out of context? It was not, and is not, my intention to demean women at any time. It is apparent that the intent of my remarks has been misinterpreted, the true goal of the message lost and for that I apologize to those who took offense.
Yeah. Can there be any doubt? I’ve been around the block once or twice, and referring to people by their genitals has never been anything but offensive. I should know. I’m pretty offensive myself.
I don’t know if there’s a point to this post, other than Rep. Peter Hansen can’t use apostrophes. And, despite that, he has a “fairly well educated mind.” Oh–and also, he has proven he can be quite the weenie.