View Poll Results: Are some words inherently offensive?

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Thread: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

  1. #51
    Student Gwendoline's Avatar
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zyphlin View Post
    I agree that words most definitely CAN cause harm; I just don't believe any word is universally and unequivically "offensive". I think certain words can be "offensive" to certain people, I think words that are generally never "offensive" can become such in the right context, and I think a large part of a word being able to cause harm is weakness and over sensitivity on the part of the person that is being harmed
    So the person being harmed is at fault (weakness, over sensitive) - and the one doing the harming is what? You focus on the "failings" of the person being harmed, but no mention of the conduct of the harmer? Why is that?

    It is not a trifle to be on the end of harming words. And rather than call these people weak and over sensitive, perhaps take a deeper look at the character of those who harm others with derogatory / vilifying words. What are THEY? Insensitive clods, methinks.

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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Moderator's Warning:
    Are some words inherently offensive or is context important? Note: There are words being thrown around on this thread that would probably earn folks points if used on other threads. However in the context of this discussion the use of the words is important to the discussion. Make sense? But, if one poster calls another poster any of these words -in this discussion - they're immediately thread banned. I think that's a fair compromise for those folks who do find the words inherently offensive and don't think they have any place on the discussion board whatsoever. If seeing the words even in the context of this discussion offends you then I suggest you avoid this thread altogether.

  3. #53
    Androgyne
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by Analyst View Post
    Words can definitely cause harm. For those who disagree, let me ask a question: Is there anything you are insecure or sensitive about? Does it hurt when someone finds that hot button, and uses words to insult you in relation to it? I'd argue most everyone has at least one of these..at least, no one I've known well didn't. Everyone has private shames and vulnerabilities.

    http://christopherleemay.com/2009/04...s-wound-heart/

    The gist of this article:



    I believe it's very short-sighted to claim words can't cause harm. It's simply untrue, unless you're a cyborg.
    Of course words can cause harm, but the context is extremely important. Obviously someone who decides to tell what they consider a harmless racist jokes to their friends and it offends people they are worthy of criticism because they obviously didn't stop to consider who their joke would offend. If a person calls another person a racist term meant in a derogatory way they are most definitely worthy of criticism. A person having a discussion with others about racial issues who uses the word as a point of reference isn't a racist and isn't deserving of criticism because they aren't using the word in an offensive manner. I don't believe that any word is inherently offensive regardless of the context. To me, that is incredibly ignorant.

  4. #54
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by jallman View Post
    I think the word "Hitler" carries all the context one needs.

    But no, the words "Heil Hitler" do not provoke a reaction by themselves. I immediately think "Nazi" but that is because Hitler was the leader of the Nazi party. That's the only reaction I have, though.
    Fair enough. Those words evoke images in my head and empathy towards those who suffered so horrendously during that time, but I'll concede that could just be me.

  5. #55
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by dclxvinoise View Post
    Of course words can cause harm, but the context is extremely important. Obviously someone who decides to tell what they consider a harmless racist jokes to their friends and it offends people they are worthy of criticism because they obviously didn't stop to consider who their joke would offend. If a person calls another person a racist term meant in a derogatory way they are most definitely worthy of criticism. A person having a discussion with others about racial issues who uses the word as a point of reference isn't a racist and isn't deserving of criticism because they aren't using the word in an offensive manner. I don't believe that any word is inherently offensive regardless of the context. To me, that is incredibly ignorant.
    And I think some words fall outside of the boundaries of context, rare, though that may be, nevertheless, most people are aware of which ones fit that category, whether they say so or not.

  6. #56
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by aaronssongs View Post
    And I think some words fall outside of the boundaries of context, rare, though that may be, nevertheless, most people are aware of which ones fit that category, whether they say so or not.
    So just to be clear on your position here, would you think someone who uses the term only as a point of reference is as racist or as bad as a person who uses the term against someone in a derogatory manner or as an insensitive joke?

  7. #57
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by Analyst View Post
    Fair enough. Those words evoke images in my head and empathy towards those who suffered so horrendously during that time, but I'll concede that could just be me.
    Well now I looked at just those two words when you offered them. If you said "holocaust", my reaction would have been much stronger. When I hear "Hitler", empathy is not what comes to mind for me.

  8. #58
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by Analyst View Post
    See, this is exactly what I disagree with. What are we, made out of metal?

    We're human. We ALL have weak points.
    Where'd I deny that?

    I think your position completely ignores the fact that people come from diverse backgrounds, and have varying levels of pain inflicted on them by others and society throughout their lives.
    Not at all, indeed, the fact you need to site "diverse backgrounds" and "varying levels of pain" shows you my point.

    Lets take the word that started this all off.

    Nigger

    For the N-word to be universally "offensive" every person ever that hears it would either have to be:

    1) offended

    or

    2) a racist

    That's what would be required for it to be "universally" offensive. This would have to mean that every black person that has ever called another black person the n-word would have to be either be offended by their own statement OR be a racist. Every child that ever uttered it not fully understanding the history of it would have to be either offended by it or a racist. This is the issue with "universal" truths of words.

    I never discounted to INDIVIDUALS that a word can not be "universally" offensive. Aaron states that the n-word is universally offensive to him in any and every situation it could ever be used. So be it, that's free to him. However even then, its based on the context that the word bothers him SO GREATLY, that the history of it so pains him, and his own views and opinions of people using it is so negative, that it becomes offensive to him. THAT is his context.

    However, an ENTIRELY different black person could come upon someone going "Did you hear that South Park Episode where Stan's dad said [the n word] on Wheel of Fortune" and it not bother him at all. That could not be POSSIBLE if the word was UNIVERSALLY and automatically "offensive".

    It may well be true that there are few things that hurt your feelings (though I believe very few are truly that bulletproof), but a little sensitivity towards others who may not be as well equipped through no fault of their own (ie, childhood abuse, persecution, etc) shouldn't be such a difficult thing to muster. Instead, you pile on the additional label of "weak" or "oversensitive".
    Nope, I've had my feelings hurt by words plenty of times. When I was younger, it was generally teasing that could do it to me. These days its more to do with words of disapproval or disappointment that hurt me more. "You let me down" could do more pain to me than "shorty" or "ragozzi" (popular cheap italian resturant that sounds akin to my last name) would now.

    Sorry, I'm not going to play your PC game. I'm not going to cry and get all sad and censor myself or find the nice polite way to say things simply because some people may not like the connotation if saying it plainly explains it better. To be offended is ENTIRELY dependent on ones self. Someone can come up to me and say "You are a mother ****ing honkey that likes to suck cock" and at that point I either get offended or I laugh it and the person off as either joking or insignificant.

    The human condition is weakness. No one is a perfect being. No one is a cyborg. Everyone feels pain. To be weak, to feel pain, is to be human. I strive to control my emotions, but I would NEVER give them away completely simply to never have them control me.

    In regards to oversensitive, that's the other extent of it. I fully believe at times people are in no way shape or form ACTUALLY offended by something but are simply seeking attention, drama, or to make a scene and thus purposefully act over sensitive to things in order to meet those aims.

    It seems to me that your position is just a rationale for being insensitive and not feeling guilty about it.
    Not at all. Indeed, generally in real life I am an extremely sensitive person. I generally am non-confrontational and prefer in general to try and please people when I'm in a general social setting. If things get heated (competition, spirited debate, etc) this can change, but in a general casual setting that's typically my normal attitude.

    My position is a rationale that people are FAR to sensitive these days to what people say and many people are simply looking to be offended for no other reason than for attention.

    Do the words "Heil Hitler" provoke any reaction in you at all? No context, but the words represent something nonetheless.
    You can't really say words without context though. If someone just made a post that said "Heil Hitler" and that was it...no neo-nazi seeming icon or screen name, no past history of it...I'd probably roll my eyes, think the guys a bit of an idiot, and move on. It wouldn't offend me, it wouldn't make me angry, I'd probably laugh it off.

    If someone said "And then the guy put his arm up like he was about to go 'Heil Hitler' trying to signal for the basektball and right then it got passed to him, he missed it, and it hit him in the face" it wouldn't even pass through my mind that it was in any way, shape, or form offensive.

    if someone said "Black people and Jews are the devil, we must exterminate them all, Heil Hitler!" then I'd probably think they're neo-nazi sons of bitches, a rather worthless human being, and if not for the laws of this land I'd probably like to punch them in the face.

    As I said, words are not universally and automatically offensive, it is entirely the context and entirely up to how the person hearing it feels about it.

  9. #59
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Considering that everyone's experiences, reactions to things and views on what is or isn't offensive are subjective and differ from person to person, doesn't that kind of underline the importance of context and why no word can be inherently offensive?

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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by dclxvinoise View Post
    So just to be clear on your position here, would you think someone who uses the term only as a point of reference is as racist or as bad as a person who uses the term against someone in a derogatory manner or as an insensitive joke?
    Absolutely. Insensitivity cannot be used as an excuse for racism or bigotry.
    If someone is offended by something that you've said, why is the onus on that person to accommodate you? That, in my mind, is asinine in the extreme.

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