View Poll Results: Are some words inherently offensive?

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

  1. #61
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by dclxvinoise View Post
    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?
    Exactly. Take the word "porch monkey". I had never ever heard that word used in a racial context my whole life until I heard it said so in "Clerks 2". I was like...what?!? Porch monkey? Really?

    My grandma and my parents and everyone used to call kids "porch monkeys". It's like calling them rugrats. But apparently it's racist to some people. I called the neighbor's kid a porch monkey a while ago and his mom was like "what did you just call my kid?" She asked with a giggle but it was clear she thought of it as a racist term. When I explained that where I am from, it's not racist...it's just a jest that means unruly child, she giggled and said "I like that. It fits."

    So in light of that, was porch monkey ever a racist term? Is it a racist term sometimes? Is it no longer a racist term between my neighbor and myself?

  2. #62
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by aaronssongs View Post
    Absolutely. Insensitivity cannot be used as an excuse for racism or bigotry.
    How is it insensitivity when it is just being used as a reference point? Earlier you copied and pasted something from wikipedia including tons of terms that could be considered offensive. Why was that okay? I realize you just copied and pasted them, but it doesn't change that you put them out there in the same way that you would if you had typed them.

    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.
    I'm sorry, but I just think it's absurd for someone to be offended by me using that term when it is only being used as a reference point and not as a derogatory or insulting term. As I said earlier, we all differ in what we believe and what we consider offensive, am I supposed to be careful not to say some words (even in a non-derogatory context) in case they may offend some people?

    What about when African Americans use the term in a non-derogatory sense? Are they being racist as well?

    I agree that people shouldn't use the term carelessly in case they offend someone and that would fall under the umbrella of jokes or whatever. But to use it as a reference point? I'm sorry, but that's just silly to me.

  3. #63
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by aaronssongs View Post
    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.
    Some people will go out of their way to be offended by anything and everything they can, though. Why is the onus on society to protect their overly tender sensibilities?

  4. #64
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gwendoline View Post
    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.
    Not at all. Did I say there was no FAULT on the person stating the things, or that they're a perfect person? I only said that generally one can only be offended due to weakness (IE, the inability to not let someone elses words make you feel worse) or oversensitivity.

    Lets say someone stranger calls me a son of a bitch after bumping into me.

    That person is being rude and offensive. He is at fault for being rude and offensive.

    Even if I let it wash over me, roll my eyes at the guy, and ignore his comment, he is still being rude and offensive.

    If I take great offense to it, if I go "How DARE this guy I have absolutely no connection with and have no reason to give a damn what they think call ME a son of a bitch! That hurts my feelings and now I think less of myself and am getting ANGRY" then I am at fault for being so out of control of my emotions to let a stranger who has zero influence to me have such control over me as to make me angry and feel bad. HE is still at fault for being rude and offensive, but I only have me to blame for being OFFENDED or UPSET by it.

    There are a few legitimate areas where I'd say this changes a bit. If someone personally went through some kind of huge tramatic event that has actually caused mental issues and words help trigger it, then it falls more on the person that caused these tramatic events that set such a situation up than the person themselves. Technically, them being offended or upset is still due to a "weakness", but to take that as an insult is like saying that a person paralyzed from the waist down can't get something off the 5th shelf because his bodies to weak to do it is also insulting.

    Blame and Cause are two differnet things. We live in such a PC society these days that some people can't understand that, especially when talking about people.

  5. #65
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    I call people "honkies" all the time. Does it get the same treatment as "always offensive"?

    Example 1: "Damn, did you hear that joke that Tucker told? That honkey cracks me up."

    Is that offensive?

    Example 2: "Tucker Case is a vile honkey and I want to eat his children"

    Is that offensive?

  6. #66
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Context is always important with language. Even racial slurs aside, context and environment will always matter. A person with brains and class understands how to modify their language depending on the context of their environment. For example I grew up in a home with brothers and a family that is loud and prone to cursing. My mother doesn't bat an eye when bad words are dropped. My mother in law however would fall down dead if I freely cursed around her. I wouldn't be able to work as a volunteer up at the school if I were too stupid to curb my language in that environment. I don't talk to my mother in law the same way I talk to my friends out of respect for my knowledge that certain things offend her.

    When it comes to racial slurs like the N word and others I don't think classy folks use them, white or black. I think black youth commonly throw the word around much in the same way a girlfriend might exclaim, "You slut," when hearing another girlfriend tell of a wild night. It's a totally different context than if some non-friend just ups and calls someone a slut.

    There's really no context in which a white person should ever use the N word. Or wetback - which is actually the racial slur I've heard most commonly over the past few years. Or any other racial slur. Unless, they are joking around with friends who enjoy joking around that way for whatever reason and those folks ought to be smart enough to alter the language for environments where it's obvious that language is gonna ruffle feathers.

    All that said, many words like "monkey" are not racist and I don't think racial groups should start domineering the vocabulary and going out of their way to search with a fine tooth comb for racism in the most benign of statements.

  7. #67
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by talloulou View Post
    Context is always important with language. Even racial slurs aside, context and environment will always matter. A person with brains and class understands how to modify their language depending on the context of their environment. For example I grew up in a home with brothers and a family that is loud and prone to cursing. My mother doesn't bat an eye when bad words are dropped. My mother in law however would fall down dead if I freely cursed around her. I wouldn't be able to work as a volunteer up at the school if I were too stupid to curb my language in that environment. I don't talk to my mother in law the same way I talk to my friends out of respect for my knowledge that certain things offend her.

    When it comes to racial slurs like the N word and others I don't think classy folks use them, white or black. I think black youth commonly throw the word around much in the same way a girlfriend might exclaim, "You slut," when hearing another girlfriend tell of a wild night. It's a totally different context than if some non-friend just ups and calls someone a slut.

    There's really no context in which a white person should ever use the N word. Or wetback - which is actually the racial slur I've heard most commonly over the past few years. Or any other racial slur. Unless, they are joking around with friends who enjoy joking around that way for whatever reason and those folks ought to be smart enough to alter the language for environments where it's obvious that language is gonna ruffle feathers.

    All that said, many words like "monkey" are not racist and I don't think racial groups should start domineering the vocabulary and going out of their way to search with a fine tooth comb for racism in the most benign of statements.
    Very brilliantly put!

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Tucker Case View Post
    I call people "honkies" all the time. Does it get the same treatment as "always offensive"?

    Example 1: "Damn, did you hear that joke that Tucker told? That honkey cracks me up."

    Is that offensive?

    Example 2: "Tucker Case is a vile honkey and I want to eat his children"

    Is that offensive?
    Again context is everything. It's one thing for Mind of Mencia to be joking about his wetback family whom he loves and a whole other thing for some irate white guy to grumble about the bunch of wetbacks that moved in next door.

  9. #69
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    Re: Are some words inherently offensive or is context important?

    Quote Originally Posted by Analyst View Post
    When I read this, what I hear is that the word under discussion is not inherently offensive to you. Are you making the argument that it couldn't possibly be inherently offensive to someone?

    An analogy: A young boy has been beaten most of his young life by his father. His father often used the phrase "be tough!" while beating him, as his twisted justification for his abuse.

    How do you suppose the boy, now grown to a man, would react to that phrase when he heard it, even out of context? Those words are now a trigger for him reliving a very painful experience in his mind.

    I imagine this is similiar to how a black man hears the word under discussion. It's not rational, it's an automatic negative reaction and it behooves anyone with a shred of decency and sensitivity to consider avoiding it and other such words, especially when requested.

    What's ignorant about that? It's actually much more thoughtful than the default position so many here seem to take "words aren't inherently harmful, they require context". Context may be significant, but it's not required.
    Of course it could be inherently offensive to someone. I personally don't understand that obviously because I haven't had the same experiences that person has had. Obviously if someone did find the word inherently offensive I wouldn't use the term around them even in a referencing context because it would only serve to ruffle feathers and that's pointless.

    As talloulou very brilliantly stated above, both context and environment are important. I'm not out to offend people so I would definitely censor myself in front of someone that I know would get offended by it. However, I'm not going to always censor myself for fear that someone may get offended regardless of the context because I think that's silly. I stand by my belief that no word is inherently offensive. From what I've seen of aaron's posts he believes that some terms are inherently offensive on a universal level. That I don't agree with at all

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

    Quote Originally Posted by dclxvinoise View Post
    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?
    Perhaps to put it slightly differently, I wonder why more people aren't offended by certain words. Is it perhaps, in part, because some people (who aren't offended) do not fall under the radar / fall into the categories of people that have some of the "worst" kind of "words" thrown at / attributed to them?

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