Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cussing in the media

Check out this story on canoe.ca about cussing, called "What the #$&%?". (And see here for another recent example of that orthographic convention.) It's by far the best reaction I've seen yet to the recent stories on cussing (like in this discussion). The journalist, Karon Lui, gets good quotes from two solid linguists (Jack Chambers and Becky Roeder), and concludes nicely with the inevitable ebb and flow of this stuff:
Although Chambers says it’s useless to ban those three, four-letter words, it’s just a matter of time when everyday speech will go into a cussing recession.

4 comments:

Ellen K. said...

To be honest, before even getting into the discussion the article lost my interest when it distracted me with "a suburb in St. Charles, Mo.". Huh? (I can see "a suburb in [city name]" when the city name also refers to a metro area. But that's not the case here.)

Mr. Verb said...

Oh … I read right past that. Could that be Canadian, or maybe she thought St. Charles is much bigger than it is?

wcb said...

It seems to me that this is another case of legislation lagging behind linguistic evolution. "Those three four letter words" aren't really curses anymore, but racial slurs sure are. I think of Jon Stewart making the network bleep out words even while the audience knows full well what he is saying. He is pointing out the ridiculousness of the rule. But would he say "nigger" on the air? Hell, I feel strange about writing it, even just using it to illustrate a point about curses.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, I think sociolinguists just routinely figure old profanity isn't so taboo (save for the 'C-word', I guess), but that the real taboos are ethnic/racial slurs and such. Certainly those are the ones that would get people punished in many settings, and certainly the socially stigmatized ones.