Here’s what I have written on a scrap of paper as an idea for this post:
Since the weaker members of society are being given more respect, what will we use for insults? Maybe sacrifice the F word and totally divorce it from being gay.
Believe it or not I hadn’t seen the South Park episode, “The F Word” from season 13. Just saw it two days ago – alright I’m slow and not at the cutting edge this time. And the group they chose to represent the F word? Why Harley drivers. Having lived at a place where Harley drivers (or other owners of large bikes) would pass regularly, I’ve built up quite a hatred of motorcycles. Huge trucks and souped up sports cars aren’t as loud.
My point was going to be we have to sacrifice at least one word. And judging by middle school boys, the F word is considered to be the “ultimate” insult and thus the first one used. If we leave a total vacuum of insults they are going to rebel and use perhaps all of them. Since the F word seems to be the first one back, filling that vacuum, it seems to be the one most needed to sacrifice.
And there seems to be some movement to divorce it from meaning gay. When the long F word was used in school, I remember teachers just saying “it means a bundle of sticks, look it up in the dictionary.” And the short F word only refers to gays in North America. In Britain it is slang for cigarettes. I remember hilarity ensued watching a film from Britain(I’m in Canada) where a smoker was jonesing for a smoke. That incongruence between societies was funny.
So with that long winded introduction, I want now to look at insults that mean the other in society and how different approaches are used by different groups. And these disparate approaches mostly seem to be working, meaning to me that society is more enlightened than it’s ever been.
First up is the N word. We all know how offensive the word can be to blacks. And by cracking down on saying it at all, the other N word hardly ever gets said anymore. That second N word is negro which is usually not used to offend. When this word disappears people are less likely to corrupt it into the N word that is insulting to black people. The problem with this approach so far is that young blacks have used the N word in rap songs. So I have to say that the last time I heard the N word was by a rap fan.
Next up is my own group. The world of mental illness used to be filled with hopeless cases until the 1950’s when treatments began transforming the lives of my peoples. Previous to this, being locked up in sanitariums was the rule. And eventually the language, here, too, began to be cleaned up. Both patients and society began to use illness to describe these conditions; nuts, loco, spinning a pointed finger at the temple and even the word crazy ended up in the trash bin for talking by and about my people. In fact for quite a few years after being diagnosed, I would still say “when I was crazy…” when mentioning any ‘episode’ I’d had. I would get funny stares from my peers and the mental health establishment so finally I gave up the ghost and now say “when I was ill…”
The intellectually challenged is the next group I’d like to look at. In a previous post I’d mentioned them and the euphemism treadmill they are on. Supporters of this group keep finding that they are still insulted by some parts of society. So I suggest cycling the euphemisms instead of all the time coming up with new ones. Right now we could use intellectually challenged, in 20 years slow learners, and in 20 more years we could go back to mentally retarded. You see, the segment of society that does the insulting doesn’t come up with something unique every time, so why should the response be unique every time?
The physically disabled have also been insulted. In fact, some of you may have cringed at the physically disabled descriptor and may have thought to yourself the “differently abled”. This group chooses to remind us that they can do many things on their own -in fact, they can usually do many more things than they can’t do. Plus there are workarounds.
And here we have the one minority insult that I’m still guilty of using – dumb. But still this group remains silent on the subject. I kid, before they find me and shout me down. I kid again. Guess I’ll have to start using the word stupid. My last use of the word dumb – for a previous post mentioning “dumb” blondes (which I said was a racist stereotype). In the insulting segment of society, the pairing of the racist with the ignorant seems natural. And honestly, if there are some mutes perusing this article, I quite expect you to use some of the hurtful terms listed above, against me (not my group though).
I still haven’t gotten to approaches of the obese or other ethnicities and even religions. Instead I would like to close with what may be even a better sacrifice than the F word. Regular readers of this site might already be expecting this. We can start to make “leader” or in the case of Canada, the prime minister, the ultimate insult.
Say this with a derisive tone of voice: “You’re such a prime minister!”
Or, if you prefer to be specific, “You’re such a Stephen Harper!” Of course, as regards everything with Stephen Harper (the prime minister of my country), the derisive tone was assumed.