How Important are Words? (Post 29)
Posted on January 15, 2013
Writers are in love with words and so are comedians. However, I would say there’s a BIG difference between the spoken word and the written word. For example, I have no problem cursing like a sailor when I’m on a stand up stage. I think that’s because there’s a smoke-like quality to speaking. You say something – it may stun or shock or cause a laugh or a tear, but then it’s gone. When it’s written, it’s there FOREVER. As such, I invented a new way of cursing specifically for my blog. Basically, I say “feck” a lot. Feck this. Feck that. Sweet Mother Fecker. Godermn it. Goddermn that. The spellings vary, but the intent is the same. Since these curse-like words will be around for longer than if I had said them, it feels right to ‘soften’ them in a funny way.
But, on a stand up stage I think any word is fair game. You need only look at Chris Rock’s N-Word vs. Black folk bit to understand how I feel. (I’ll include the video for you at the bottom of the post.) Chris has a right to that word. I don’t use it because I don’t feel I have a right to it. I also don’t have anything to say about it that would move diversity and tolerance forward. If I did, I might use it. But, only in that context. Why? Because I don’t believe that it is the word that is a problem. IT’S THE INTENT.
Here’s a word I do feel I have a right to: FAGGOT. Faggot makes people nervous. Just as nervous as the N-Word. Though I would say the N-Word, at times, makes people even more nervous. Yet, as a gay person and a comic, I feel I have an absolute right to faggot and any other word for that matter. Especially, if I can be called it in hate. Then I can use it, change it, play with it, and bring light upon it by desensitizing it. All depending on how I use it.
There are people that don’t agree. I used the term (a made up one) “rampant faggotry” on stage once within a bit. I’ve used it often with very little outcry. However, one day, another gay man challenged me on it. He didn’t like the use of it because he felt that it’s used as a put down to small schoolchildren. Fair enough of a point…to an extent. BUT, it’s not the word itself, it’s the intent of the bully that causes the most harm. If you use faggot with the intent of “you’re less than,” “you are other,” “you are less than human…” then YES, it has a harmful intent. If you use it how I use it – to take down the oppressor by using it on them, then, I’m telling you, it has a quite different effect. I also think it’s different when a woman uses it and a man does. The same would go for c*nt. It’s one thing when an American uses it and quite another when a British person does. We could go on and on.
Language is interesting, though. Because I do believe that if a word is used constantly within a culture it truly says something about the culture. For example, the French, apparently, use the word for whore or prostitute constantly: putain. In DJango Unchained Quentin Tarantino uses the N-Word obsessively. He’s taken heat for it. However, I would say he’s overusing the word to make a point. As if to say, “This is truly how bad it was back then…”
In South America, Colombia, specifically, I found that “marica” or “maricon” was used constantly. It was literally used in place of how an American would say, “man” or “dude.” As in, “What’s up, man?” Colombians might say, “Que mas, marica?” Unbelievable, but true. Now, it could mean that marica, which translated directly means faggot or homo, has less sting for South Americans. But, I think not. I think that a great deal of South American culture has a VERY macho slant to it. Therefore, what’s the worst thing that you can say to a macho guy? Answer: Faggot. So, what does “putain” say about the French culture and women? I don’t know enough about the culture to say, but I do find it interesting nonetheless.
What about you? Are certain words off limits when you speak or write? Let me know in the comments section.
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