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Monday Message Board

June 7th, 2004

Time as usual for the Monday Message Board. Post your thoughts on any topic. Since some commenters have been getting heated in recent weeks, let me remind everyone of my policy requiring civilised discussion and no coarse language, and raise the discussion starter: Does coarse language make for a coarse culture?

It’s time, as usual, for the Monday Message Board. Post your thoughts on any topic (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please).

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  1. Brian Bahnisch
    June 7th, 2004 at 10:50 | #1

    I dunno John. When I was young we had a lot of working men on the farm. The jokes contained a mixture of mechanical and sexual imagery. I thought they were highly imaginative and very funny. But no doubt we were all unreconstructed male chauvinists, and many of us will have been sorted out well and truly since then.

    I think it was our attitude to women and sexism that was the problem rather than any ‘coarseness’.

    Possibly also our obsessions, but then I recently heard of a survey on Radio Netherlands wherein adult males were said to think of sex 300 times a day. That’s once in every 17.6 seconds in a 17 hour day! I wonder how they did the research!

  2. June 7th, 2004 at 11:04 | #2

    What is a “coarse culture”?

  3. June 7th, 2004 at 11:05 | #3

    John, As you’ve just recently moved to Queensland i’m wondering what you think about the woeful state of Queensland Media. If you had the pleasure of reading Sundays Courier Mail (our one and only paper) then you’d know the right wing are in control up here and we’re becoming more redneck than ever. Sunday comprised of Bolt bashing the ABC, Bashing Latham over plagarism, and the police union Bashing Qld Labor. Saturdays paper on the otherhand was quite well balanced. Does the sunday mail have a different editor to their weekly editor?

  4. Brian Bahnisch
    June 7th, 2004 at 12:31 | #4

    Further to my comment above, I must stress I can’t remember any of the jokes of my youth on the farm, so I can’t evaluate them now. I just remember what I thought about them at the time.

    On the other hand I find the repetitive use of the “f” word and similar a worry at times. Linguistically if the “f” word, for example, is used as a filler (allows thinking time) or is meant to add colour, then I think it’s boring and bespeaks a lack of imagination. Not a threat to civilisation as such but adds nothing to our culture.

    Many times, however, it seems to be intended to add force or power of expression. In these cases, even in print, it’s verbal violence. It’s like some-one is yelling at you, red in the face and with veins standing out. In this sense we are better off without it.

    In any setting where coarse language gives offence to any-one it should not be used IMO. “Coarse” in this sense is as perceived by the recipient of the communication. I’m for manners and a bit of common courtesy!

  5. Brian Bahnisch
    June 7th, 2004 at 12:35 | #5

    Alphacoward, I think they have separate teams for the Sunday and daily papers. I read both to keep up with what’s happening around the joint, but very selectively. I don’t usually bother with Bolt. Life’s too short!

  6. June 7th, 2004 at 13:47 | #6

    Re swearing, generally I’d agree with Brian, but not completely. Some folks can get away with it, and here I guess lies the rub, as a talented swearer can often make me laugh. I can still remember being a kid laughing my head off reading Nina Cullottos’ (spelling?) “Kings Bloody Cross” passage in They’re a Wierd Mob. James Ellroy’s swearing completely breaks me up, and Hunter S Thompson is a good swearer (as is James Russell). Not everyone can do it, but all credit to those who’ve properly mastered this under appreciated art.

  7. theilliterateones
    June 7th, 2004 at 15:20 | #7

    We wish to point out that if swearing were an art form as cs claims, considerably fewer of us would have had a detention last thursday.
    We believe swearing demeans the swearer more than it offends the listener, especially when it results in the eradication of their lunch break.
    -=the illiterate ones=-

  8. Harold Thornton
    June 7th, 2004 at 18:41 | #8

    I am reminded of the ‘golden age’ theory that gets invoked about parliamentary debate, and how today’s members and senators don’t know how to behave unlike their august predecessors. In fact, of course, there never was a golden age and parliamentary debates of the past were every bit as robust as today’s. And so they should be – what is at stake affects the lives and futures of all citizens. Allocation decisions quite literally take from one group and give to another. I’d want my parliamentary representatives to get quite passionate about such things.

    My own position, for what little it’s worth, is that what our Seppo cousins would call ‘cuss words’ don’t offend me. What does get my blood pressure rising is ad hominem argument – attacking the person and not their argument. It may make the attacker feel good to belittle someone’s argument by name-calling, but not for nothing was it included in the ancients’ inventory of rhetorical fallacies. May it join tautology and oxymoron as the trademark of a fool.

  9. sp
    June 7th, 2004 at 19:02 | #9

    Swearing is obviously a cultural phenomenon, apart from those who use it for effect.
    Kids either grow up where swearing is acceptable or not. It is a lot easier to control it if you have been alternate ways of expressing yourself. I’m concerned when it is used to limit participation to only those who know how to conform. It is used as a way of excluding those with less education, or who are disadvantaged in other ways.

  10. the amazing kim
    June 7th, 2004 at 19:37 | #10

    I’m reminded that in the 17th century, the phrase “God damn you” was the most despicable thing you could say. Like any other, taboo words have an etymology, a legitimate meaning, and are susceptible to fashion. It’s interesting that most swear words now refer to what was impolite to talk about in society 20 or 30 years ago. Obviously we still have hang-ups about female body parts. Maybe swear words are just a way of introducing these concepts into everyday discourse.

  11. John Quiggin
    June 7th, 2004 at 21:55 | #11

    I never read the Sunday Mail. The Courier-Mail has improved a fair bit in recent years, as far as I can tell.

  12. Jill Rush
    June 7th, 2004 at 22:05 | #12

    When people start swearing they have generally stopped thinking. There is little point in presenting reasonable arguments at that point.

    What I find interesting is that the worst swear word is for one man to call another a girl – except far more coarsely. Not a lot different to the school yard. Also interesting that the majority of those who swear loudly and offensively in public are male – although there are women who will join in this is still a great cultural taboo.

    What is interesting was the sports representative who last year denigrated another by calling a name which denigrates women’s anatomy and black people but it was the racist expression which offended other men who felt impelled to comment on how terrible that was, whilst totally ignoring the offence given to women.

  13. Brian Bahnisch
    June 7th, 2004 at 23:17 | #13

    I agree with Chris’s additional comments about swearing. In humour swear words are used creatively, with respect for and in a way that enhances sound and meaning. Many other uses exploit and dessicate the language.

    There are, of course, situations where only a full-blooded curse seems adequate to express one’s feelings, but even then in the hearing of others the effects can be unpredictable.

    Jill’s spot on, as usual.

  14. June 8th, 2004 at 00:41 | #14

    It’s called salty language for a reason – it’s an enhancer or a compensator.
    This may also have something to do with it’s close relationship to thirst quenchers but others will have to tease out the cause and effect.

  15. Peter Ransen
    June 8th, 2004 at 00:52 | #15

    I was once told that words clothe a thought. I still warm to that description. But what is thought, as thought, to us? Like the arrow of a bowless marksman, thought exists in the ether for us thus, beautiful as it is. So what of emotion? Perhaps emotion is the bow to the arrow of thought.

    So what then of Spirit, in language?

    And what of Will?

    In language, could we say spirit is thought, emotion, and will in blend?

    We receive all of this when a person speaks. It’s more than being just about a word.

    Yes, indeed and in agreement, CS, a person can voice a swear word and it can be anything but offensive. It can be charming, if given in a way as to validate the audience’s own sense of freedom and grandeur as a free and great spirit in the world. It can be enlightening, and it can be revelatory. What would you be denying of yourself, if not so? What would you be clinging to, if not so?

    Words are tools, is all. A tool can shape another’s mind, and that shaping can be exceptional and valuable, and is not bound by the clinical view of the use or idea of a word.

    But let’s go one step further.. is the use of the swear word necessary? Can an equal result be obtained without it?

    Maybe so, maybe not. For my two-bobs, it depends on the audience circumstance, and the skills of the speaker, and what is needed to be achieved.

    Get it wrong, and it grates like a bastard.

  16. wilful
    June 8th, 2004 at 18:27 | #16

    being overly sensitive to swearing still has class and generational implications/exclusions, to some extent.

    Yobs have always been yobs, there’s probably no verifiable way to determine whether people have been politer to each other at any point in history or not, but I suspect it’s always been the same and always shall be.

    In short, does it matter? Not really…

    Actually, one thing I’ve just recalled, anecdotally, the poms are getting more and more loutish in the past 10-15 years, with public drunkenness and rudeness far more the norm than it was, particularly for young women. The cause of all this is anyone’s guess…

  17. June 10th, 2004 at 22:08 | #17

    I’ll share a perth building site joke with ya that exemplifies australia to me.
    Two pakistanis emigrate to australia and agree to meet again in a years time and see who has become the most australian.
    A year later they meet and the first guy says,I have learned to play cricket and I go to the footy and eat meat pies and sauce.
    The second guy says-f*** off,you black c***!

    (Edited by JQ)

  18. June 11th, 2004 at 20:36 | #18

    i’m not offended by swearing in the slightest (unless, of course, it was directed at me personally as an insult).

    but i’d agree with cs. i think swearing can be funny. and yeah, james does it well, as does Tim D (on occasion). as has been said above, it does get boring when people use swear words as filler (chookie fowler, anyone?)

    but as yobbo says, what’s a ‘coarse culture’, john?

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