Words and Censorship

March 25, 2011 at 11:51 PM 2 comments

A blog I subscribe to (The Hack Novelist) raised an interesting issue today, debating the removal of the n words from Mark Twain’s stories about Huck Finn.

I’m not going to get into that particular debate here, but the wider issues it made me think about.

Censorship first. As with so many things, neither extreme is attractive, little kiddies being exposed to violence and swearing, or the Big Brother state with Newspeak mind control. I feel that we have had too much censorship in the past, but that we have now swung too far the other way in response.

Swearing for example. OK so people swear and it is unrealistic to write dialogue which doesn’t represent their way of speaking. But if our minds are bombarded with blankets of bad words, they stop registering as being so bad. When that happens, we need new, worse words to express our extreme feelings!

I was brought up to not swear and I didn’t as a child. I also didn’t use bad language as a teenager! That was a conscious decision which took work to maintain, as I was certainly exposed to bad words. My reasons for rejecting that were mostly my faith, reinforced by my contrary preference for being different🙂

When I went to uni, I began using bad language. I’m not sure why really. Maybe I am only immune to the peer pressure of people I have no desire to fit in with, and I fitted better at uni than I ever did at school.

Also I stopped going to church and no longer felt I had to fit that mould.

Then when I found my faith a few years ago the habit of using bad language had become quite ingrained and it is hard to shed! I am not one of those blessed believers who find they just don’t swear since their conversion. It is well known that it is easier to shift a habit if not exposed to the thing, like alcoholics not going to pubs. But the lack of swearing in my church friends is hardly enough to counter that which I am exposed to on a daily basis by watching TV etc.

So I would prefer if it simply was less prevalent.

Also I’m sure that if there was less on TV, we might eventually see that trickling down into society. Art may reflect life, but life reflects art right back at it, like when you put two mirrors opposite each other!

(A pic here would be cool, but I haven’t got one and I’m paranoid about copyright issues using one from the web, but I’m sure you know what I mean. You can always google parallel mirrors or infinity mirror and look at the images. But be careful! I was just browsing for a link to include and clicked on a weird virus thing and had to use ctrl alt del to shut down my browser.)

Words get in your head.

It’s only natural, that’s where they live🙂

But I would like some control over which words get in there.

Not that I object if my friends swear, it doesn’t bother me the way it bothers some people. But I would prefer to have less of it on TV. I lived in Norway for 6 months and didn’t pick up any Scandinavian swear words, although I was aware of them. But I have watched nearly every episode of Wallander and there the words go, burrowing into my brain😮

But some swear words are so satisfying! Why is that? I think it must be a combination of the sound and meaning.

Also, what even counts as swearing? I won’t blaspheme and my language was never all that bad. Hardly ever anything worse than the f word.

Actually, it’s funny how different cultures are with swearing. The Scandinavian swear words all seem to relate to devils and hell. Most English ones are bodily functions or blasphemy.

I reckon toilet words are borderline acceptable, although my mother disagrees. She even thinks it is bad to say crap! I think that is so mild it’s laughable to object😀

What do you think? Is swearing even bad? Where is your line of what is acceptable (please respect my line when posting a comment or I will edit it!) Do you cringe if you witness a five year old use the f word? Or is it simply inevitable language change and shifting societal standards? Is there any point objecting?

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ruarigh  |  March 26, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    It would be nice to think that people can express themselves clearly without swearing and I would certainly be shocked to hear a five-year old cussing like a trooper. On the other hand, I know that I swear too much so I am not in a position to criticise anyone else. Mind you, my swearing is generally linked to moments of great frustration, of which I seem to be experiencing all too many lately. Perhaps if I could smooth my life out I might take better control of my potty-mouth. Ah, perkele!🙂

    Reply
  • 2. astrawally  |  March 26, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    I’m bad for swearing unless I am in an official environment like work (or speaking to my mum) but I think good education is key. If you explain to that child that curse words are abrasive to constantly hear and that they are bad then eventually he/she will learn and understand about them. I think it’s the same for the N word in Huck Finn, It is a horrible word but writing it out doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. When reading the book tell the child reading what the word means, where it comes from and the disgusting circumstances it was born out of.
    Very interesting post and it does ask a lot of questions. Maybe I’ll be a bit more vigilant with my words.
    Much Love
    Astra Wally

    Reply

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