Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Word Games in the World

The world is full of word games.  Even our lives in the world can be one big word game.  Though we may have the 1st Amendment and are technically free to speak, there are all kinds of societal rules governing what is appropriate and inappropriate for any given situation.

Political correctness, which is a societal judgment of which words are appropriate to use to describe people, professions, or things, has been a divisive issue.  Should we make an effort not to offend  people when we speak, or have these restrictions trampled our rights of free speech?  This is a question you have to answer for yourself.  For me personally, I have no problem with sexist, racist, and other terms used to demean people being frowned upon.  You're technically still free to say them, as you should be, but the shift has made some areas of civil discourse more, well, civilized.  Of course, from the way the political arena looks as of late, people are still bashing each other just as thoroughly as ever.  Politicians are adept at using word play, a type of word game, to spin the argument against their opponent and paint themselves in a more favorable light.  Gotta love rhetoric.  I discussed this once in a previous post, so I won't go into too much detail about that here.

I can think of a couple high profile examples of language controversy.  Less than a month ago, actress Gwyneth Paltrow stirred up controversy when she tweeted a picture of Kanye West, Jay-Z, and herself.  In her description, she used the "N" word.  I don't think I need to spell it out for all of you to know what I mean by that.  And as much as I enjoy controversy, I don't want to be accused of being racist.  I will, however, offer my take on the situation.  She was tweeting the name of the song that they were singing at the time.  Saying a word offensively is one thing.  However, since she was quoting the name of the song, why should anyone be angry?  The use of these offensive terms is generally accepted in music and novels.  After all, it can often be used as political commentary, and is also used as a form of empowerment.  As for novels, how can you write a historical piece focused on racism in America without using such a term?  It would certainly be difficult.  I think we sometimes need to look at the intended meaning behind the use of a typically offensive word before we get angry.

Then, even more recently, Michigan Representative Lisa Brown was silenced after saying the dreaded "V" word, which is the clinical term for a part of the female body, during an abortion debate.   Apparently using the name of a body part offended several people in the assembly, though I'm kind of stunned as to why.  Well, I'm actually not stunned.  It's a body part that can be used for sexual purposes, so I guess it's considered "offensive by association."  Now, I'm not going to go into her subsequent actions and whether they were appropriate or not (that is a whole new can of worms and would dominate the rest of this post).  You can read more HERE and decide for yourselves.  However, I will say this.  She said the actual name of a body part that half the people in this country have.  I can think of several slang terms she could have used that would have been far more inflammatory and would have justified action against her.  However, she used the clinical term of a body part that is inevitably involved in an abortion debate.  Maybe people need to get over it.  It's a word we had to say aloud in a high school anatomy class, for crying out loud.  These were full grown adults who were complaining.  Something seems off there.  And I know I didn't write out the "V" word either, which makes me seem hypocritical, but I think the absurdity of me not saying it helps me make my point.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make in all this ranting is that language comes with all sorts of rules, both written and unwritten.  Language belongs to society and is constantly under construction.  It's political, it's tricky, and malleable.  Anyone who understands it well enough can use it to make any point they want.  It's all about the words you use.  The world is one large word game.

I want to say now that I never intended to offend anyone with the content of this long rant.  I was trying to make some serious points and offer my own opinions.  Think what you will of what I believe.  For any of you who I may have offended and still decided to stick with it this far, or for any of you who simply love word games, here's a little fun for you.  Follow the links to play some free, and fun, word games.  These sites have a ton to choose from.  Or just do your own search for "word games."  If you can't find anything to your liking from that long list of results, well, then I certainly can't help you.

Have a good day everyone!


  1. Sometimes I wonder if people really search for these things just for the sake of being "offended." It's a little ridiculous. The one that bothers me those most is when people go nuts over "Merry Christmas!" If someone wishes me happy Hanukkah, I wouldn't bat an eye at it.

    Make me think of the day I super crimped my hair and was playing with it. I commented to my friend that it felt like African hair, and she got mad at me saying that was racist. Last time I checked, Africans all had thick hair.

    The eggshells get annoying. If someone means offense, believe me, you'll know. Thanks for the post.

  2. I dig what you're saying, LG. The pendulum's swung in a ridiculous direction, as regards political correctness. The freedom of speech technically exists but, for good or ill, the *consequences* of speaking freely can put a lid on that freedom...which can be a good and a bad thing, I suppose.
    Some Dark Romantic

  3. I was offended by what happened in Michigan. We should be allowed to say vagina without consequence, especially if they're debating legislation concerning the body part. However, the consequence have spurred a healthy debate and turned the spotlight on an important issue. So, it turned out all right.

  4. Controversy drives book sales. I say say what you want to say and if people are going to be upset about it, so what? Their being offended so that I have to adjust my life to live by their rules is an infringement on my right to happiness. If people are offended, they should just learn to tune out.