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Words and Taking on Negatives

I understand the reason that so many seek to reuse terms, to switch terms to their own use.  Words, however, like other symbolic thought processes put into either writing or speaking, still carry weight from how they have been used.  I try to understand why gays in the GLBTQI community use ‘fag’, or why black use ‘nigger’ or some derivative…but I really can’t.  These words carry the weight of years, if not centuries of oppression behind them, carry the poisonous language used to dehumanize, to defame, to destroy people.  Why can’t there be other words used?  Can we think of nothing better to call ourselves?  Have we sunk so low that we no longer care that we are insulting ourselves?  Have we truly sunk so low as a society that words that were used to oppress and hate, words that brought people to kill, are now just fine to use to lovingly describe one another?

No, no, I want you to try this out.  Not this “He’s my nigga” bullshit, not this “You’re my lil’ fag” horseshit.  I want you to try to tell someone, with a straight face, “I love you nigger” and see how that sinks in.  Say it with meaning.  Try “I love you faggot” and the same, trying to convey that meaning of love.  Maybe I’m just stunted in integrating with today’s culture, maybe I’m biased against these words because since I was a little five year old my parents told me these words hurt people…but I can’t.  I can’t even bring myself to say “love” and “nigger” in the same sentence.  I can’t do it with “faggot” either.  Do I make horrible jokes using these words?  Sure.  I’ll cop to that.  Should I?  No.  I’m at least honest in this.  It doesn’t justify the jokes or the jibes, even if I’m doing it in jest and the other person knows it and is not offended.  I, myself, know I should hold myself to better standards.

That said, I still find it hard to believe that those who have been so oppressed by these words would pick them up and use them on each other as normal nomenclature.  That saying “brother” or “lover” or “friend” or “pal” or “boy” or “girl” has fallen so out of use that to be edgy, cool, or whatever popularity contest catchphrases people need to use to somehow feel part of something…you have to use racist or homophobic terms has become normal.  It disgusts me.  If you can explain it to me, I’d be happy to learn.

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Categories: General
  1. November 30, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I think originally it was an act of bold defiance, a huge fuck you to the culture that had hurt them for centuries. “I will steal this word from you; I will transform it’s meaning, come to own it so that it won’t ever hurt me again.” Then it became trendy, because there was a childish, naughty thrill associated with it reminiscent of the first time you said “cock” or “fuck” outside of earshot of mommy and daddy; and even later on it became a status thing. “We get to say this word – but they never, ever can. Not unless they want to be perceived as a complete asshole.”

    The whole thing is a bit silly if you ask me, but not any more than most aspects of modern culture. And of course there’s the analogous phenomenon of reclaiming the words “witch”, “pagan” and “heathen” all of which have centuries of negative, derisive connotations but have gained such widespread acceptance I bet there are some who use them without any inkling of that.

    • November 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      I wanted to argue with you and wrote out a page or so of argument…but you are right. People do what they need to in reclaiming a word or power, or to get whatever thrill they can. I suppose it is my upbringing that makes these words so offensive to my ears. That, and I used to see how hurt and upset it got black schoolmates back when I went to high school when people called them ‘nigger’ or gay students when someone used the word ‘fag’. Maybe I am oversensitive…but it still sticks in my craw.

      You’re right though; there seems to be a kind of ignorance about the words ‘witch’, ‘pagan’, and ‘heathen’.

      • twosnakes
        November 30, 2010 at 5:27 pm

        Given some of the people I have encountered, I’m not sure the word “witch” isn’t still offensive…

  2. November 30, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Heh, good point Two. Hadn’t thought of it like that.

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