Are These Words Offensive If We Don’t Mean Any Offense?

23 April, 2014: Hatful references have become a meaningful element of speech and writing. But how wrong is it?

There’s a host of derogatory phrases that have seeped into our diurnal speech. Some are thought of as racist, others are sexist and some are just in bad taste From “bitch” to “retard”  The truth is, most of us don’t literally mean to be offensive at all. There’s a great disconnect between what these terms have come to mean and their not so pleasant origins.  

Even those of us who are somewhat conscientious use these terms, but why?

It is because they have sprung to life and cannot be substituted with any other word. Take the word gay for example. Many people who are not even homophobic in the slightest sense of the word will argue that there is no other word in the English vocabulary that can capture the essence of this term.

Tyler The Creator On Homosexual Slurs:

Tyler, the Creator, who often uses what is considered hateful slurs very eloquently pointed out: "I'm not homophobic. I just say faggot and use gay as an adjective to describe stupid shit"

While many people don’t really even think “homosexual” when they say “gay”, we are perpetuating the origins whenever we do use these words, which might not bother everyone.

Duke University Students React

Two Duke University students launched a campaign “You Don’t Say”— to enlighten the people of what they believe to be the misuse of language related to the LGBT community and gender issues. You will find a bunch of photos on their Faceook page of people explaining why they boycott certain words.

What’s The Right Thing to Do?

There’s really no clear right or wrong on this one. But truth to be told, it feels as though it leans more towards the wrong side of things. If we know for a fact that something we do is hurtful, it seems rather asinine to stubbornly carry on. 

In the bigger picture, one cannot deny that connotations are constantly evolving. Once taboo phrases no longer carry the same vitriolic malice they once did.  Oh well, certain feels will never be explained in quite the same way again.

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