Re: My use of profanity

Subject: Re: My use of profanity
From: wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 08:30:58 MDT

I'd like to point out some statements that have been made in this thread about

The initiator began (after receiving a private message) justifying his use of
profanity by claiming that 1) it conveyed his point more clearly, and 2) that
it was less pretentious than more "flowery" language and that having grown up
in a blue-collar setting, he preferred directness over nicety.

The first point, I'd argue, is difficult to argue. Words such as "F**king"
might convey an emotional intensity, but it provides little in content.
The second, I believe, is based on an overgeneralization about the acceptability
of profanity by people with a blue-collar upbringing. I doubt that a single
person could possibly be exposed to a large enough cross-section of that
particular group to make such an informed decision about blue-collar classes
as a whole.

So some of the premises are based on assumptions rather than fact. No big
deal--he has preferences. He can make his own choices and deal with the
consequences (read, possibly alienate colleagues).

The first response I read to this post began with an analogy (defecating on a
carpet while at a party in response to bad food). Next, the responder made a
pretty direct emotional attack on either the person or the person's statement
without really addressing the content of the message.

Hmmm. Argument by analogy (invalid) and ad hominem (also invalid). Defecation
in such a situation causes obvious health and hygiene concerns not involved in
the use of verbal profanity (which is largely a matter of arbitrary
convention--ask any linguist). Attacking a person or an idea without
providing any rational basis (deriding them or the idea without providing any
salient evidence of the point's stupidity).

Now, the latest response in my mailbox claims that the use of profanity
indicates a lack of mastery in the English language (or language in general)
and fit for use only by the culturally deprived. As a student of contemporary
literature, I can assure you that some of the most creative and intelligent
minds of the past century employed profanity quite freely (Pynchon, Joyce,
Cummings), and past literary icons indulged in quite blatant use of crass
common euphemisms. Along with these writers' extensive vocabularies came
a proportionally extensive collection of colorful vulgarities. Again,
the responder's attitude seems to be based on assumption.

So what's my point? We might have reasons to be offended about someone's use
of profanity, and we may have reasons for dictating acceptable environments in
which to use it. However, the problem is with the assumptions we're making
when we write and when we respond to each other. If we're going to make
quasiphilosophical debates on the issue, let's AT LEAST attempt to mimic the
dictates of logical argumentation. Better yet, if you want to incinerate each
other, take it off the list. I think the best idea is to remember with whom
we're communicating and make thoughtful responses.

Let's get back to communicating rather than bickering.

Bill Burns *
Assm. Technical Writer/Editor * LIBERTY, n. One of imagination's most
Micron Technology, Inc. * precious possessions.
Boise, ID *
WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM * Ambrose Bierce

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