...and then he said THAT word!

Subject: ...and then he said THAT word!
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 09:40:00 EST

Am I seeing this correctly? Are a group of highly skilled and experienced
(albeit opinionated) professionals shooting at one another over some
monosyllable Anglo-Saxon word that is, frankly, much older and venerable
than most of the prim language being used to denigrate it? One word? From
one poster? And this generates so much comment?

I must be jaded, then. I used to work in factories, my friends. There the
linguistic coin of the realm was the ancient vernacular of the sailor.
Everybody knew it, and those who wanted to participate used it, while those
who didn't learned to wince and take it in good humor. My take on it was
that for every Anglo-Saxon profanity, there was a sanitary Latinate
equivalent. Therefore, it wasn't the subject matter, but the method of
presentation, that was objectionable. And that's a subjective matter all the

I can't see all of this as a moral issue, try as I might. Words are merely
vibrations, and their impact is entirely in receipt, not in delivery.
Perhaps the word in question was ill-chosen for the occasion and the
audience, but that's the extent of the sin, to my way of thinking. I don't
think it warrants such an outpouring of indignation and piety. If you don't
like the poster's language, don't reply. It's the cyberspace equivalent of
turning your back. Such lessons sink in quickly, or they don't sink at all.

I'm here to say, though, that if I'm back in the company of factory hands
that use such language copiously, creatively, and challengingly, I'm going
to use it too. Without regret, without blushing, and without chagrin. I can
write using more restrained language when I talk to my colleagues. But in a
working man's environment, profanity is often the lexicon that's accepted.
There, I'm lapsing back into simple Anglo-Saxon, and I see no sin in doing so.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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