On words, sadism, meat-hooks and ‘geighness’

August 3, 2006

 

As a species, humans seem unable to refrain from verbally abusing one another. While I am by no means a linguist, let me go so far as to claim that verbal abuse knows no lingual or cultural barriers, and has existed since the first word-forming ape-man hunter missed an obvious spear toss. Perhaps, his ape-wife drew him on the cave wall with a limp spear, or maybe his ape-buddy nicknamed him with a word describing the stench of mammoth droppings – but rest assured, he was verbally abused.

Fast forward to now, and little has changed.

Not only do we spend countless hours finding new ways to explicitly describe one another’s shortcomings and mistakes in ever more creative derogatory terms, but we extend this fascination to the description of everyday events.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love to mobilize my vocabulary towards the noble goal or degrading the human soul. No juice be as sweet as the tears of a childhood friend or confident, their normally proud posture reduced to the snivelling wreck rocking by your feet. Comparing a grown man’s physical prowess to that of a seven year old girl’s, noting the possibility of a maternal connection between a colleague and a lamma, or describing another’s desirability in terms of relation to how much one might want to shoves one’s privates into a nest of rabid meerkats – all noble pursuits.

However, even given my ethically limiting propensity for verbal sadism, I do honestly believe that words carry great social weight. Words – as it were – have power.

What the fuck does that mean, and more important what the fuck does this have to do with ‘geighness?’

All in good time.

What I mean by words having power is that they replicate and alter the very fabric of our existences. It is by words that the universe is understood, and some might even argue constructed. The words we choose, quite independent of our intent, have effects in the world. I like to imagine every word we speak a tiny discursive insect buzzing forth into the world from our hive like mind – some pleasant and fluttering butterfly-like compliments, others angry and stinging, veering their engorged meat-hook stingers towards the soft spongy flesh of our victim’s ego. Hmmm meat-hooks … ok hold that thought … we will come back to it.

Now – ‘geighness.’ <!–[endif]–>

In recent years the term ‘gay’ has been more and more frequently used to mean ‘bad’ or ‘dumb.’ In this modern usage, one might describe a new law banning all swearing on television as ‘gay.’

Now, the word gay has meant many things. Gay (as I am sure we all know) technically originates as a word describing a state of happiness, but in pop-culture has become predominantly a synonym for homosexuality. Presently, a small but resolute group have begun using the term to mean ‘bad’ or ‘stupid.’ As this most recent shift in definition slowly transitioned across that beautiful abyss we call the internet, brilliant linguistic entrepreneurs decided that in order to avoid the claim of homophobia, they would spell gay (as in bad, dumb) as ‘geigh.’

This move, while perhaps motivated by good intentions, is tantamount to deciding to spell nigger as kneeggar and then using it to describe horse droppings. Spell the fucking word anyway you want, but the end result is that using it to describe something bad while it remains associated with a practice or group (derogatory or otherwise) changes nothing.

Simply put, using the word ‘geigh’ to mean ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ only makes sense because of underlying homophobic currents in our society. If such a usage did not depend on homophobia, why (prey tell) use ‘geigh’ in the first place?

Am I saying that using this word means your bad? No. What I am suggesting – to return to my earlier meat-hook point – is that a word like ‘geigh’ leaves one’s mouth with the appearance of a clever moth, aptly avoiding the fascist barriers of overzealous political correctness, and promptly goes forth to join the countless other meat-hook stinger wielding word creatures that make up the continued implicit homophobia in our society.

So – whats my point. Well, as this is my first foray into the bloggtastic project that is Beats Entropy, I technically don’t need a point. But just in case, I have one anyways.

If you happen to agree with any or all of what lies above; next time you hear someone use the word ‘geigh’ to describe something bad or dumb, call them on it. If they defend themselves by saying its spelled ‘geigh’ and not ‘gay,’ tell them you think its irresponsible anyways.

If reason still cannot prevail, assert that only an ignorant asshole would continue to blindly support homophobia in such an obvious way.

Of course, be sure to point out that they shouldn’t take offence as you’re spelling it: “ignnorrentt ass-whole.”

<!–[if !supportEmptyParas]–> <!–[endif]–>

w()rmwood

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9 Responses to “On words, sadism, meat-hooks and ‘geighness’”

  1. Miss Puss BoilBuster Says:

    Yes ! Thank You, Phil !

    I`ve brought that up many times before, with people making feeble excuses for being totally irresponsible in their use of language and consequently, what they socially create with it.

    Call them on ‘fag’ too. The use of the word fagot in associations with gays deriving from the use of fagots, bundles of wood, in burning alive all those accused of homosexuality during the medieval ages and the Inquisition.

    So ya, nothing negative or deragotory there. It’s not like anyone’s ever been killed over their sexuality.

  2. frambojan Says:

    “This move, while perhaps motivated by good intentions, is tantamount to deciding to spell nigger as kneeggar ”

    Oddly “Nigga” has become a varition with a distinctly more positive conotation which has been put forth by elements of the Black community themselves.

    Not diretly related to your arugument since the varied spelling is directed at a postive sentiment, but a parralel of note.

  3. grumblefish Says:

    Sorry MPB, but hyperbolic freak-outtery won’t help, either…

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=faggot

  4. Miss Puss BoilBuster Says:

    damn ! I must stop constructing my arguments on urban legends I learn from burnt out hippies !

    and I should use spell check (derogatory).

    Nevertheless, and despite my use of a now debunked example, the sentiment remains. Language and reality bounce off eachother. In the same way I should have researched the validity of my illustration, words, especially the more potent ones, should be used conscienciously, if not consciously.

    Basically, an appeal to respect and consideration amongst people.

    Then again, in that regard, words just become badly wielded tools and are symptoms of the cause we deplore.


  5. thanks for the comments!

    I think – etymological mythologies aside – that there are several instances of implicit derogatory terminology…

    take the common phrases:

    how white of you (meaning how nice of you)

    or

    I just got gyped or jewed (someone took finacial advantage of me)

    They are technically not explicit attacks against individuals, but their meaning depends on implicit racist understandings.

  6. K'an Says:

    Being more of an ontological anarchist who brazenly rejects democratically policed models of language, I will occasionally use “gay” (or however you want to spell it) to mean something like bad/dumb, but I only use it when it’s the only commonly understood word available to describe a very specific occurrence of bad/dumb. For example, Mr. T and David Hasselhoff are both bad/dumb. Mr. T isn’t gay, but David Hasselhoff totally is. “Lame” just isn’t specific enough to nail the concept. If another easy-to-use word for being forced to sit through a relative’s crappy magic show comes into common circulation, I will gladly make the transition to a less politically sensitive word.* (*As long as the word isn’t selected by academic language police, who, you must admit, have a horrible track record replacing words that roll like oil off the tongue with awkward, polysyllabic doublespeak.)

    I think the best solution is to invent a catchier word for the same idea. To be catchy, it has to have simultaneous appeal to both the meat-hook types and the language police types (two sides of the same coin, kneegga.)

  7. Mike Says:

    Good read though it does raise some questions for me.

    Does society view homosexuals as dumb or stupid, since the vast majority of instances I’ve seen or heard someone use the word geigh have have been as a substitute to the words dumb/stupid.

    Also I’ve never heard the phrase “How white of you” or similarly how suburban of you be used in a possitive sense. (mocking sarcasm excluded) Who is using it as a possitive descriptor?

  8. w()rmwood Says:

    Mike – regarding “does society think homosexuals are ‘dumb or stupid’?”

    The best way i can answer that is to ask how you would feel if we started to use the word ‘mike’ to mean horrible and not-sexually appealling.

    So, a young woman sees a horrible disgusting letch of an old man and says to her friend “ew … what a mike!”

    It quickly becomes irrelovent what the intent is, the meanings bleed together. Also, one has to question why the word ‘mike’ was chosen in the first place.

    The phrase “how white of you” is still in usage all over the place. Though not so much in Ontario. I have heard it in the states, and some of my friends in toronto report having heard it in other areas of Canada.

    Obviously it varies regionally.

  9. Mike Says:

    I guess if we don’t see homosexuals as dumb/stupid it doesn’t have the same “bleeding” or for me at least. I can agree that using the gay to refere to something bad (that was a bad thing to do/that was a gay thing to do) is a move to the hurtful end of the spectrum. Using it as a synonym for lame is more, lets say on the innocent side. Maybe the only reason I see it this way is that gay had a previous meaning. You couldn’t really use say Jew the same way. People use it to indicate cheapness, other than this slander or to describ a religious people it has no other meaning. I guess I see it as gay once meant happy, then homosexual, now lame. Certainly if someone said “That was horribly homosexual of you” (in the connotation that I’d just killed a puppy*)I’d probably kick them in the teeth.

    *no puppies were harmed in the writing of this comment


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