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Oh, Ruby! and then some

Posted by Anders on November 17, 2003

In Reply to: Not all PC is bad posted by ESC on November 17, 2003

: : : : Last night during a retrospective on the year 1986 on the VH-1 cable channel, they censored the word "retarded". This was in a reference to the TV show LA Law, which featured an actor playing a retarded office assistant at the fictional Mackenzie-Brackman law firm. The person who was censored then continued her comment, using the phrase "mentally challenged", which was not censored.

: : : There was a little old man... sorry! There was a vertically challenged, chronologically advanced person... Political Correctness is everywhere!!

: : I wonder if "retard" has become offensive because it has become a term of abuse? When you consider the etymology, it's almost PC. From M-W: "Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French retarder, from Latin retardare, from re- + tardus slow."
: : I once had a friend - or so I thought (but that's long story...) - who used the expression a lot. Indeed, he would often say just 'tard, like this. "That 'tard, you mean? Oh, man, he's such a re-tard!" Although generally opposed to PC, I am in favour of it when it comes to euphemizing handicaps and the like.
: : Anders

: See my "people first" post above.

: I think you're probably right about the use of "retard." Of course, kids now use the term "gay" to mean lame, dorky, whatever. "Do you want to go to the zoo?" "Oh, that's so gay."

I did not know that "gay" was used in this way - to mean simply "lame," etc. As a Will & Grace addict, one would have thought I had encountered every trope on the word. Or maybe I have, without knowing it. It's hard to tell. Karen, you know, our girl in the PC-you-can-whistle-for-it department, may talk with contempt of things that are "so gay." If she refers to Jack's musical tastes, surely she is sticking to the original meaning of the word. The meaning you mention is an inflation of this sense, and hence to be discouraged. I'm not sure if one can speak in a non-offensive way of things being "gay" in the sense that they are - though not strictly homosexual - prone to appeal, or belong, to homosexuals. It makes sense to me to characterize music such as the Village People, Queen, and every boy band in town, as gay. That is, there is quite a specific sense of the word; the usage you mention is working towards corrupting this. Although it may make sense to characterize the aforementioned bands as gay, I hardly ever do it. I refrain from it because I respect the fact that other people's musical tastes and sexual orientation may differ from mine. Also, there's the consideration that Rob Halford, the original lead singer in Judas Priest, is gay. It was kept a secret for many years because it does not agree with the heavy metal image, cf. Robert Walser's scholarly book on Heavy Metal, Running With the Devil. There is hardly a type of music more straight than Judas Priest's breed of British working class Metal. Well, maybe AC/DC is: "Ruby, Ruby, where you been so long / Done took to drinkin' whiskey Baby since you been gone / Ain't no one I know do it as good as you / Lickin' on that lickin' stick the way you do." From "Go down." Okay, that's offensive :-) And yet even "AC/DC" may in another context have a connotation which is working against making AC/DC the ultimate straight band. Then again, the Young bros took their name from mom's vacuum cleaner, which may be their only claim to innocence ever.