Re: The 7 words you can't say on WCenter

Eric Crump (
Thu, 27 Mar 1997 10:44:32 -0600

On Thu, 27 Mar 1997, Marcy Bauman wrote:
--> Yup, and then, too, sometimes writers need to decide who they're
-->willing to irritate and who they _don't_ want to irritate.

Marcy & Stephen:

Exactly! Every utterance involves this kind of decision, but we're so used
to making it on the fly that we rarely notice-- until we get into those
higly charged situations where the consquences could be severe. Then we
pause & ponder... Who'm I gonna piss off and how bad?

-->others might object. Instead of the seven words you can't say on _____,
-->maybe we can recast this discussion as the zillion words whose baggage it
-->wouldn't hurt to be aware of.

Aye, That's why I posted my bit of self-censorship there. Even though this
was set up by Katie as a bit of fun (and I threw a word into the pile,
too, so if I seem to be pointing fingers, one is pointed at myself!),
there has been a vaguely chilling aspect to it, too.

Some of us aren't much afraid of irritating our audience (well, to a
degree, anyway), but how many people on this list will now think twice
before using the words we've been holding up here? How many people will
*not speak at all* for fear of inadvertently provoking scorn?

Lest we think our jokes are entirely harmless, lemme run a story by ya. A
few years ago on CREWRT-L a bunch of people were swapping tales about
Syracuse NY. Turned out a goodly number of people on the list were from
there or had done time there or whatever. They were having fun. Finally, a
chorus of semi-playful objections rose up: "We're not from Syracuse and
we're tired of hearing about it!" Someone, joking, initiated a ban on the
word. For a few days there was some banter referring to

All in fun. But do you know that to this day, *years later* no one will
spell out the word 'Syracuse' on that list? Isn't that weird? A bit of
censorship woven right into the cultural fabric of that otherwise rather
open community. It was a joke. But it had a chilling effect on the
conversation, nevertheless.

But being aware of and talking about the baggage words have hanging from
them is pretty important. And challenging common conceptions of words is
definitely worth doing. And doing in a spirit of fun, in spirit of
collegiality, is most important of all. As long as we remember that
entwined with words are *people*, our friends, we'll be ok. When Sara
posts here *annotated* list of words that rankle, that's cool & fun. When
somebody just says "I hate 'problematize'" that's not so nice. It's a
machinegun blast that nails everyone who's ever used the term.

I mean, airing peeves is healthy, too. I'm glad we do that now and then.
This is a good, relatively safe place to get things off our chests. I just
hope it's not at too great a cost to the health of the conversation.

--Eric Crump



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